Let’s face it. Dogs’ ears are adorable. Whether they’re fluffy bichon frise ears or floppy hound dog ears, they’re super cute—but they do require some TLC from you.
Regularly cleaning your dog’s ears helps keep them clean from earwax and bacteria and prevents infection. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, ear cleaning is especially important for dogs because the structure of canine ears makes it easy for material to get stuck and cause issues.
What materials do you need?
- Cleaner: We recommend using a vet-approved ear rinse. You may see articles about DIY dog ear cleaners with ingredients like rubbing alcohol, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar, but these natural remedies could do more harm than good. Avoid any cleaners with alcohol or hydrogen peroxide as they can cause irritation for sensitive ears.
- Tool: Never use cotton swabs like Q-tips. These can be extremely dangerous and injure your dog’s eardrums if they jump or jostle. (You shouldn’t use Q-tips for your own human ears either!) Instead, use cotton balls or gauze. They’re softer and easier on your dog’s ears.
- Hygiene: Wearing plastic gloves while cleaning your pup’s ears will prevent any germs or bacteria from your hands from infecting your dog. If you don’t have any, ensure that you thoroughly wash your hands before and after.
- Treats: Last but not least, make sure you have your dog’s favorite treats on hand! Many dogs get stressed out by getting their ears cleaned, so make it a pleasant experience and give them treats during the cleaning. This will help distract them and encourage the positive association between ear cleanings and treats.
How do you safely clean your dog’s ears?
First, create a calm environment. If your dog gets jumpy or anxious, be sure to use a soothing voice. Your dog can feel and feed off your stress!
If you know your pup isn’t a fan of getting his ears cleaned and tends to run away, ask a friend to help hold him in place or go into a small room and close the door so your dog can’t escape.
Sit down on the floor with your dog and keep them steady. Wet one cotton ball with the ear rinse and gently rub the outer ear to clean it from debris and wax. Throw that cotton ball away and wet a new one with ear rinse for the inner ear. Be very careful when cleaning the inner ear; use a soft touch and don’t push past any resistance. You don’t want to be rough or push too far or else you may cause damage to your dog’s ears.
Then, use two new cotton balls for the other ear. Don’t reuse any for both ears or else you could transfer germs.
Give your pup vocal encouragement and calming pets (and treats!) during the process.
How often should you clean them?
Ear cleaning frequency totally depends on your dog. Some dogs get a lot of earwax buildup quickly, so weekly or biweekly cleanings might be necessary. For others, a monthly or more infrequent cleaning can do the trick.
Pay attention to how your dog’s ears look. Over-cleaning could cause irritation too, so don’t get overzealous. If you need a second opinion, ask your vet.
When should you contact your vet?
Regular ear cleanings are meant to prevent any issues. If you notice anything out of the ordinary, your dog may have an infection.
Excessive scratching, rubbing, or shaking of the head can suggest an ear issue. If you inspect your dog’s ear and notice unusual material or a smelly fluid, these are signs of a problem.
Some wax and fluid are normal to see on cotton balls after an ear cleaning; however, excessive buildup or material that looks like mites isn’t healthy. Never clean a red or inflamed ear. This can cause more pain for your dog.
If you see any of the above, contact your vet for a consultation.