How to Clean Dog Ears: Simple Methods to Keep your Dog’s Ears Clean

Medical articles
Person Cleaning Dog's Ears

From the moment those puppy-dog eyes lock with yours, you become responsible. They become your furry family member, your loyal companion, and their well-being rests entirely on your shoulders. As a veterinarian, it is my job to encourage owners to take great pride in how well they take care of their pets. While veterinary visits for annual exams and vaccinations are essential, there are other facets of health and wellness maintenance to be performed at home on a more regular basis. This includes things like brushing their teeth and coat, bathing them, clipping their nails and also cleaning their ears. Keeping a dog’s ears clean is very important to maintaining their health and preventing painful and irritating ear infections.

How Often Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears?

When it comes to maintaining a healthy ear canal, it is essential to be familiar with what is normal for your individual pet and the frequency of which they need their ears cleaned. I find the average dog needs their ears cleaned every 1-3 months for maintenance. Certain breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels or Bloodhounds, who have long floppy ears tend to need

more frequent cleanings, sometimes even as often at twice a week. Pets who suffer from allergies or chronic ear infections are more prone to wax build up and benefit from more regular cleanings as well. I also always recommend cleaning out a dog’s ears after they swim or have a bath to avoid fluid retention in the ear canal. I personally clean my Golden Retriever’s ears out once every 2 months during most of the year, but more frequently in the summer when he goes swimming.

Recognizing a Healthy Ear

In general, a healthy ear canal is light pink in color and the skin is not inflamed. There should not be a strong odor, or much debris present in the canal, and it should not be painful to the touch. Overcleaning can be irritating to the ear canal, so if there is no debris present, a cleaning is not likely warranted. If your pup constantly shakes their head or digs at their ears, it should prompt you to take a look inside. If the ear is red, inflamed, odorous or full of debris or mucus, your pet likely has an ear infection and should be taken to your veterinarian for work up and treatment. Cleaning out an infected ear can be very irritating, and an ear as described above is not likely to be amenable to resolution via cleaning alone.

How to Clean a Dog’s Ear

When preparing to clean your pup’s ears, there’s a few materials you will want to gather. Most important is a cleaner formulated specifically for a dog’s ears. It will be the appropriate pH for their canal, non-irritating and will self-dry after use. Avoid harsh solutions like hydrogen peroxide. You will want a few cotton balls or gauze pads to help clean the debris out of the canal. Depending on your pet’s opinion on having their ears cleaned, you may want to find an assistant to help hold them still during the procedure. For a smoother ear cleaning experience, pick a time when your pup is relaxed and happy. Rewarding them with treats and praise throughout the process will keep them feeling positive. I recommend performing ear cleanings outdoors or in a bathtub to avoid getting ear debris and cleaner on the walls and furniture.

Once you have gathered all your materials and chosen a location, lift the ear flap and fill the canal with ear wash solution until it is pooling within the ear canal. Next, massage the canal at the base of the ear to help slosh around the fluid and dislodge debris. Using a cotton ball or gauze, then wipe out all the visible fluid and debris. After you have cleaned out all visible debris, allow your pup to shake out any excess fluid. Always be sure to offer a high reward treat afterwards to encourage your pup to embrace future ear cleanings.

Person Cleaning Dog's Ear

Best Way to Clean a Dog’s Ears

Although extremely fun and rewarding, owning a dog is a huge responsibility. When thinking about the cost of a dog, it’s not just the price you pay at adoption; you need to consider annual visits for vaccinations as well as the in between at-home care like feeding and grooming. Not to mention the veterinary bills that can come with unexpected injury or illness. Owners are familiar with human health insurance but may find themselves wondering, how does dog insurance work? Embrace’s dog insurance offers up to 90% reimbursement towards injury and illness visits, as well as an optional wellness plan to help break up the cost of routine visits such as those for vaccination or dental cleanings. Protect yourself and your fur babies from the potential financial stresses of your pet's health by investing in pet insurance early before the development of pre-existing conditions.

Maintaining your pet’s health by keeping them up to date on vaccines and keeping their ear canals clean can aid in the prevention of communicable disease and pesky ear infections. Regular ear cleaning might seem like a small task, but it's a big part of fulfilling the responsibility we take on as pet parents. After all, those soft ears are home to some of the best listening skills and the sweetest doggy head tilts a pet parent could ask for.