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How To Clean A Dog’s Ears

4 min read

Updated - Apr 29th, 2022

Have you noticed gunk inside your dog’s ear? Is your pup an avid swimmer? If so, it may be time for an ear cleaning. Clean dog ears are an important part of puppy health and hygiene. Regular cleanings can reduce the chances of your dog developing a painful ear infection.

The good news is that cleaning a dog’s ears is a safe and simple process that pet owners can do themselves. If you’re a new pet parent or it’s been a while, you’re probably wondering how to clean a dog’s ears safely – not to worry! We’re breaking it down in our step-by-step guide.

1. Set up your materials

Gather your materials and set them up in a spot you don’t mind getting a little wet. You should have an ear cleaning solution, cotton swabs or gauze, and a few dog treats to reward your pup throughout the process. Have a towel or two on hand as well to dry off if you get splashed.

There are a variety of ear cleanser brands available that include various ingredients. Solutions containing hydrogen peroxide or alcohol may irritate your dog’s ears, so have your vet recommend a non-irritating ear cleaning solution that is best for your breed.

Reminder: Skip the Q-tip. Using a Q-tip can injure your dog’s eardrum and push wax and buildup deeper into the ear canal. Never use a Q-tip when cleaning your dog’s ears.

2. Calm your dog and hold them in place

Ear cleaning can be stressful and sometimes frightening for dogs, so it’s important to praise them throughout the process and keep them calm. Offer treats when you need to.

Once your pup is feeling relaxed, hold their head in place and lift their ear flap.

3. Squeeze the cleaning solution into the ear

Fill your dog’s ear canal with the ear cleaner. Be careful not to let the tip of the applicator touch your dog’s ear. If it does, be sure to clean it before using it on the other ear to avoid accidentally transferring bacteria.

4. Massage the base of the ear

Gently massage the base of your dog’s ear for about 20-30 seconds. Don’t skimp out on this step, as a thorough massage allows the cleaning fluid to break down earwax and dirt inside your pet’s ear. You should hear a swishing sound as wax and buildup breaks apart.

5. Let your dog shake their head

By this point, your pooch will be itching to shake the cleaning fluid from their ear. Go ahead and let them shake their head. Shaking helps fluid move out of the inner ear and into a place where you can more easily wipe it away. Protect yourself from the splash zone with a towel.

6. Wipe out the ear canal

Gently wipe any wax, debris, or remaining cleaning fluid out of your dog’s ear using cotton swabs or gauze. Touch only the outer ear so that you avoid injuring your dog. It’s best to only go about one knuckle deep into the ear canal.

7. Reward and repeat

Give your dog a well-deserved treat. Then, repeat each step to clean the other ear. 

And that’s it! Now you know how to clean a dog’s ears.

How do I know when I need to clean my dog’s ears?

With all this said, it’s important to also ask when you should clean your dog’s ears. 

Not every dog needs its ears cleaned regularly. Ask your vet what schedule they’d recommend for your breed as certain dog breeds may need their ears cleaned more frequently than others. Typically, dogs with floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, are more at risk for ear infections. Dogs who swim often also may need to have their ears cleaned more frequently.

When in doubt, check with your vet

Cleaning your pup’s ears too frequently can cause irritation. Before you get started, be sure to ask your vet how often your dog needs an ear cleaning, and what cleaning solution you should use. If your dog seems to be in pain during the cleaning, stop what you’re doing and make an appointment with a vet.

Common signs of an ear infection include discharge oozing from the ear, loss of balance, or an unpleasant odor coming from your dog’s ear. If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with a vet before you attempt to clean your dog’s ears yourself. Your vet will evaluate the problem and then give special instructions on how to clean a dog’s ear and apply medicine. Be sure your dog keeps up with regular vet visits, as they can spot signs of ear infections, ear mites, and other underlying issues.

Even with a steady ear cleaning routine, unexpected infections can still strike. That’s why Pumpkin dog insurance plans pay you 90% back on covered vet bills to get your pup feeling better again.

Caitlin is a writer and the proud roommate of an adorable and elusive cat named Olive.