6 Ways To Properly Clean Dog Ears

Amy Tokic
by Amy Tokic
Scrape out that waxy buildup and listen up – we’ve put together some tips on how to clean dog ears.

Have you ever suddenly noticed that your dog isn’t responding to commands and worry that the pup might be going deaf until crumbly buildup starts tumbling out of their ears? If not, consider yourself lucky. It’s not pretty. Thankfully, it’s also not universal. Not all dogs need to have their ears cleaned. But others, especially those with floppy ears, need it done on a regular basis. Is your dog one of those who needs it regularly, and if so, how can you be sure you’re doing it properly? Now is when you’ll want to be all ears because we’ve got the information you need to know about when and how to clean your dog’s ears. So keep your eyes glued to this page and scroll away because everything that you need to know about clearing out canine ears is about to be revealed.

How To Keep Your Dog Grinning From Ear To Ear

Veterinarians tell us that the second most common reason dogs visit them is because they have ear infections. Sad, but true. Those painful infections are all to common amongst dogs. Fortunately, it’s also a fairly easy problem to address. Typically, an ear infection isn’t terribly difficult to treat, but it does usually involve a trip to the vet and a prescription to treat the infection. Then, you usually need to trot your pup back to the vet for a follow-up to be sure the infection is fully resolved. These pesky infections can dull down and return with a vengeance, so it’s important to follow up and ensure that the issue is in fact resolved.

So how can you help prevent those trips and treatments? Well, we’ve got some music for your ears, in the form of tips on why and how to clean your dog’s ears properly. Veterinarians explain that the best way to prevent ear infections is to keep your dog’s ears clean, but to do so, it’s important you know a bit about what goes into a dog’s ear getting dirty, so to speak. This is a problem that is quite solvable, it just requires the right knowhow.

The thing about dogs’ ears is that if you clean your dog’s ears too much, you’ll be stripping away the wax that necessary is in their ears to lubricate and protect their ear canals. Dogs, like people, need a dose of ear wax in their ears for a healthy barrier layer, so you don’t want to take that infection protection away by cleaning them too much. You want to clean them when they’re ‘dirty,’ as not cleaning them frequently enough can also bring infection in the form of yeast and bacteria building up in the ear canals. It’s a tricky balance, but there are certain signs to keep a eye out for that will indicate when your pup’s waxy buildup has gotten a little excessive. Your doggo seems like he’s scratching at his ears a bit more than you think is normal? He may need a good cleaning out to clear yeast buildup.

And, it depends on dog breed too. Some dogs are generally ear-issue free, while others tend to be like ear infection magnets. Retrievers, Poodles and Cocker Spaniels have floppy of hairy ears that act like hot-beds for yeast and bacteria to grow (particularly if their ears are not cleaned well after swimming, rolling around at the play park or they have allergy issues(. If your dog has what vets consider to be ‘normal’ ears (ie not super floppy or hairy) or they don’t swim often, a monthly cleaning should do them just fine. Otherwise, you may need to clean more often. It all depends on the dog and, of course, their ears.

When Not To Give An Earful

It’s important to note that if you should go to clean your dog’s ears and you feel like there may already be an ear infection. If your dog has been scratching at his ears a lot, or shaking his head and scratching, the ear canals may be infected. They may try to rub their ears on furniture or the floor to get some relief and you may smell a not-so-pleasant smell when you check their ears. If you notice either of these things, or if you see any yellow, brown or bloody discharge, or if you see what looks like may be scabbing or crustiness on the inside of their ear, it’s best for you to check with your vet before you clean the ears out. These are all signs of a fairly serious infection. You veterinarian will most likely take tests to determine what kind of infection may exist, or if there is something foreign irritating or something like excessive wax blocking their ears. This is important, so always take these warning signs seriously.

Play It By Ear: Tips To Properly Clean Your Dog’s Ears (And Some Things You Should Never Do)

  1. Here’s a big one. Never use Q-Tips to clean dog ears. Just like with human ears, Q-Tips tend to pack more junk down the ear canal rather than getting any of the wax out of there. Also, you should never use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean dog ears because that can be irritating. At any point of the process, if your dog yelps in pain, stop immediately. Beyond the fact that it’s important to never hurt your dog while cleaning his ears, this reaction could be the sign of an ear infection.
  2. You could also use lots of liquid to dissolve the debris and wax build up in your dog’s ears. One way to do this is to fill the ear up with the ear cleaning solution, until it overflows a bit. Rub it in by massaging under the lower part of the ear and the ear fold with your hand. This motion will make a squishy sound. Do this for about 30 seconds for best results.
  3. After you massage the ears, take a tissue and gently wipe out the ear gunk. Don’t expect too much gunk, but you should see some brown debris (that’s the ear wax) on the tissue. If you get a lot of brown stuff coming out, repeat step 2. If you repeat and still get a lot of brown goop, just let it be for a day or two and try it again. That way, the cleaner has a chance to works its magic and soften up the wax, which will allow you get it all out. If you still keep getting a lot of brown stuff coming out of your dog’s ear, it may be a sign of an ear infection. Call your vet and have it checked out. It’s important to act quickly before the infection gets worse.
  4. If your dog isn’t a willing participant in the ear cleaning, use a cotton ball to clean out the goop. Soak it with the ear cleaning solution until it is dripping. Don’t use tissue for this, because when the tissue is saturated with the solution, it will fall apart in the ear and pieces may get left behind, which can lead to infection and other problems. Tuck the cotton ball into the dog’s ear (don’t pack it in) and massage the ear just like in step 2. You’ll get the same effect as you would with just the ear cleaning solution. Some dogs don’t like the feeling of solution running into its ear, and the cotton ball gets just as much gunk out. After 30 seconds of massage, take the cotton ball out of the ear. Take a dry tissue and wipe out any of that brown nasty stuff. Repeat this step if necessary. This won’t be a pleasent process, but it will get the job done.
  5. There will be residual ear cleaning solution left behind. You don’t have to worry about this or wash it off. It won’t do any harm. And if this is part of the entire grooming routine, you may want to start off with the ear cleaning, followed by a bath. It’ll be a complete dog spa day!
  6. Just like anything process that may be unpleasant for your dog, finish off with lots of praise and treats for a job well done!

Make no mistake, cleaning out your dog’s ears will be a long and lonely process that isn’t pleasant for you or your dog. However, doggo ear infections are no joke. It’s important to take care of this issue if you have a pet whose ears tend to produce excessive waxy buildup or if they are particularly sensitive to ear infections. While it may be a deeply unpleasant process in the moment, that’s nothing compared to the problems that may arise after a serious infection. So make sure to stay vigilant and check your pups ears regularly. It won’t be the happiest moment that you share with a pup in a day, but it will make a major impact on your furry friend’s longterm health.

Do you have any other tips and tricks for cleaning out your pup’s ears? If so, we’d love to hear them. Please leave your ear cleaning tips in the comments below.

Photo credit: Lon Fong Photography-trying to catch up! / Foter.com / CC BY-NC-ND

Amy Tokic
Amy Tokic

Amy Tokic, Editor of PetGuide.com, is a passionate animal lover and proud pet parent of Oscar, a Shih Tzu/Chihuahua cross, and Zed, a Japanese Chin. Her love of animals began in kindergarten, when she brought her stuffed dog Snoopy into class with her every day. Now, she writes about her adventures in pet ownership and tirelessly researches products, news and health related issues she can share with other animal enthusiasts. In her free time, Amy loves perusing used book and record stores, obsessing over the latest pet products available and chasing squirrels with wild abandon (a habit attributed to spending too much time with her pooches).

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