How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

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How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

Does your dog have problems with its ears? Has your vet recommended routine ear cleaning for your dog? Or perhaps you’d just like to add ear cleaning to your dog’s regular grooming routine! Here are some tips and advice on how to clean your dog’s ears safely and effectively.

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A good dog grooming regimen should include keeping the ears clean and healthy. Pet owners should develop the habit of checking their dogs’ ears regularly.

Most dogs won’t have any issues having their ears rubbed or examined closely when they don’t have ear problems. But if your dog pulls away when you touch his ears, there is possibly an issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

Dogs need to get used to their ears being rubbed, massaged, and checked early in life. Make sure that each “ear session” is a positive experience for your pet.

Is it safe to clean your dog’s ears at home?

A dog’s ears are important sensory organs that require special care and attention. Sensitive tissues in the inner part of the ear passage can easily be damaged during cleaning. Using Q-tips, alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and DIY ear cleaning solutions can increase the likelihood of ear problems or can worsen existing ear issues.

You can clean your dog’s ears at home, but only after consulting with your vet. How often you should clean your pet’s ears will also depend on your vet’s recommendation. Some dogs have ears that don’t need much cleaning. Others, however, will require regular ear cleaning and close attention as they possess certain factors that predispose them to ear issues. These include the following:

1. Genetic predisposition

2. Ear conformation

  • Long and floppy ears
  • Long hair in and around the ears
  • Skin folds in the ears
  • Narrow ear canals
  • Abnormal growth in the ear canal, such as polyps or tumors

3. Ear mite infestation

  • These extremely small mites are very contagious and cause intense itching and ear discharge.

4. Infections

  • Ear infections are commonly caused by bacteria and/or yeast. These are usually secondary to another problem.

5. Allergies

6. Injury or trauma

  • This can be self-inflicted by persistent scratching and rubbing or caused by fights with other dogs or even accidents.

7. Foreign bodies in the ears

  • Grass seeds, dust, debris, etc. can get in your dog’s ears and irritate the sensitive tissues.

8. Endocrine problems

  • Problems that affect specific endocrine organs can lead to hormonal imbalances in which ear issues can be one of the symptoms. Hypothyroidism, parathyroidism, and Cushing’s syndrome are common examples of these endocrine disorders that cause ear problems in dogs.

How to Tell When Your Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning

Your dog’s ears benefit from cleaning but how often it should be done will depend on several factors. It’s important to note that over-cleaning can increase the risk of ear infections and irritation.

The importance of checking your pet’s ears cannot be overemphasized. Knowing the normal appearance of your dog’s healthy ears will make it easier for you to spot any problem that needs prompt veterinary attention.

If your dog swims frequently, ear cleaning should be done regularly to make sure that the ears stay dry. Ask your vet about ear drying solutions that you can use on your dog. Keeping the ears dry and well-ventilated can go a long way in preventing ear infections. Also, take extra care to prevent water from entering your dog’s ears when bathing him.

If you notice some dirt or wax buildup, a mild but distinct ear odor, or your pet is shaking his head more than usual, it’s time for some ear cleaning. But if your dog’s ears appear red, inflamed, or painful, you should have your pet checked by your veterinarian. Your dog may have an ear infection, ear mite infestation, or allergies that need to be checked by your vet. In this case, you should forego cleaning your dog’s ears as it may only cause more harm than good.

Necessary Supplies for Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

  • Cotton balls or gauze
  • Ear cleaning solution for dogs
  • Towel
  • Your dog’s favorite treat

Q-tips or cotton-tipped swabs should not be used for ear cleaning. Anything with pointed tips can only push dirt and debris deeper into your dog’s ear canal. These can also cause trauma to the sensitive structures of the inner ear and even puncture the tympanic membrane (eardrum).

What is the best ear cleaning solution for dogs?

There are tons of ear cleaning solutions for dogs that are available in pet shops and the internet. However, not all ear cleaning solutions are created equal. Some may contain ingredients that may harm or irritate your dog’s ears. Even homemade (do-it-yourself) ear cleaning solutions won’t guarantee that they’re safe for your pet. The best choice for your dog would be one that is recommended by your vet.

Hydrogen peroxide or alcohol should never be used on your dog’s ears as they can irritate the sensitive ear tissues, and prolonged use can eventually lead to ear damage.

There are ear cleaners that can be used in dogs with healthy ears. But if your pet has a special ear issue, your vet may recommend an ear cleaning product that will be appropriate for your pet’s needs.

There are different types of ear cleaning formulas. Some contain ingredients that easily break down ear wax, while others combat bacterial or yeast growth. Some may contain drying agents, while others may contain anti-inflammatory formulas or antibiotics.

A study that evaluated an ear cleansing formula for the treatment of otitis externa in dogs showed that 67.7% of the infected ears treated with an ear cleanser containing 2.5% lactic acid and 0.1% salicylic acid were free of infection within 2 weeks. Furthermore, the ear cleanser was effective in improving clinical signs associated with infectious otitis externa.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Cleaning Your Dog's Ears

When cleaning your dog’s ears, choose a location you don’t mind getting slightly wet or messy. The bathroom, or even outside in the yard is a great place to do this.

Try to make the cleaning as enjoyable and stress-free for your dog as possible. Enlist the help of another person if necessary. You might even offer your dog a treat or her favorite toy while she’s getting her ears cleaned.

1. Gently lift and hold the ear flap upwards.

2. Fill the ear canal with a pet-specific ear cleaning solution.

3. Continue holding the ear flap while you gently massage the base of the ear with the other hand. This helps to spread the ear cleaner around in the ear canal.

4. Using a clean cotton ball or tissue, wipe away any debris that comes out of the ear canal. Note: do not use cotton swabs, or insert anything into the ear canal, as this can easily damage the eardrum.

5. Release the ear flap. Please be aware that your dog may want to shake its head at this point, and things can get messy!

6. Praise your dog and give a treat before switching to the other ear. If your dog is stressed, you can always clean the other ear tomorrow.

7. Finish by washing your hands.

Read more:

Common Ear Problems in Dogs

Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Symptoms and Treatment for Ruptured Eardrums in Dogs

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your dog’s ears or another condition?

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Published: 9/3/2020
Last updated: 10/27/2021

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