HEALTH & CARE

How to Clean Dogs’ Ears: Step by Step Instructions

How to Clean Dogs Ears
Wyatt Robinson
Written by Wyatt Robinson

The periodic inspection of your dog’s ears is really important. Regardless of what breed your dog is, its ears hygiene should be on your priority list. It is true that some dog breeds are prone to develop ear infections, but all of them require an adequate hygiene. If you neglect this aspect, your pooch can get any of the common ear infections that affect a large number of canine specimens all the time. To learn more, check out this article on ear infections in dogs.

Basically, ignoring this aspect may lead to your pooch’s suffering and it would probably cost you time and money to fix it. The needed treatments for ears infections in dogs can be quite expensive, especially when it comes to complications. However, in most cases, a dog requires a few simple hygiene measures in order to keep it healthy. Learning how to clean dogs’ ears is not a lengthy or difficult process either.

You should wash your pet’s ears from time to time, trying to maintain a regular schedule. If this process was not on your to do list until now, you should know a thing or two before you start. Aspects such as frequency, utensils and step by step instructions should be known in detail. Conversely, once you get a hold of this practice, you shouldn’t wash your dog’s ears too often or press too hard and cause irritations. A thin layer of ear wax is actually recommended to stay inside the ears in order to protect your dog’s auditory canal.

In addition, using the right technique and the most recommended ear cleaning solutions will ensure the success of this mandatory process. Humans need far less ears hygiene than dogs because their ears are smaller and don’t retain humidity like in case of pooches.

Generalities about dogs’ ears

Ear care is not something dogs like or dislike vehemently. Some canine specimens find the whole process quite pleasant because they feel like their owner scratches them softly inside their ears, which is an area where they cannot reach. Others might not appreciate when their owner inserts different objects or even their fingers inside their ears.

Dogs’ ears

There is another case when, although the owner is really careful and gentle, the dog reacts negatively. This situation might be caused by an injury, mites or other types of infections. This is one of the many reasons a dog’s ears must be checked frequently with or without a specific reason. For example, after a session of swimming, an extra check-up is mandatory in order to avoid humidity inside a pooch’s ears canals.

Since certain dog breeds such as Cocker Spaniel and Springer Spaniel are susceptible to ear infections, their owners should be more careful with them. Infections and parasites find in their auditory canals the perfect environment to develop, multiply and to build a home for themselves, affecting the pooch’s general health, hearing level and overall comfort from mild to severe degrees.

In addition, the list can continue with breeds such as Basset-Hound, Labrador, Irish Setter and Shar-Pei too. Cleaning your dogs’ ears becomes more important in the cases of those sensitive breeds, but, as said, it is strongly recommended for all dog breeds.

A dog’s ear has an L shape and it is composed of a vertical portion and a horizontal portion. The vertical portion is shaped like a funnel and differs in length depending on the breed. The horizontal portion has a relatively short length, which narrows gradually and ends with the tympanic membrane. The epithelium from the auditory canal is provided with sebaceous glands and with glands that produce wax.

The structure of a dog’s ear makes it favorable for bacteria and parasites to hide inside and multiply throughout its canals. The growth of hairs is also not helpful for a dog’s ears hygiene.

Prepare your pup for the cleaning process

Any pup should get accustomed with the process of cleaning its ears. This is a requirement in case you want the whole session to be pleasant and fast instead of stressful and tiring for both you and your puppy. The perfect timing for training a canine specimen to stay still during such an invasive process is at young age.

A pup assimilates easier and gets accustomed with different procedures faster and without too much hassle. You can start by touching its ears, picking them up and praising it for being cool with it. Every time your puppy allows you to play with its ears, it should receive a treat. Associating an action with a treat works magic in case of dogs.

Cleaning dog ears

Once your puppy lets you touch its ears, you should try to hold them in your hands for as long as possible and reward it afterwards. Also, you can try to gently insert your finger inside its ears, but not before you wrap it up with a compress. Massaging any pup’s ear base is relaxing for them, so do that too.

Once all these steps are completed successfully, you can proceed with the actual cleaning. Do not skip over the treats. However, do not expect for all these to happen in one day. This is a lengthy process that must start as soon as possible. In most cases, a dog needs weekly ears cleaning.

Things you need for cleaning your dog ears

Dog hygiene cannot be maintained with products for humans. This is an aspect that all dog owners should be aware of. Therefore, even if you can find a use for cotton buds for cleaning dog ears, you might still not have everything you need in order to properly clean dog ears. Also, the home made solutions might not be as good as a professional dog ear cleaning solution.

