Whether floppy, fluffy or pointy, dogs’ ears are often their most striking feature as well as extremely important, delicate organs. Learning how to clean dog ears can be beneficial to your dog, especially if he gets ear infections, as it prevents bacteria and yeast accumulation.
“Cleaning can be a good way to make sure that you are checking your dog’s ears for infections, pain or inflammation,” says Dr. Michelle Woodward, assistant professor of veterinary dermatology at the Louisiana State University School of Veterinary Medicine.
Breeds that have ear anatomy that causes a buildup of sebum or wax, like Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Pugs, Bulldogs and Poodles, or dogs that have other problems such as allergies may require more regular cleanings than others, says Dr. Sarah Wooten, a Colorado-based veterinarian.
“When I see a dog that comes in with frequent ear infections, occurring every three to six months, that dog has something in their ears that predisposes them to grow yeast or bacteria,” explains Dr. Wooten. In this case, she says, learning how to clean dog ears and during so regularly is advised.
Ready to learn how to clean dog ears and how to clean puppy ears? We’ve got some tips and advice from our experts on when to clean them, the best cleaner for dog ears and how to get your pup to sit still while you do it.
Common Causes of Dog Ear Problems
Some dogs may not require ear cleanings nearly as frequently as others, so consult your veterinarian to determine your dog’s needs and to make sure they aren’t suffering from a painful infection or eardrum damage before you begin.
If your dog is prone to ear infections, you should clean their ears regularly for prevention. Wondering what causes such infections and irritations? Here are some common causes of dog ear issues:
- 50% of dogs with allergies develop ear infections, and over 80% of dogs with food allergies develop ear problems
- Moisture and warmth of the ear canal creates a perfect place for bacteria and yeast to grow
- Wax buildup
- Foreign bodies, such as grass, hair and wax
- Ear mites
- Endocrine disease, such as thyroid disease
- Autoimmune disease
- Injury to the ear canals
- Excessive cleaning or cleaning with the wrong dog ear clean ing solution (Yes, you can be washing your dog’s ears too much! Unless under other instructions from your vet, clean no more than once a week to maintain clean ears for dogs.)
Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections
One of the benefits of routine dog ear care is that you’ll be more attuned to your pup’s health and better equipped to notice when something’s not right. Your dog’s behavior during an ear cleaning can offer clues to their wellbeing.
“If you have a generally patient dog and they are suddenly causing trouble for ear cleanings, this may be a sign that they have an infection and are in pain,” Dr. Woodward says.
Dr. Woodward and Dr. Wooten note the following symptoms of ear infections:
- Shaking his head
- Scratching their ears
- Rubbing their ears along the carpet or furniture
- Excessive debris from the ears
How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Ready to learn how to clean dog ears and how to clean puppy ears? Let’s get to it!
- Fill the ear canal with the dog ear cleaning solution your vet recommended.
- If your dog resists having cleaner poured directly in their ear, use a cotton ball soaked with dog ear cleaning solution. Gently place the cotton ball inside your dog’s ear. Take care not to push the cotton ball fully inside their ear, as it can force debris deep into the ear. (Never use cotton swabs in your dog’s ears.)
- Massage the base of the ear right next to the head.
- If using a dog-ear-cleaning-solution-soaked cotton ball, massage the ear canal and remove the cotton ball. Repeat until the cotton ball comes out clean.
- Allow your dog to shake their head a bit and wipe the outside of the ear with a cotton ball or tissue.
- If your dog seems to be in pain, stop what you’re doing and contact your vet.
- Make the experience a positive one with praise and dog treats. Have a treat reserved just for ear cleaning, so your pooch learns to associate the process with something special.
- To distract your dog, you can also fill dog puzzle toys with treats that they have to figure out while you’re cleaning.
Best Cleaner for Dog Ears
If your pup has chronic ear infections, a medicated ear cleaning solution may be in order. According to Dr. Wooten, these cleaners typically act to dry out and acidify the ear canal, which keeps infection at bay. Though these are available over-the-counter, your veterinarian is the best source to ensure the safety of your pet.
Consider speaking with them about trying one of the following best-selling dog ear cleaning solutions:
Homemade Dog Ear Cleaning Solutions
While you may see some homemade dog ear cleaning solutions and home remedies for cleaning dog ears floating around on the web, resist the urge to mix up your own concoction.
Pet parents should stick to commercially available dog ear cleaning solutions only and avoid home remedies for cleaning dog ears.
“You should only use a commercially available ear cleaner to protect your dogs’ ear drums and the natural flora of the ears,” says Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM, of Belle Haven Animal Medical Centre in Alexandria, Virginia.
So, steer clear of those homemade dog ear cleaners!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do you clean dog ears with vinegar?
A: You should not clean your dog's ears with homemade dog ear cleaning remedies using household items like vinegar. This is an ineffective solution and can change the pH of the ear canal, worsening or causing an ear infection. To keep your pooch safe, stick to commercially available dog ear cleaning solutions that are recommended by your vet. —Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM
Q: How do you clean dog ears with hydrogen peroxide?
A: Pet parents never use hydrogen peroxide in the ear canal to clean their dog's ears. Extended use of hydrogen peroxide as an ear cleaning solution can lead to damage of the cells of the ear canal. However, cleaning the ear flap with diluted peroxide on a cotton ball would be acceptable if OK'ed by your vet. —Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM
Q: How often do you clean dog ears?
A: How often you’re washing your dog’s ears depends on the dog’s ears and if they are prone to infections. Some dogs with ears that stick up and are open to the air may not need them cleaned more than a few times a year (unless they swim). Other dogs with floppy ears that stay moist inside may need them cleaned up to every other day to prevent infection. Ask your veterinarian what’s right for your particular dog. A good rule of thumb for floppy-eared dogs is once a week to be safe and to maintain clean ears for dogs. —Dr. Katy Nelson, DVM