How to Clean Dog Ears – a Step-by-Step Guide
by Jessi Larson
Proper grooming is important for your dog’s health and wellness. When you get a new pup, figuring out how to clean dog ears is essential.
Some dogs may seldom require an ear cleaning, while others need it on a regular basis. One sure giveaway that your dog needs to get its ears cleaned is an increase in head shaking, ear scratching or a visible residue in the ear.
If you’re wondering how to clean dog ears, you’ve come to the right place. Here’s everything you need to know about cleaning out your pup’s ears and keeping your sweet pet comfortable and happy in the process.
When Does My Dog Need an Ear Clean?
How often your dog needs to have its ears cleaned depends to a great extent on the type of breed and its lifestyle.
Dogs with floppy ears, such as Basset Hounds or Beagles, are more prone to having dirt trapped in the ear, which can lead to an infection. The same can be said about dogs that spend lots of time in water or in a particularly wet area.
The reason you may need to consistently clean out your dog’s ears is because of the structure of your dog’s ear canal, which makes it very hard for dirt to be removed without cleaning once it is trapped.
Dirt trapped in the ear canal can lead to discomfort and infections if left untreated.
Dirty Ears vs. Ear Infection
Before you start cleaning your dog’s ears, it’s important to know the difference between dirty ears and an ear infection.
An ear infection can be caused by trapped dirt, but should not be treated with ear cleaning, as this can make the infection worse.
If you notice a yeasty smell and irritation and redness in your dog’s ear, or if your dog seems to be experiencing pain in its ear, visit your vet to have the infection treated as soon as possible.
Checking Your Dog’s Ears
The fastest way to check whether it’s time to clean your dog’s ears is to lift them up and take a look.
If you see signs of dark debris in the ear, your dog needs a cleaning.
Another way to tell is by your dog’s behavior. If you notice they’re shaking their head or trying to scratch inside the ear, it may be a sign that their ears need to be cleaned out.
If your dog has developed an ear infection, it will be sensitive to touch. This means if your pup pulls away from having its ears rubbed, you should pay a visit to your vet.
What You’ll Need to Get Started
Before you start cleaning your dog’s ears, you should have a few basic tools ready.
The first, and most important, is a quality ear cleaning solution. While some owners try to use a DIY cleaner or hydrogen peroxide, this is highly unadvisable since these solutions can cause damage to your dog’s ear canal.
Our dog Toby is a Labrador Retriever with big, floppy ears that get dirty often. We use a dog ear cleaner like Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser to clean his ears regularly.
When in doubt, reach out to your vet for a recommended ear cleaner.
You’ll also need cotton balls or gauze. You should never use a Q-tip when cleaning a dog’s ear, as these can push the debris further into your dog’s ear canal and cause more issues.
You should also arm yourself with a towel to prevent any spray from your dog shaking out its ears.
Many owners also like to sweeten the cleaning process by giving their pups a treat for cooperation.
How to Clean Dog Ears Step-by-Step
When approaching this task, try to pick a time and place where your dog feels calm and secure. Here’s what you’ll need to do:
- Have your dog and your supplies ready, including treats if you’re using them.
- Lift up your dog’s ear to expose the canal, then squeeze in the ear cleaning solution according to the directions. Make sure you do not touch the tip of the bottle to your dog’s ear as this can introduce bacteria into the solution.
- Massage the base of your dog’s ear gently for about 30 seconds to loosen up any built up debris. If your dog shows any sign of pain, take them to a vet for further treatment.
- Allow your dog to shake out its ears while protecting yourself with the towel to avoid getting splashed.
- Use a cotton ball or gauze to wipe away any dirt from the ear canal, taking care not to push further than the depth of one knuckle. Again, if your dog is showing signs of pain, stop and consult with your vet.
- Offer your dog a treat as a reward and repeat the process on the other ear.
This video helps illustrate what to do:
Clean Your Dog’s Ears Only When Necessary
Though ear cleaning is a necessary part of grooming in certain dog breeds, others may not require it much, if at all.
If your dog does not seem to have any dirt trapped in the ears, and the tissue around the ear looks otherwise pink and healthy, you shouldn’t try to clean your dog’s ears just in case.
Cleaning too frequently or unnecessarily can irritate the dog’s ear canal and actually cause health issues.
Final Thoughts: How to Clean Dog Ears
We hope this information has taught you how to clean dog ears so you can protect your pup’s health through this important act of grooming. Regular ear cleaning can help prevent ear irritation and serious infections.
But remember, if you suspect an existing infection, do not try to clean your dog’s ears yourself. Instead, pay a visit to the veterinary clinic for further evaluation and treatment.
How to Find the Right Veterinarian to Care for Your Dog
As you can see above, it’s important that you have a veterinarian you know and trust.
When you have a trusted vet who knows your dog’s overall health and history, it’s much easier to figure out what’s causing their current ailment.
In this case, you could quickly schedule an appointment or even email or call with the question of how to clean dog ears and whether your pup has an ear infection.
To find that dependable doctor, follow these steps.
1. Look Locally
First things first: Find a vet that is near you. If heaven forbid something happens to your dog and it’s even remotely urgent, you’ll want to be able to get to the clinic in a short period of time.
This is also important if you have to take time off work for vet appointments. It’s tough enough to get away from work but even tougher when you factor in extra drive time.
For the most part, vet visits are usually planned. You know when your dog’s due for an exam or needs vaccinations.
But as we’ve learned throughout the years, things come up. Your dog ate something funky and doesn’t seem like himself. You spot a weird growth and can’t stop worrying. Your dog has a cut on his face that needs a few stitches.
Or in this case, you need to know if your pup’s ears are OK and how to clean dog ears.
If your vet is closer, that makes things much easier.
2. Read Online Reviews
This is probably an obvious statement, but reading online reviews is incredibly important as a consumer.
And now there are more sites than ever with reviews – Google, Yelp, Facebook, Angie’s List, etc.
Search around and see what people are saying about each clinic you’re looking at.
3. Ask for Recommendations
Another useful tip is to ask around. Where do your neighbors take their dogs? How about friends, family and co-workers in the area?
If your dog is taking training lessons or going to doggy daycare, get the opinion of people at these organizations, too.
This is a great method because you’ll get honest, qualitative feedback that can help make your decision.
4. Do a Test Run
Once you find a vet clinic that seems like a good fit, make an appointment for your dog to be seen.
In this initial appointment, the vet will conduct an assessment of your dog’s health. But really, you’ll also be working on an assessment of your own.
Things to consider as you figure out if this is the right place for you and your dog:
- Facilities – The first thing is to take inventory of the clinic. Is it clean and comfortable?
- Veterinarian – Most importantly, what do you think of the vet? Did they explain things clearly? How was their bedside manner? How did your dog respond to them?
- Support staff – It’s not just the vet you have to consider. You’ll actually be spending just as much time with the support staff, which includes the vet technicians, front office team members and so forth.
- Service – How was the level of service? Is the staff pleasant? Was it easy to make an appointment? How is the communication?
5. Trust Your Gut
As always, trust your gut reaction. It’s more important than people realize.
If you had a good first impression of the clinic and the team and your dog responded well, by all means proceed.
If something felt off and the experience wasn’t what you had hoped for, don’t be afraid to look for other options.
Bonus Tip: Find an Emergency Pet Hospital
While you’re looking for a standard vet clinic, it’s smart to also identify emergency pet hospitals in the area.
This is a place to go if your dog needs care urgently and you can’t wait for the next available appointment at your regular vet.
If your dog has a serious issue come up outside of the normal office hours or on the weekend – and it will happen – this is the place to go.