How To Clean Dog Ears: A Complete Guide

As any dog owner can tell you, ears can become quite dirty. After lots of running around, sweating, and natural rolling around in dirt and debris, the ear canals can become clogged.

When that happens, there can be multiple problems for your pup, which can even result in a vet visit. If you're wondering how to clean dog ears (and when you need to clean them) so you can maintain their good hygiene, this complete guide will help you keep your dog's ears in tip-top shape!

Why Is It So Important To Clean Dog Ears?

Before delving into the "how" aspect of cleaning dog ears, it's first essential to understand the "why."

Just like humans, some dogs have naturally clean, healthy ears. With these dogs, you might never have to clean inside their ears. However, some dogs are the opposite. Their ears will get dirty and will have unwanted bacteria and other pathogens, like yeast infections, in the ear canal. Some of the dog breeds that are prone to ear infections include Cocker Spaniels, Poodles, Labrador Retrievers, and Pit Bulls.

When that happens, at a bare minimum, there will be some form of temporary hearing loss. As with humans, the buildup of dog ear wax will make it harder for your pup to hear. Your dog might also get ear infections, which may need antibiotics to go away.

Ears are perfect breeding grounds for bacteria and yeast infections. They have low light, are moist, and are cozy and warm. Of course, bacteria and other pathogens love these environments.

Of course, that's why cleaning is so important: a little cleaning early on can prevent serious health issues with your pup down the road.

How To Tell When Your Cleaning Your Dog's Ears Is Necessary

Depending on your dog, it might be self-evident when their ears need a clean, or it might be pretty challenging to discern when something is going wrong.

First, when your dog's ears are healthy, make a mental note of that. Generally, they'll be pink, odorless, and there won't be any signs of dirt or inflammation. Those are the hallmarks of healthy ears.

Conversely, if you notice any discoloration, any strange dog ear smell, inflammation, or anything else about the ear that feels different, generally, cleaning is in order. Additionally, if you see your dog shaking its head a little bit more than usual, or you see them trying to put their paw in the ear to scratch it more frequently, that could also be a sign that cleaning is in order!

What Should You Use To Clean Dog Ears

While some people recommend hydrogen peroxide or another homemade solution, these are often not the best options for your dog. For starters, hydrogen peroxide can damage and irritate healthy cells, which you most definitely do not want!

Therefore, the best option for cleaning your dog's ears is to use a dog ear cleaning solution. Your veterinarian will either have this type of solution in his or her office, or they can recommend a place to get an approved bottle. Either way, use what your vet recommends for your particular breed - not some cleaning solution recipe you find online!

How Should You Clean Dog Ears

To clean dog ears, you'll need to follow these simple steps:

  1. Wait until your dog is calm. It will make the process much easier if your pup isn't squirming all around! You can also play with your dog or take them for a walk so they won't have too many excess energy.
  2. Squeeze the vet-approved solution into your dog's ear canal.
  3. Massage gently at the base of the ear.
  4. Let your dog shake its head after. 
  5. Take a cotton ball or gauze and gently wipe out the canal. Don't go more than one knuckle deep so as not to cause any damage.

If you notice that your dog appears to be in pain during any of these steps, stop immediately. That could be a sign of infection or something else happening. Call your vet and get your dog in for an appointment in that case.

It's Usually Worth Getting Into the Habit Early!

Ultimately, the steps for how to clean dog ears are pretty straightforward. The entire process typically only takes a few minutes to do, and once you get it down, you can generally pick easy times to clean the ears.

Therefore, you should usually err on the side of caution and clean the ears with some regularity. These cleanings don't have to be frequent, but vets typically recommend cleaning the ears once per month for an average dog. So, pick a day (e.g., the first day of each month) and get into the habit of cleaning the ears on that day.

The sooner you get yourself and your dog used to this grooming habit, the less likely it will be that they will have any complications!

You should also consult with your vet to get their opinion on how often to clean the ears. Your vet will have a lot more expertise in this area and can provide tailored advice for your specific dog breed. As noted earlier, most offices can give you an ear cleaning solution as well!

How to clean puppy ears?

Before cleaning your puppy's ears, please consult with a vet as they will be able to give you the best instructions to clean. However, with that said, generally, you'll want to fill your dog's ear with a vet-approved solution. Once you do that, your dog will shake their head, and you can gently take a cotton ball or gauze to wipe out the ear canal.

What to use to clean a dog's ears?

The best option is to use a proper dog ear cleaning solution. You can usually find these from your vet, or your vet can recommend a trusted place to go. While homemade solutions are floating around the internet, sometimes these can cause unnecessary irritation.

How to get water out of a dog's ears?

Dog ear cleaners, wipes, and cotton balls are usually the best ways to get water out of the ears. Your dog's natural head-shaking will get most of the water out too! Many sites recommend hydrogen peroxide and other solutions, but those can cause irritation for healthy ear cells and are generally a bad idea for your pup.


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Written by Leo Roux

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