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How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears: A Pet Parents Guide


Many dogs have ears that require regular cleaning. With this simple process cleaning your dog’s ears is easy enough to do at home provided you have the right equipment.

Why clean your dog’s ears?

Dogs have very long ear canals, usually from 5-10cm in length. They also take a right-angled bend, so foreign material often goes in, but is difficult to get out. If dogs get water in their ears during swimming, this water can pool down in the horizontal ear canal and increase the risk of infection. Ear infections are much more likely in a warm, moist, dark environment like an ear canal. If your dog swims, cleaning the ears out after swimming is a great routine to get into.

Canine Ear Diagram
Key features and characteristics of the canine ear.

Dogs that have skin allergies and are prone to frequent ear infections will also benefit from regular ear cleaning. Your Vet can recommend how frequently to clean the ears, but as a general rule, not more than weekly and ideally at least monthly.

What you need?

  • Ear cleaner
  • Cotton wool
  • Treats

What sort of ear cleaner?

There are various types of ear cleaners, but the most important thing is that you only use a good quality dog ear cleaner. Never put olive oil, vinegar, shampoo or any other substance in a dog’s ear. Also avoid poking around with cotton buds in the ear, you will only work any wax and debris further in and potentially damage the ear drum.

Step-by-Step Process

Firstly if your dog has very red, itchy, inflamed and painful ears, see your Vet before you start cleaning. It is quite likely your dog has an ear infection, so ear cleaning will not do much good at this point. If your dog has an infection severe enough to damage the ear drum, some ear cleaners can damage the ear further.

Ear cleaning can be a messy job, so find somewhere in the house that is easy to clean and avoid wearing your best Prada for an ear clean.

  1. Give your pet a treat for sitting and show him the ear cleaner.
  2. Gently hold the flap of the ear upright and fill the ear canal with ear cleaner. Direct the tube vertically downwards.
  3. Keep a hold of the ear and move your hand down to where the ear meets the head.
  4. Massage at the base of the ear, aiming to mix the ear cleaner around within the ear canal. You should get a great squelchy noise if you are doing this correctly.
  5. After you have massaged the ear for 20 seconds, stand back and let go of the ear.
  6. Your dog should now vigorously shake his head.
  7. Grab some cotton wool and use it to wipe out the folds at the opening of the ear canal until it looks pretty clean.
  8. Give your dog a treat and repeat with the other ear.

The key with ear cleaning is to use a large amount of ear cleaner. As the ear canals are quite long, the wiping step is not to get all the ear discharge out. The idea is that when you massage, you will be breaking up the discharge lining the inside of the ear canal, so that it forms a solution with the ear cleaner. Your pet can then shake the liquid out.

Remember if you see lots of redness, the ears are particularly smelly or they are painful, see your Vet. Your pet most likely has an ear infection and ear cleaning may be too painful and damaging to perform.

An infected ear looks a little like this:

Canine Ear Infection
Typical visual signs and symptoms of ear infections in dogs.

Below is a great video on how to clean your dog’s ears:

Most dogs will come to like ear cleaning, so long as their ears are comfortable. This is the one place that dogs can’t scratch themselves, so most will absolutely love it. With lots of treats and encouragement, ear cleaning can become a part of your regular hygiene routine.

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