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How to Clean My Dog’s Ears

how to clean my dog's ears

Taking care of your furry friend spans a lot of intimidating responsibilities, but ear cleaning doesn’t have to be one of them. With this guide in your back pocket, you’ll be an ear cleaning expert in no time.

Why Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears?

How does Fido get his ears that dirty in the first place?

Just like humans, there is build-up that happens naturally in the ear over time. Rolling around in the dirt, wrestling with other pups, and generally being an adventurous little dog compounds that. All that debris and wax is just part of a life well-lived and is pretty much unavoidable.

Luckily, cleaning those cute floppy ears can be easy, as long we follow the proper procedures and make sure our dogs stay relaxed and comfortable during the process.

Supplies: What You’ll Need For Dog Ear Cleaning

Here are the grooming tools you’ll need to get your dog’s ears squeaky clean:

  • Cotton Balls. Any cotton balls will do!
  • Patience! It’s not particularly comfortable when someone is poking at your inner ear. If you pup moves too much, though, it can be dangerous – enlist a friend if you need to.

What’s likely going to be the hardest part of the process isn’t following these step-by-step instructions, but getting the dog to remain calm and let you clean their ears.

Reinforce calm behavior with treats and positive feedback. These are sensitive areas for your pets, and there is a high chance they’ll be suspicious or fidgety – especially if you have to do a deep clean! It’s beneficial to have a friend help keep the dog calm and in place so that you don’t accidentally jab their internal ear or otherwise irritate the skin.

Before You Clean: Things to Look For

Cleaning your pup’s ears is not as simple as grabbing the cleaner and going to town!

We have to examine some crucial questions to make sure that the ear is not infected and access whether or not our dog’s ears need a deep cleaning or just a surface cleaning. Here are some things to consider before the ear cleaning process.

1. Is My Dog’s Ear Infected?

Our first step is to determine whether or not our dog is suffering from an infection.

Chances are many first time dog owners don’t think to clean their dogs ears unless they notice a strong smell or inflammation – this is a huge mistake! You should be periodically cleaning your dogs ears (as much as once a week), especially if you are dealing with breeds that are prone to ear infections – like basset hounds, for example.

The following are signs of a possible infection:

  • Excess wax or debris
  • Strange odor or smell coming from the ear
  • Redness, inflammation of other signs of irritation

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, it is crucial to book a veterinarian’s appointment before the infection spreads. Regular dog ear cleansers might make the infection worse, so move ahead with cleaning only after receiving a vet’s instructions.

2. Does My Dog Have Allergies?

If there is no infection present but you’re constantly noticing wax and debris building up rapidly, your dog may be having an allergic reaction.

Local plant life or even ingredients in certain kinds of dog food or dog treats can cause a reaction that creates build-up (if this seems to be an issue, keep an eye out for holistic dog foods and see if those help). Keep an eye out and share your observations with your vet to determine an appropriate treatment plan. Your vet may suggest:

  • Special Ear Cleansers. You may need to buy special ear cleaning solutions that won’t upset your dog’s allergies.
  • Routine Ear Cleanings. Vets may prescribe regular cleaning schedules that consists of set times to do weekly/monthly/bi-weekly cleanings.
  • Change In Routine. Vets may recommend that you change your dog’s routine, such as walking at times of day when allergens aren’t as powerful.
  • Change In Food. You may need to purchase special hypoallergenic dog treats and dog food that doesn’t contain your dog’s allergens (for example, owners may buy venison dog food if their dog can’t handle traditional meats like chicken or beef).

dog ear exam

The Process: How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Now we’re at the good stuff – how to clean your dog’s ears! Before we start, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Never Put Objects in Your Dog’s Ear Canals!

To be clear, you should never put any tools into your dog’s ear canal, no matter how dirty they are! It’s an incredibly sensitive area and if there is an infection or a ruptured ear drum. Ear cleaners should never, ever be used to clean your dog’s ear canals. They are harsh and can irritate the skin.

We also recommend not using vinegar and water cleanses. Vinegar and water used to be a go to method of ear cleaning for pets, and some websites still reflect that. However, almost all modern experts have agreed that vinegar may lead to deeper and stronger infections, and prolonging the healing process, as the result of reactions with the existing bacteria.

As a rule, only use certified dog ear cleansers – and save the vinegar and water treatment for the coffee machine!

Now that we have determined that our dog does not have an infection and therefore does not need to first go to the vet for a specialized treatment plan, we can begin the procedure… or, rather, a procedure. There are a few different ways to approach the cleaning process.

Method #1: Casual Cleanse

This is all you need to do when you give your dog his regular weekly or monthly ear cleaning. For most situations, the casual cleanse should do the trick for dirty doggy ears!

  1. Gently flip your pet’s ear “inside out” to expose the ear.
  2. Apply ear cleanser to a cotton ball or soft tissue.
  3. Rub the tissue around the entrance to the canal and the exposed skin. Remember, nothing goes into the ear canal.
  4. Remove the cotton ball and flip your pet’s ear back to “right side in”.
  5. Presto! Clean pup!

Method #2: Deep Cleanse Technique

Deep cleaning goes one step further, using the doggy equivalent to “Draino” to get all the dirt to rise up to the top of the ear canal, allowing you to safely remove them with a cotton ball – all without having to go into the canal itself.

If your dog has an infection, your doctor will likely have prescribed some anti-bacterial dog ear cleanser to use, but if there is no infection, there are plenty of non-prescription cleansing solutions you can find at your local pet store or online. Whichever kind of cleanser you are using, the steps remain the same.

  1. Gently flip your pet’s ear “inside out” to expose the ear.
  2. Carefully pour a small amount of the ear cleanser into the ear canal, as recommended on the bottle.
  3. Flip your pet’s ear “right side in”.
  4. Massage the base of the ear, as that is where the canal is. You should hear a wet sound as the liquid moves back and forth; this is a good sign.
  5. Flip your pet’s ear “inside out” one more time.
  6. Insert the cotton ball very gently at the entrance of the ear canal. Do not go any further or deeper.
  7. Wipe in a circular motion to pick up all the dislodged wax and debris, then remove the cotton ball and dispose of it.
  8. Once you flip your pup’s ear back to “right side in”, he’s all clean!

For my fellow visual learners, King West Vets Dr. Kent Ackerman has a great video that goes through the whole ear cleaning process, from start to finish.

Regardless of whether or not they enjoyed the process, your pet is going to feel much better with all that gunk out of the way. How about a celebratory park visit to start the process all over again?

About the Author Kaelyn Kelly-Colon

Kaelyn Kelly-Colon is a content writer who loves dogs almost as much as their cat, who thinks he’s a dog.

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