How to Clean a Dog’s Ears

Dog ears cleaning

If you’re wondering how to clean dog ears, the good news is it can be a simple task you do at home. (Of course, you can also leave the job to a professional groomer or ask your veterinarian for guidance.) 

Cleaning your canine companion’s ears is an important part of their grooming routine, as it removes dirt and stops infections.  

You just need a few items from around the house and a dog-specific ear cleaning solution (dog treats may also come in handy).  

Read on to learn more about how to clean a dog’s ears, including tips for getting started, needed supplies, and step-by-step instructions.  

How Often to Clean Dog Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly may help prevent debris buildup and ear infections but cleaning too often can cause irritation or damage to the ear canal. 

Before you start an ear cleaning regimen, it’s important to make sure your dog does not have an existing ear infection. If they do, your veterinarian may recommend a specific cleanser and/or medications along with a regimen of when to clean and apply medication. 

If your dog’s ears seem sensitive or painful when touched or they shake their head a lot, please schedule a visit with your veterinarian. 

How often you clean dog ears may depend on breed, activities and other challenges like allergies, which can lead to debris buildup.  

Dogs with droopy ears like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds may need more frequent ear cleaning. Droopy ears get less air flow and can trap moisture and debris, which can lead to yeast infections. 

Dogs who like to swim also need more frequent ear cleaning. The extra moisture can increase their risk for ear infections. 

In general, pay attention to symptoms like itchy ears and head shaking, as these can signal an ear infection. 

How to Clean my Dog’s Ears – Tips for Getting Started

Comfort is the most important consideration when cleaning your canine’s ears.  

If you adopted a rescue or you have an adult dog who never had their ears cleaned before, you’ll need to start slow and consider positive reinforcement tactics like treats. 

Gently touch and stroke the ears to see how they react. If they don’t like it, don’t force it. You can always take them to your veterinarian or a professional groomer for an ear cleaning if needed. 

Before you start cleaning your dog’s ears, gather everything you’ll need: 

  • Damp cloth or cotton rounds
  • Dog ear cleaning solution (ask your veterinarian for a recommendation, as there are different cleansers for different situations)
  • Clean towel
  • Help from a family member or friend to keep your dog calm
  • Treats for encouragement and good behavior   

Please, never use cotton swabs in your dog’s ears unless instructed to by your veterinarian, who will usually provide proper instructions for your pet. When doing so, take care, as it’s easy to insert them too deep into the ear canal, which can cause damage. 

How to Clean Dog Ears: A Step-by-Step Guide 

  1. Make sure your dog is comfortable. Then, lift their ear, holding it between your thumb and forefinger so you have a good look at the inside of the ear. 

  1. Examine the ear and check for any redness, discharge or a bad smell. A small amount of light-colored wax is normal. If you see a large amount of wax, the ears are red or you see pus or notice a foul smell, you’ll need to call your veterinarian. 

  1. If everything looks normal, wipe around the entrance of the ear with the damp cloth to remove dirt and excess wax. 

  1. Use positive reinforcement. Before putting solution into your dog’s ear, tell them they’re being a good dog and give them a reassuring pat. Also, be aware that your dog is likely going to shake their head after the solution is applied.  

  1. Insert the tip of your dog’s ear cleaning solution into the ear canal. Take care not to push in too deeply or firmly. Squeeze the bottle to release an appropriate amount of solution into the ear. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer on how much solution to apply. 

  1. Massage the base of the ear to help the solution flow into the ear canal. Don’t worry, it is okay if some of the solution flows out and onto your hands while massaging.  

  1. Wipe away excess solution with the towel. 

  1. Repeat on the other ear. 

  1. If your veterinarian gives you medicated ear drops to use, apply them soon after cleaning. This ensures the medicine can enter the ear and be absorbed without getting stuck on excess wax. 

How to Clean Puppy Ears 

As puppies, dogs form impressions of new experiences that may last forever.  

If your young canine has never had their ears cleaned, try to make it a positive, supportive event. Puppy treats can help keep them happy and relaxed, especially if they don’t like having their ears touched.  

Positive reinforcement can help you ease any tension your dog might be feeling and so can a treat, but make sure not to go over 10% of their daily kcals/cal intake.  

Follow the steps on how to clean dog ears, and remember to offer your puppy lots of love and encouragement along the way.  

Hydrogen Peroxide, Vinegar & Natural Cleaning Solutions 

When it comes to dog ear cleaners, not all options are created equal.  

If you’re wondering how to clean dog ears with hydrogen peroxide, know that this solution can be harmful to your pet, and irritate healthy skin cells. DON’T USE IT. 

For pet owners curious how to cleanse dog ears with vinegar or want to use a natural dog ear cleaner, it’s best to talk to your veterinarian first. They can advise you on what’s appropriate for your canine.  

Signs of an Ear Infection

If your dog has an ear infection, their ears will be sensitive to touch. You may also see redness and inflammation. Frequent head shaking and scratching at the ears are also strong indicators of an infection. 

Ear infections are more commonly caused by yeast and bacteria but ear mites are another possible cause. Ear mites in dogs look similar to coffee grounds. 

Regardless of the cause of the infection, prompt treatment is critical to ease discomfort. 

Don’t forget, if you’re wondering how to clean dog ears, you may be able to do it at home as the steps are fairly straightforward. If you have any questions, you can always ask your veterinarian or outsource the job to a professional groomer. 

For more tips on dog health and care from our experts, visit our Pet Expertise page. 

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