How to Clean Dog Ears

Just like humans, dogs need grooming to stay happy and healthy. While some canine health routines, like nail trimming and teeth cleaning, are often left to professionals, you can clean dog ears at home. 

Before you begin, check with your veterinarian to see how often you should clean your dog’s ears. Your pet’s age, breed, coat, and activity level can determine the frequency. In general, veterinarians recommend cleaning dog ears at least once a month. If your dog likes to swim, you should perform this task more frequently.  

Steps for Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

Here are some steps to follow and tips for cleaning your dog's ears.

Gather your tools. If your dog doesn't like being held or groomed, this could get messy. Be prepared with towels and the right clothing, and have cotton balls or gauze pads and ear wash solution ready. You may also need tweezers if your dog has very hairy insides of the ear flap.

Never use cotton swabs to clean your dog's ears. They can cause serious trauma to your dog’s ear canal and make any wax or dirt even harder to remove.

Start with grooming. Dogs with very hairy ears should get a haircut before the cleaning. Remove matted hair and clean the hair around the ear canal and ear flap. If the ear canal is also hairy, you can pluck a few hairs at a time to provide more airflow.

Restrain your dog. If your dog is small enough, put them on a table and wrap your arm around them. Otherwise, have your dog lie down and get on your knees, leaning over the dog to prevent them from trying to get up. You may need to use a gentle forearm near the jaw and grasp the upper elbow of the bottom front leg to restrain effectively.

Apply ear wash solution: Using your dog’s ear flap as a funnel, fill up the inner ear with an ear wash solution. Make sure you do not insert the tip of the bottle directly into the ear. Use enough ear wash so that the liquid starts to flow out.

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Massage the ears. Hold the ear flap and massage the ear base for around 20 to 30 seconds. This is how the ear wash breaks up wax and other debris inside your dog’s ear. 

Wipe away debris. After you’ve massaged your dog’s ears, use a cotton ball or gauze pad to remove any debris from the inside of the flap and the upper canal of the ear.

Let your dog shake. Your dog will definitely want to shake their head during this process, and now’s the time to let them. This helps get the leftover ear wash and any additional debris out of the inner canal. Grab hold of the ear flap and clean it again using a cotton ball or gauze pad. Never penetrate your dog’s ear farther than your finger can reach.

Give your dog a treat. You’re halfway there! Reward your pet with a treat and repeat the process on the other side. Offer another treat when you’re finished. 

Things to Watch Out For

You should examine your dog's ears often to help spot or avoid infections. Excessive ear discharge or ears that seem painful to the touch are not normal. If this is the case, consult with a veterinarian to rule out infections, ear mites, or other concerns that may require medication.

Any breed of dog can develop an infection or get a burr or seed stuck in the ear canal. Dogs with allergies or those who swim often have a higher risk of developing an infection inside the ear. By regularly examining your dog’s ears, you can help avoid more painful problems for your pet.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Amy Flowers, DVM on July 07, 2021

Sources

SOURCES:

Banfield Pet Hospital: “Dog Ear Infections: Do I need to wash my dog’s ears?”

MSPCA–Angell: “How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears.”

Washington State University: “Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Dog.”

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