How to Clean a Dog's Ears

Posted by Dr. Roth on

Basset Hound, how to clean a dog's ears

Ear problems are some of the most common issues that vets treat. From infected cuts to allergy-induced infections and debris build-up, it’s important for pet parents to have basic knowledge of how to clean their dog’s ears and recognize when to get treatment.  

To keep their dogs’ ears in tip-top shape, every pet parent should have a basic understanding of:

  • Common dog ear problems and their symptoms
  • ‌Which dog breeds are most vulnerable to ear issues
  • ‌How to clean a dog’s ears correctly and thoroughly

Types of Ear Problems

Dogs’ ears are extremely vulnerable parts of their bodies — that’s easy to see with even the quickest of head rubs. Whether their ears stand up straight or flop over, they can easily pick up debris, mites, and more. This can lead to a variety of issues including:

  • Injuries, often from foreign bodies or rough play and most common in large-eared dogs
  • External ear infections, often caused by bacteria or fungus but sometimes brought on by allergies, parasites, or foreign bodies
  • Internal ear infections, which can develop from outer untreated ear infections 

‌If left untreated, internal ear infections can damage the nearby nerves and cause serious issues, including chronic drooling, difficulty eating, and even long-term facial paralysis. 

Symptoms of Ear Issues

To keep them safe, pet parents need to be aware of how ear problems affect dogs. Some ear difficulties can be very uncomfortable for a dog, causing behaviors such as:
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Excessive scratching
  • ‌Rubbing the head on surfaces
  • ‌Whining and other signs of pain

‌Some ear problems don’t cause any discomfort, so pet parents need to make ear checks part of their dog care routine. Look for:
  • ‌Dark discharge
  • ‌Crustiness
  • ‌Unpleasant odor
  • ‌Excessive wax buildup 

Breed Risk Factors

Some dogs are more prone to ear issues than others. This includes:
  • Floppy-eared dogs like Saint Bernards, Beagles, and Springer Spaniels
  • Hairy-eared dogs like Lhasa Apsos, Shih Tzus, and Cocker Spaniels 
  • Long-eared dogs like Basset Hounds
  • Water-loving dogs like Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers

Pups like these tend to accumulate debris and moisture in their ears, so they’re more susceptible to infection. 

However, not all dogs in vulnerable breeds will get ear infections or need frequent ear cleaning. Over-cleaning can also cause infection, so it’s important for pet parents to follow their vets’ recommendations.

Dog Meds for Ear Health

Proper ear cleaning usually requires a vet-approved ear cleaning solution. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide or alcohol. These can cause irritation and pain, especially if there’s injury or inflammation in the ear.

Some dogs also need a specific type of ear medication, depending on their breed and health concerns like allergies or infection history. Always ask a vet before choosing any kind of dog medicine, even topical ones.

Cleaning the Ears, Step by Step

With good technique, pet parents can comfortably and safely keep their dogs’ ears clean at home.

Start by gathering the following supplies:

Zymox Enzymatic Dog Ear Solution

How to Do It‌

It’s often a good idea to have a second person present to hold the dog, especially if they might toss their head or try to run away. A helper also frees the pet parent’s hands for the cleaning process.

Here's how it goes:

  1. ‌ Gently restrain the dog. For small dogs, pet parents can sit on the floor with the dog’s haunches between the human’s legs. Large dogs do better if they sit with one side to the wall with the human on the other side.
  2. Gently pull the ear flap up and away from the head to expose the ear canal. Hold the ear cleaning solution bottle so the tip doesn’t touch the ear tissue. 
  3. ‌ Squeeze enough solution into the ear to fill the ear canal completely.
  4. ‌ Holding the ear flap up, gently massage the base of the ear under the canal opening for 30 seconds. Rub in small circles, slightly emphasizing the upward movement. The solution will make a gentle squishing noise as it moves through the ear canal.
  5. ‌ Using a clean cotton ball, wipe any cleaning solution from the ear flap and outer opening of the ear canal. 
  6. ‌ Let the dog shake their head to dislodge any debris and solution, using the towel to prevent spraying. When they’re done, wipe outside of the canal again. 
  7. Give treats and affection as rewards!

‌Medication, if a vet has advised it, usually comes after ear cleaning. Always follow a vet’s recommendation and never touch the inside of the ear canal. 

Getting Dog Health Advice for Ear Problems

For more information on how to take care of a dog’s ears, chat with a Fuzzy vet today. The Fuzzy Vet Team is available to Fuzzy members 24/7 and can answer all kinds of dog health questions, including how to clean a dog’s ears.

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