Cleaning a dog’s ears

Learning how to clean dog ears is rarely at the top of a dog owner’s to-do list, but it’s an important way to prevent some common health problems. Your dog’s ears are the perfect environment to grow bacteria and yeast, which can lead to serious infections. But, taking time to check your dog’s ears and clean them regularly will keep him happy and healthy.

Prepare with ear handling

You can make cleaning your dog’s ears easier by handling them while you pet him. Occasionally lift up an ear flap, look inside, then put it down and give your dog praise. Also, rub inside the ear, making sure to never go further in than you can see, and around the base of the ears. Consistent handling will teach your dog to tolerate rather than dread getting his ears cleaned.

Check for ear infections

You should check your dog’s ears once a week for signs of infection, parasites, or dirt and debris. Take a look inside each ear. It should be a healthy, fleshy-pink color and free of excessive wax buildup or dirty discharge. The following are signs your dog has an ear infection:

  • inflammation or swelling in or around the ear canal
  • any type of dirty-looking discharge
  • strong, foul odor
  • ears are sensitive to touch

Your dog may also shake his head violently or rub his ears along the ground or scratch at them. If you notice any of these symptoms, do not attempt cleaning your dog’s ears! Contact your veterinarian immediately for an appropriate treatment. Ear infections that aren’t dealt with properly can lead to permanent damage and even hearing loss. Visit the Washington State University website for information on medicating and cleaning a dog’s ears.

How to clean

If your dog’s ears are healthy but dirty-looking, you can clean them with a commercial dog ear wash or you can make your own. It’s best to clean your dog’s ears in the bathroom or where you won’t mind a mess.

Put a generous amount of cleaner in each ear and massage the base of the ears for thirty seconds. Then stand back and let your dog shake his head. Wipe the visible part of the inner ears with a cotton ball or tissue to remove any excess cleaner. Don’t use a Q-tip in your dog’s ear; it could damage his ear drum.

Dog breeds with long ears, such as hounds and spaniels, or dogs that swim a lot will need to have their ears cleaned once a week. Otherwise, as long as your dog’s ears look healthy, you should only need to clean them once a month. Ask your veterinarian for specific instructions and what’s best for your dog.

Homemade dog ear cleaner

If you’d prefer to make your own dog ear cleaner, here are two recipes. Choose one or the other, don’t use both at the same time, and never use them to treat an ear infection. Consult your veterinarian before using this or any other product on your dog.

Recipe #1

Mix one part white vinegar with one part rubbing alcohol (50/50 mixture) in a squirt bottle and shake well.

Recipe #2

Mix 4 ounces of rubbing alcohol, 2 tablespoons of boric acid, and 1 tablespoon of glycerin. Shake well.

Cleaning your dog’s ears may not be the most glamorous thing you can do for him, but it’s a staple of any good dog grooming routine.


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