January 11, 2022

How To Clean A Dog's Ears


Wondering how to clean your dog’s ears? If you’re between groomers or are noticing more buildup than normal in your pup’s ears, it’s easier to take care of at home than you might think!

Why do I need to clean my dog’s ears?

Knowing how to clean dog ears can help protect your dog’s hearing and ensure his ears stay healthy throughout his life. Talk to your vet for advice or for a demonstration if you’re feeling hesitant.

All dogs should have their ears cleaned from time to time, but some dogs need more frequent and thorough cleaning than others. 

Certain dog breeds are more prone to ear infections than others. Dogs with floppy ears and those with a lot of hair around the ears may be more susceptible to infection, as their ears are more likely to trap moisture and dirt. 

Dogs with short ears may only need to have their ears wiped out occasionally, if you notice them beginning to look dirty. 

Some signs and symptoms of an ear infection include: 

  • Shaking head frequently
  • Scratching at ears
  • Odor from ears
  • Excess debris in ears and/or discharge from ears
  • Red, irritated ears (sometimes painful)
  • Scabs and/or hair loss around ears (from scratching)
  • Head tilt (especially if the eardrum is ruptured)

How to clean your dog’s ears:

Cleaning your dog’s ears at home is easy to do with the right supplies and techniques. 

You’ll need cotton balls or cotton pads, a few of your dog’s high-value treats, and a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner. 

REMEMBER: Never put a cotton-tipped applicator (Q-tip) into your dog's ear as it may cause damage to the eardrum.

Extra moisture in the ear canal is what often causes an ear infection in the first place, so be sure the canine ear cleanser has a “drying agent” listed in the ingredients. This ensures that any excess fluid will evaporate after you’ve finished cleaning out your dog’s ears. 

Be sure to clean their ears outdoors or somewhere like the bathtub. When your pup shakes his head, the cleanser may be sprayed onto the walls (or you!).

If you’ve never cleaned your dog’s ears before, work your way up to the actual cleaning with a bit of training. 

Start by getting your dog used to you looking in and touching their ears. Gently hold their chin for stability, and start to work on lifting up one ear, an inch at a time. Using your training technique, give a reward for calm behavior.

Once they’re comfortable, move on to the next steps of lifting the ear more, gently touching the inside of your dog’s ear with the dry cotton ball, swabbing the ear in gentle circles, and so on. 

Now that your dog is comfortable with you cleaning their ears, you can start the cleaning process. 

The best way to clean dogs ears

We don’t recommend squirting the ear cleaner from the bottle directly into your dog’s ear, as it can be jarring and uncomfortable for your pup.

Instead, soak a cotton ball or pad in your cleaning solution, then gently work it into the skin of the interior ear in small, gentle circles. This will transfer the cleaner into your dog’s ears, allowing it to moisten the skin and wash away ear wax and debris. 

Finally, as you remove the cotton ball, you'll want to clean the folds of the ears if they appear dirty or waxy. Repeat this exercise in the other ear, ensuring to maintain a relaxed and calm state.

Let the ear cleaner settle into your dog’s ears for 30 seconds, then gently massage under your dog’s ears where the base of the ears meets the head. You should hear the “squish” of the liquid. This will help the ear cleaner move around the ear canal. 

Lastly, take a new, dry cotton ball/pad and again, work it into the skin of the interior ear in small, gentle circles. After 10 seconds or so, remove it and wipe away any debris. Reward your pup with a treat!

Regular cleaning can help prevent ear infections. Inspect your dog's ears regularly and talk to your vet about your dog's needs. Over-cleaning can cause irritation, but under-cleaning can make way for excessive buildup.

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