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How To Clean Your Dog’s Ears: A Step-by-Step Guide

How To Clean Dog Ears

Why Is Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears So Important?

Ear cleaning is part of keeping your dog groomed and healthy from nose to tail. Dogs rely on their ears for hearing, balance, expression, and more. Cleaning your dog’s ears helps support their health and happiness and prevents pain and other problems.

Deaf Dogs And Ear Health

Like humans, deaf dogs can live perfectly happy and healthy lives with the right care and support system. However, it’s best not to let your hearing dog go deaf due to entirely preventable causes, like wax buildup or untreated ear infections. These causes can turn hearing loss into a confusing, frightening, or even painful process.

Keeping your dog’s ears clean and healthy is vital whether they have hearing or not. Dog ears can be highly sensitive, and they are important for more than just hearing. Learning how to clean dog ears will help your beloved pet thrive happily.

How Often To Clean Your Dog’s Ears

You may see different guidelines regarding how often to clean your dog’s ears. Some resources recommend cleaning them once a month, twice a month, or at some other intervals. In reality, the best frequency of ear cleanings depends on your dog’s specific needs.

Some dogs are more prone to ear infections and debris buildup than others, such as dogs with hanging or floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Beagles. However, all dog breeds can develop ear problems. Here’s a general guideline to help you determine how often your dog needs an ear cleaning:

  • Ask Your Vet – Pet experts should be able to recommend an ear cleaning schedule that works for your dog.
  • Check With Your Groomer – Some groomers clean dogs’ ears as part of the grooming experience, and your dog may not need any more than that.
  • Inspect Your Dog’s Ears Regularly – You should check for signs of waterlogged ears or excessive moisture, blockage, irritation, or smells, especially after baths or swimming.

You can also over-clean your dog’s ears and cause infection and irritation, so it’s essential to learn how to recognize signs of healthy ears and ear infections alike.

Signs Of An Ear Infection In Your Dog

Healthy dog ears should be pink, odorless, clean, and show no swelling, irritation, or pain. Here’s how to recognize signs of ear infections and other ear problems in your dog:

  • Bad odor or yeasty smell
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at ears
  • Red or inflamed skin
  • Sticky or watery discharge
  • Overly hot to the touch
  • Pulling away when you rub their ears

If your dog is showing any of these symptoms, they may have an ear infection, blockages, ear mites, allergies, or other concerns that may require medication or professional attention instead of at-home cleanings. Examine your dog’s ears regularly to help prevent problems and know when it’s time to bring your dog to the vet.

Materials You’ll Need To Clean Your Dog’s Ears

You only need a few materials to clean your dog’s ears:

  • Towels
  • Clothes you don’t mind getting dirty or wet
  • Cotton balls or gauze pads
  • Ear wash solution
  • Tweezers in case the ear canal is hairy

The Best Dog Ear Cleaning Solutions

While there are many “how to” guides for DIY dog ear cleaning solution recipes, it’s safest to use a veterinarian-approved product. Avoid using or making products with ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol, which could harm or irritate your dog’s ears.

Ask your vet what ear cleaning solution they recommend for your dog. Your dog may have specific needs for their ears, and your vet may carry ear cleaners or at least be able to point you in the right direction.

How to: Steps For Cleaning Dog Ears

The best way to clean your dog’s ears is one side at a time using this step-by-step guide:

  1. Restrain or limit your dog’s movement –
    Do your best to prevent your dog from moving around or shaking their head while cleaning their ears. Use an arm or your body to keep them sitting or lying down. You may want to do this routine in a bathroom or smaller space.
  2. Apply ear wash solution –
    Fill up the inner ear with enough ear wash solution so that there is some slight overflow. Try to avoid touching your dog’s ear with the ear wash solution’s applicator tip, and do not insert the tip directly into the ear.
  3. Massage the ear –
    Massage your dog’s ear around the base, where the ear connects to the head, for about 30 seconds. This step helps the solution soak in and break up wax or other debris. You should hear a squishing sound as you massage your dog’s ear.
  4. Wipe away debris –
    Use your cotton ball or gauze pad to remove liquid and debris around the ear area. Your dog will want to shake their head, so let them do so now to get leftover ear cleaning solution and debris out of the inner canal so you can wipe it down better.
  5. Give your dog a treat –
    We all wish we could communicate to our dogs when we’re doing something they don’t enjoy. Since we can’t, the next best thing is to give your dog a treat to make the ear cleaning process more bearable!

Repeat these steps with the other ear. Give your dog lots of praise and treats along the way!

Some Cleaning Tips:

  • Start with grooming if your dog has hairy ears, matted fur, or their ear area is not completely clean. Trimming the hair around or inside your dog’s ear can make it easier to clean the ear – and keep it clean!
  • Start this routine from a young age so your dog is conditioned to accept ear cleaning. If you can’t introduce this routine to your dog as a puppy, get them used to you touching their ears slowly so they are more comfortable with the cleaning process.
  • Make the process as fun and non-threatening as possible. Think of this routine as bonding time with your dog. Give your dog lots of love and attention, a special treat they only get during the cleaning process, or a fun activity to do together after.
  • Watch your mood and behavior. Your dog may pick up on your mood and take it as a cue for how they should behave. If you’re reluctant, hesitant, or dreading this process, they could become skittish. Staying calm and positive helps them stay calm too.

Common Mistakes To Avoid:

Here’s a list of how NOT to clean your dog’s ears:

  • Don’t use cotton swabs – Cotton swabs can damage your dog’s ear canal or push debris deeper, making it harder to remove.
  • Don’t go too deep in your dog’s ear – It’s best to stop at a depth of one knuckle to avoid causing trauma to the ear.
  • Don’t let the tip of the ear cleaning solution applicator touch your dog’s ear – This can introduce bacteria into the container.
  • Don’t use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol – These and other ingredients are often used as disinfectants for household surfaces or, in a diluted form, for skin and wounds. However, ears are especially sensitive, and using these products could cause damage.

We hope this was a helpful resource for cleaning your dog’s ears and giving them the love and care they deserve to stay happy and healthy! Learn more about pet health, behavior, and nutrition in our Live Well Blog.

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