Ear cleaning is an important part of your dog’s grooming needs, but it is often overlooked. Many pawrents wonder how to correctly clean their pup's ears since cleaning ears seems challenging. Cleaning your dog’s ears need not be challenging and with some practice, it can be done at home. If you have never done it before and are wondering where to start, we've put together this handy guide to tell you everything you need to know about cleaning your dog's ears at home.
When to clean your dog’s ears
Over-cleaning your dog’s ears is just as bad as under-cleaning, so check to make sure your dog actually needs ear cleaning. Over-cleaning can lead to irritation and doggy ear infections.
A healthy, clean ear has a pinkish hue and is odourless. Clean your pup’s ears only when you notice a change in their condition. Having said this, some dog breeds do require frequent ear cleanings because they are predisposed to ear infections. Droopy-eared breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds will require more regular ear cleaning as they can be more prone to ear infections.
It is also important to note that if your dog is an ardent swimmer and spends a lot of time in the water, he may need to have his ear cleaned more often. Ear canals must be kept dry and well ventilated to discourage bacteria or yeast growth. So, if your dog swims frequently, then he will need to have his ear cleaned regularly.
If you notice a mild odour and catch your dog shaking his head more than usual, it is probably time for an ear cleaning. If your dog’s ear looks red and inflamed, smells yeasty, or he appears to scratch his ears and face regularly, speak to your veterinarian soonest possible. These symptoms could indicate an ear infection or ear mites, and your dog requires medical attention.
What to prepare
Preparation is important because ear cleaning can get messy. It is certainly not difficult to clean your dog’s ears. It’s a rather simple process but a messy one. You may want to clean your dog’s ears in a bathroom or at a location that is easy to clean in case your dog shakes his head vigorously during the process, expelling the cleaning solution all over your floor and furniture.
You do not need a lot of things to clean your pup’s ears. All you need is:
1. Some cotton balls, gauze, or doggy ear wipes.
We find the Artero Cosmetics Finger Ear Wipes For Dogs to be extremely helpful in removing earwax and dirt from the outer ear area.
2. Dog ear cleaning solution
For dogs that swim regularly, or are predisposed to ear infections, try this TropiClean ear cleaner - TropiClean Dual Action Cleansing & Drying Ear Cleaner for Dogs. This ear cleaning solution dries quickly and helps eliminate water trapped in the ears which can cause infections.
For pawrents who want a plant-based dog ear cleaner that is 100% organic, we would recommend the Shake Organic Ear Cleanser For Cats & Dogs. Not all plant-based products are organic, but this Shake Organic Ear Cleaner is 100% organic and gentle on your pup’s ears.
Most veterinary clinics carry ear cleaner for dogs too. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend a cleaner for your pup if your pup has a certain ear condition. Some cleaning solutions may be more beneficial for your pup’s specific needs.
3. A clean towel
Prepare a piece of clean towel big enough to cover your dog’s head. During the cleaning process, your dog is going to shake his head vigorously, flipping the ear cleaning liquid all over the place. The towel is to protect you from debris and to wipe down your pup’s face after cleaning.
4. Pet wipes
Prepare some hypoallergenic pet wipes to wipe down your doggy’s face and body after cleaning. Please use hypoallergenic, alcohol, and paraben-free pet wipes like this Absorb Plus Antibacterial Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes (Aloe Vera).
5. Get a helper
A second pair of hands can be very helpful here if your dog is not used to having his ears cleaned.
6. Plenty of treats for during and after the ear cleaning
Don’t forget to praise your dog and provide treats for a job well done! A yummy jerky treat will be perfect for this occasion - Stella & Chewy's Just Jerky Bites (Beef) Dog Treats. Know that you are giving your dog the best with his tasty jerky bites. It’s made with real meat and contains no fillers, grains, legumes, wheat, corn, or soy.
7. What NOT to do
Please do not use cotton-tipped swabs (Q-tips) or anything with a pointed tip. These tools can shove dirt and debris deeper into your dog’s ears, causing infections, and can even lead to trauma to the inner structures of the ear itself.
Finally, don't skimp on the cleaning solution. To properly clean the dog’s ear canals, you’ll need to fill the entire canal with the cleaning solution. Any excess cleaner will be expelled by your dog shaking his head. So, do not stop your dog from shaking his head during the cleaning process.
Step-by-step cleaning process
- Before you begin cleaning, inspect your dog's ears. If they appear red or inflamed, with or without discharge, do not proceed. Arrange to bring your pup to the vet for a check-up. Your dog may be suffering from an infection or an infestation of ear mites, either of which will need medical attention. At any time during the cleaning process, if your dog appears to be in pain, stop and consult your veterinarian.
- If there are no signs of redness or inflammation, assemble your supplies and your dog next to you. Let him explore the supplies if this is his first ear cleaning experience.
- Start the cleaning process only when your dog is calm. This will help make the process easier and don’t be afraid to use treats to sweeten the deal.
- Lift your dog’s ear and squeeze the ear-cleaning solution to fill your dog’s ear canal. Don’t let the tip of the applicator touch your dog’s ear, as this may introduce bacteria to the applicator.
- Massage gently at the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. You will hear a squishing sound as the product dislodges debris and buildup.
- Your dog will want to shake his head to expel the cleaning liquid in his ear. This is where the towel comes in. Hold the towel over his head and let him shake his head. The towel will prevent the ear cleaning solution from flying everywhere.
- Once your dog has finished shaking, take the cotton ball, gauze, or the Artero Cosmetics Finger Ear Wipes For Dogs and gently wipe out the ear canal.
- Reward your pup with a treat and then repeat these steps for the other ear.
- After both ears are cleaned, wipe your pup down. Use the Absorb Plus Antibacterial Hypoallergenic Pet Wipes (Aloe Vera) to wipe off any cleaning solution on his face or body.
So now you know the simple steps to cleaning your dog’s ears. Check his ears regularly and lookout for anything unusual. If your dog has an infection, the ears are going to be red and inflamed. They may also shake their head regularly or scratch around the ears. The ear could be foul-smelling and discharge may be present. If you notice these symptoms, please take him to the vet immediately for proper treatment.
Katherine is a Pet Nutrition Specialist and GDP’s Pet Wellness Advisor. She is committed to helping pet owners make informed dietary and lifestyle choices in nurturing healthy pets. Katherine is also a practicing Nutritional Therapist (human nutrition) and has been helping hundreds of clients to heal naturally with nutrients.