You Heard it Ear First: How To Clean Dog Ears

Do his ears hang low, do they wobble to and fro, have you cleaned them recently, bc you should fur sure.

Cleaning your dog’s ears can seem heckin scary, but it’s an essential part of doggo health and happiness. More importantly, we want to make sure pup hears every time you open the back door. We howled with Dr. Angelica Dimock,  Managing Shelter Veterinarian for the Animal Humane Society, to dig up the lowdown on how to clean dog ears.

How Often To Clean Dog Ears

Every pair of ears is unique, just like doggo. “Some breeds (Labs, Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Pugs, etc.) are known for recurring ear infections, and will need cleanings every day to every few days,” Dimock says. “Talk with your veterinarian to decide what is the best maintenance for your dog.”

Cleanliness is next to dogliness. A clean ear is pink in color and free from smell, debris, and inflammation. Knowing what a healthy, clean ear looks like will help you determine when puppo’s ears be filthy. Barking of filthy, look for the following signs, which are indicators pup’s ears may need cleaned:

  • Redness, debris, or discharge in the opening of the ear canal
  • Funky smells coming from the ear (Did you know that yeast in the ear can smell like Fritos?)
  • Pup shaking his head, scratching the ears, or rubbing his ears on the floor
French Bulldog pup with ears held up my owner. He just got a dog ear cleaning.
I’m all ears. | Anna Shvets

How to Clean Dog Ears: 3 Simple Steps

First, gather ear cleaning supplies: cotton balls/gauze, vet-approved ear cleaning solution, and a towel. Oh and treats; don’t fur-get the treats. This can be a messy job, so go in the bathroom, then follow these three simple steps.

  1. Squeeze enough ear cleaning solution to fill your dog’s ear canal. Be careful not to touch or poke the inner ear with the bottle tip. Gently massage the base of the ear for 15-30 seconds. There will be a squishing sound as the solution breaks up debris. 
  2. Let pup shake it out. Put the towel up to protect yourself from flying fluids. Wait until he’s finished shaking. 
  3. When pupper’s done shaking, gently wipe and blot any excess liquid with a clean cotton ball or gauze pad.

Looking for less of a shaking mess? You could also try soaking a cotton ball with the cleaner, then using that to squeeze the liquid into the ear and wipe the canal. Wipe away extra liquid or debris with a clean cotton ball or tissue. Do something fun (walk, fetch, snuggle) with pup after the cleaning, so she has positive associations.

Dog Ear Cleaning: What Not To Do

We hope Princess has never heard the word no in her life; she deserves it all. You, however, need to know the doggy ear no-nos. Dog ear canals, like hooman’s, are very sensitive, so…

  • Don’t use cotton swabs in the ears, as the cotton pieces can break off, and require anesthesia to remove.
  • Avoid DIY fixes. “Many homemade ear flush recipes seen online use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or tap water. These ingredients can actually worsen the ear infection or cause increased pain,” Dimock says.
  • Never overclean a woofer’s ears. This can cause issues to the tissues, so if it looks like a happy ear, let it be.  
  • Only clean what you can see; don’t stick your finger deep into a dog’s ear canal.
  • Stop cleaning if the dog seems upset or in pain. A forced cleaning will make pup fearful about ear cleanings in the future.

When To Consult a Vet

Try cleaning pup’s ears with a general flush for 2-3 days, but if dirty ear signs worsen or pup stops letting you touch his ears, make a vet appointment. Other signs to look out for in doggo that mean it’s time to see the vet immediately:

  • Decreased appetite
  • Constant ear scratching
  • Lethargy
  • Head tilt
  • Stumbling

How To Keep Dog Ears Healthy

Tan dog gets ears checked by vet before his dog ear cleaning.
Mining fur gold. | Mikhail Nilov

Moisture is an ear’s biggest nightmare, as it creates a hospitable environment for yeast and bacteria to grow (ew). If your pup ruvs playing in or near water (or in the snow in the winter), then use a dry tissue to wipe away excess moisture from the ear canal once pup’s inside and dry for the day. 

If you bathe pupper at home, put tissues or cotton balls in her ears during the bath. “Do this even if you are careful about not getting the head wet–water will find a way in,” says Dimock.  

My pup, what clean ears you have! The better to hear snack bags with, says doggo.

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an important part of keeping them healthy and infection-free. Don’t forego your regular wellness exams, where your vet will give pup’s ears a thorough look. And always consult your vet if you have concerns regarding your amazing dog. 

What questions do you have about cleaning your dog’s ears? Howl at us in the comments, and share this ear cleaning guide with fellow pup parents! 

Featured photo: Kyle Smith

Sidewalk Dog’s mission is to help dog parents spend more time with their puppers by discovering and sharing activities they can do and places they can go—together! Sniff out our award-winning newsletter and Instagram.

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