Ear cleaning is an important part of keeping your dog healthy. While some dogs need ear cleaning more than others, it’s important to be able to identify when your dog might need their ears cleaned and understand how to do it. This article will explain:
- Why it’s important to clean your dog’s ears
- How to tell when it’s time to clean your dog’s ears
- What you should use to clean your dog’s ears
- How to properly clean your dog’s ears
- Frequently asked questions about cleaning a dog’s ears
The importance of cleaning your dog’s ears
The horizontal structure of a dog’s ear canal can result in materials and debris getting trapped inside. Cleaning your dog’s ears helps ensure that these materials and debris get removed from the ear canal and don’t result in itching or an ear infection.
How to tell when a dog’s ears need cleaning
We recommend cleaning your dog’s ears only if you notice odor or discharge when examining their ears. Some dogs may never need their ears cleaned, and over-cleaning can cause irritation and lead to an ear infection. If you’re unsure about whether or not to clean your dog’s ears, talk to your veterinarian.
What you should use to clean a dog’s ears
When cleaning your dog’s ears, there are a few things you need:
- A high quality ear cleaner. Avoid ear cleaners that contain peroxide or alcohol. These can cause irritation. Choose an ear cleaner that has anti-bacterial or anti-fungal ingredients. To determine the most appropriate cleaner for your dog, talk to your veterinarian.
- Cotton balls or gauze. You will use these to remove any debris from your dog’s ears after using the ear cleaner.
- Never use Q-tips or cotton swabs. Doing so can damage the ear canal and/or ear drum or push debris further into the ear canal.
- Treats or other rewards. To help your dog feel good about having their ears cleaned, feed them treats or provide them with other rewards before, during and after the ear cleaning session.
How to properly clean your dog’s ears
The key to cleaning your dog’s ears is to help them get comfortable with the bottle of ear cleaner. To do this:
- Start by simply showing your dog the bottle of ear cleaner. Every time they sniff the ear cleaner, say “Yes” and give your dog a treat. By doing this, you’re helping them make a good association with the ear cleaner.
- Touch their ear with the bottle of ear cleaner. Once your dog is comfortable sniffing the ear cleaner, start touching their ears with the ear cleaner. Every time you touch the ear cleaner to an ear, say “Yes” and give them a treat.
Once your dog is comfortable with the bottle of ear cleaner touching their ear, you’re ready to clean their ears. To do this, follow these step-by-step instructions provided by VCA Animal Hospitals:
- Sit on the floor and have your dog sit in front of you with his rear end positioned between your legs. If you have a large breed dog, position him so he is sitting with his rear end in the corner of a room, with his one side against the wall. Stand on his other side.
- Grasp one ear and hold the ear flap (pinna) up vertically to straighten out the ear canal.
- While holding your dog’s ear flap, gently but firmly with one hand, hold the ear cleaning solution in your other hand.
- Squeeze some ear cleaning solution into your dog’s ear. Use enough cleaner to completely fill the ear canal. It is fine if some of the cleaner spills out of the ear canal. Do not put the tip of the bottle into the ear. If the tip of the bottle touches your dog’s ear, wipe the tip off with a clean cotton ball soaked in alcohol to prevent the spread of bacteria or yeast.
- Continue to hold the ear flap up vertically with one hand and gently massage the base of the ear below the ear opening for about 30 seconds with the other hand. This allows the cleaning solution to break up the debris that is in the ear canal. You should hear a squishing sound as the cleaning solution moves around in the horizontal part of the ear canal.
- While still holding up the ear flap, wipe away debris from the inner part of the ear flap and the upper ear canal using a cotton ball or gauze.
- Allow your dog to shake his head. This allows the remaining ear cleaning solution and debris from the ear canal to move out of the canal to the outer opening of the ear.
- Once again, hold the ear flap up, and remove the loosened debris and cleaning solution from the outer opening of the ear canal using a cotton ball or gauze.
- Remove any debris and remaining cleaning solution from the ear canal with a cotton ball or gauze – only go into the ear canal as far as your finger will reach. Never use a cotton-tipped applicator (Q-tip®) to remove the solution from the ear canal. Doing so can damage the ear canal and/or ear drum or push debris further into the ear canal.
- Praise your dog and provide treats.
- Repeat the same process with the other ear.
- If your dog appears to be in pain during the cleaning process, stop and consult your veterinarian. Repeat the cleaning procedure as often as is recommended by your veterinarian. If your dog has an ear infection and requires medication to be applied to the ears, clean the ears first and then apply the medication.
Frequently asked questions about cleaning a dog’s ears
Should I clean inside my dog’s ears?
We recommend you clean your dog’s ears only if you notice odor or discharge when examining their ears. Never use a Q-tip to clean your dog’s ear canal. Doing so could damage the ear canal/drum and push materials deeper into your dog’s ear canal.
Can you use hydrogen peroxide on a dog’s ears?
No. You should not use hydrogen peroxide on your dog’s ears. Cleaners with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol can cause irritation in the ear canal. To find a suitable ear cleaner, talk to your veterinarian.
How to best get wax out of a dog’s ear?
Never use a Q-tip or cotton swab. Doing so can damage the ear canal and/or ear drum or push wax and other debris further into the ear canal. To get wax out of your dog’s ears:
- Select a high quality ear cleaner
- Sit or stand by your dog, lift up their ear flap, and squeeze some ear solution into your dog’s ear
- Massage the base of their ear for 30 seconds
- Wipe the debris from their outer ear
- Wait for your dog to shake their head
- Wipe out remaining debris from their inner ear
- Give your dog a ton of praise, treats or other rewards
- Repeat on the other ear