So, find out as much as you can about your options, but make sure to take the best decision according to the needs of your canine pet. Applying these solutions is also a tricky operation that has advantages and disadvantages.

PetJoy Naturals Dog Ear Cleaner

You should purchase sterile compresses from any pharmacy, hydrogen peroxide or another special solution, as well as ear sticks or, in ideal cases a hemostatic forceps. The cotton buds should not be used unless you wrap them with a compress. The cotton from these buds might irritate a dog’s ear canal or tiny parts of it might get stuck inside. A simple irritation could develop into an infection, so avoid this situation at all costs. In addition, the compress’s texture allows a more effective cleaning because all the impurities are collected by its tiny holes.

Examples of solutions that you can buy for your doggy’s ears can be found at the following links:

There are plenty of other ear cleaners on the market, which you can discover in this article about the best dog ear cleaners.

Although ear sticks are at hand, specialists actually recommend the usage of a hemostatic forceps. A cotton swab or a compress can be wrapped up on a hemostatic forceps a lot better than around a Q-tip. This way, the danger of leaving cotton threads inside a dog’s ears canals is minimal. In addition, this utensil can provide stability and precision in comparison with the common plastic ear stick. Thus, the ears canals could benefit of a better cleaning.

Zymox Ear Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes

The actual cleaning is done with the help of a twisting movement. The compress should be changed until it comes out perfectly clean from the puppy’s ears. The specialists who recommend this utensil are against cotton buds because they think they might lead to complications in case of accidents when they slip or get stuck inside the pooch’s ear. Moreover, they are also against wooden sticks because they can’t be disinfected and they are imbued with secretions that will not help a doggy in its fight with various germs.

As far as their opinion goes, using wooden sticks for ear cleaning is evidence of serious empiricism. Worst case scenario, they recommend rigid plastic rods that have a cotton ball firmly secured at one end and that can only be used once.

Dog ears

The external ear of a puppy can be cleaned with common baby wipes too. This is because they are soft, moist and antibacterial. They are useful for the cleaning of a dog’s auricles, but not the inside of a dog’s auditory canal. They are also nice to use because they don’t have too much liquid on them. Thus, the pooch’s ears won’t be humid after using them.

In addition, if you didn’t buy any of the special solutions mentioned above, you can make one at home. What you need is vinegar, alcohol and water. Vinegar is great to fight infection. Alcohol dries and disinfects the area, while water dilutes the other two. Any of these two products can be used and they are at hand. However, they are not especially made for dog ears. Instead, you should consider one of the great recipes we have in this article about homemade dog ear cleaners.

You could use them in case of emergency or if you ran out of professional products. None of the above products are recommended in case your doggy has an infection. Refer to a veterinarian or do some research in case that situation occurs.

Step by step cleaning instructions

The first step you need to take in order to start the ears cleaning process is to clean the auricle of both ears. You can grab a compress, wrap it up around your finger and wipe the inside of its external ear. In case you are a lady who has long finger nails, use a double layer of compresses to avoid scratching its soft, sensitive skin.

After you have cleaned this part, changing as many compresses as needed, you can move on to a more thorough cleaning in areas that are more difficult to reach. In this regard, you should take one of the utensils presented above and one of the solutions and begin the deeper cleaning phase. Be careful not to insert the stick or the forceps too deep or in areas that you cannot see well. Your dog might make a sudden movement and hurt itself badly.

How to clean dogs ears

If your pooch’s ears are really dirty, then you might have to immobilize it between your knees or have another person help you with this operation. What you need to do is to put a few drops of ears cleaning product in each of its ears and wait for one minute. This must be done because that product will soften the hardened residue and it will be much easier to remove.

The rest of the process is similar with the one presented above. In case your dog wants to shake off the excess product, you should let it. Be careful not to stay in its way and get all dirty. Anyway, that solution is not dangerous for your skin. It is only dangerous if it gets inside your eyes.

As said, dogs with large ears such as Cocker Spaniel are susceptible to ear infections with bacteria and different fungi. They need special care, which consists in removing the hair that grows in their ear canal in order to allow adequate ventilation. This procedure is also needed for dogs that have excessive hair around their ears canals such as Bouvier des Flandres and Schnauzer. In order to remove the hair you can use tweezers.

This area is poorly innervated, so your dog will not react in a negative way unless you pull out hairs that grow above the ear canal. You need to take measures in case this happens by wrapping up the tweezers with thin layers of compresses to avoid injury. You could also use your fingers to pull out these hairs. However, you would also need some sort of powder to make the hairs less slippery for when you pull them out. Don’t try to do this if you are afraid. Take a deep breath and stay confident before you begin.

The frequency of cleaning

Now that you know what you need and how to do it, you might wonder how often you should clean your dog’s ears. The answer depends on the type of ears your dog has. If you have a pooch with straight ears or raised ears, then you should consider cleaning them once a month.

Conversely, if your dog has large ears or it plays around in humid places all day long, then it would be good for the cleaning process to be carried out weekly. Regardless of how often you actually wash your canine friend’s ears, you should check them often, especially during humid days when the danger of getting infected is higher.

Itchy dog ears

A dry, pink and soft ear should not be washed unless it is full of ear wax or impurities. Otherwise, you can postpone the process for another day. If, instead, you notice one or more of the following symptoms, you must know that your pooch might have an ear infection, case in which you shouldn’t clean them anymore and seek additional help: inflammation or swelling in or around the ear canal, weird and dark colored secretions, persistent and pungent odor, sensitivity to touch and a higher temperature than usual.

There are other signs that your doggy can transmit, making sure that you notice its discomfort. However, you should not skip the check-ups. Try to make a routine out of it and remember to give your dog a snack every time it is cooperative with this process.

Healthy dog ears – conclusions

A dog’s ears are very sensitive spots. This is because they get easily infected and because they serve as guides for them. The main auditory sensations are meant to provide guidance for dogs, regardless of size or breed. Therefore, the ears hygiene is very important. The process involving cleaning them is not difficult and it doesn’t take too much time. You could do this after the weekly bath or some other time if your doggy doesn’t have any more patience.

In addition, it may become a pleasant activity for you and for your pooch too. It really depends on how well you train your beloved pet and how soon you start its training sessions. Also, you should be really confident when it comes to all the steps included in the process of washing dog ears. You might not be able to manage your dog’s restlessness if you’re not.

Puppy with clean ears

Besides having various treats at hand and rewarding your dog for staying still, you should consider taking your dog out for a run before you start cleaning its ears. A dog is not like a child who does something just because you promise him or her that you will both go to the park together. Therefore, a dog doesn’t know what you’re planning and when to expect it.

In addition, a tired dog will be more cooperative than a dog who is happy walking time is about to come. Pick your moment wisely at least during the first sessions of cleaning its ears. It will get used in time and it will stay still without you having to use other tricks and determine it to do so.

About the author
Wyatt Robinson
Wyatt Robinson

Wyatt Robinson had a great 25-years career as a veterinarian in United Kingdom. He used to be a member of British Veterinary Association and worked in 3 pet hospitals in London and Manchester. He is shining when he sees his pets healthy and full of energy and it is his duty to help other dog owners to keep their best friends full of life.

  • Vanessa Rogers

    We always have a hard time cleaning our dog’s ears. He is simply terrified of ear solutions. He snaps and runs away whenever “cleaning day” arrives. He has to be restrained each time, but am afraid he might get hurt or grow aggressive. How do I calm him down so I’ll be able to clean his ears? Or should my vet just do it?

  • Ear solutions are indeed challenging to apply because even if they don’t hurt at all, it gives an uncomfortable feeling to the dog. If the ear solutions requires frequent application, you can ask the veterinarian to do it for several times or he can give you some contraptions to make the application easier.

  • Amy Chase

    My piece of mind is to bring up ear care to your vet before proceeding to ‘clean’ your pooch’s ears. Being grossly misinformed is not a pleasant experienced, and I have shamefully gone through it (with my pooch suffering in the process). I made many mistakes like: using straight alcohol to my pooch’s ears, digging around with a q-tip without prior knowledge or training or desensitization, and most of all proceeding without my vet’s go signal. The last one would have prevented the debacle, as it seemed my pooch was suffering a few small lacerations from the abrasive treatment. Didn’t try such ignorant means of ‘ear cleaning’ afterwards.

    • Wyatt Robinson

      My best advice is that, if you are not sure of what you are doing but you are willing to learn, let the vet or a trained professional demonstrate it to you for a few sessions before you do it. This avoids completely preventable injuries. Also, be reminded that not all ear cleaning peripherals intended for human use are applicable for dogs.

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