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How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

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When talking about at-home dog grooming, many pet parents don’t think about cleaning their dog’s ears. But dog ear care is an important aspect of overall grooming that cannot be overlooked. Learning how to clean dog ears could even save you money in vet bills due to decreased ear infections.

How To Clean Dog Ears 101There are several reasons why I regularly check and clean my dogs’ ears, and why you should too. Cleaning your dog’s ears at home give you an opportunity for a regular inspection that can help detect potential infections or other dog ear issues early on. If you notice any problems during these routine inspections, you’ll have a better chance to avoid complications, of which there could be many.

Did you know that dog ear infections is the #1 reason why pet owners visit a vet, according to Veterinary Pet Insurance? Dogs have very sensitive ears that are prone to a variety of health problems. Early detection and prompt treatment can reduce the potential for hearing loss and will also relieve any discomfort.

Regular check-ups to see if your pet’s ears are clean, making sure there are no ear infections, no ear mites, no inflammation and other severe problems is highly advisable. Hopefully, you’ve been doing this already, since most of us do that when checking dogs for ticks or dealing with fleas. If you haven’t, you should start it today.

You’ll soon learn how to clean dog ears only takes a few minutes. I can usually clean one of our dog’s ears in less than 10 minutes. Even if you have multiple dogs, this will only take a small amount of time each month, and will aid in your pooch’s overall health and well-being. You will get better and more proficient with this the more you do it.

ALSO READ: The Importance of Cleaning Dog’s Ears

How to Clean Dog Ears 101

How to Clean a Dog's Ears - Step by Step

1. Preparation

The first step in learning how to clean dog ears is to prepare the ear area. You’ll need to make sure the area is completely dry and that any matted or tangled hair around your dog’s ear is properly cared for. You don’t want to cause your dog any discomfort while cleaning his ears or he won’t be very receptive to it next time.

If there is excessive hair in your dog’s ear canal, it will need to be removed. However, this should only be done by a professional. As I explain in my video above, the ear canal is a very delicate area and even the smallest amount of irritation could cause extensive damage, which will create an abundance of problems and costly vet bills.

Once the grooming is finished and you’ve prepared the area, it’s time for an initial dog ear inspection. This is a very quick process, but also the most important step in learning how to clean dog ears. Start by feeling your pooch’s ear flap and the area around the ear with your bare hands. You should be looking for lumps, lesions, swelling, redness, discharge of any kind or anything else that doesn’t look right.

If you notice anything out of the ordinary, you need to call your veterinarian immediately. I explain the importance of this in my video, as many dog owners think that a thorough cleaning will benefit their pet in this situation. However, cleaning the dog’s ear when there is already an issue could make the problem worse. Don’t delay – consult with your vet.

If you don’t spot anything out of the ordinary, you can start the process. In the next step I explain in detail how to clean a dog’s ears the easy way, and what to use for this.

RELATED: What Are Dog Ear Mites and How to Get Rid of Them Naturally

2. How to Clean A Dog’s Ears

After you confirmed that both of your Fido’s ears look healthy, move on with the cleaning process. You’ll need to invest in a quality ear cleaning solution that is specifically made for dogs. There are several dog ear cleaners available, some of which are much better than others. You will also need cotton balls.

I cannot stress enough how important it is that you NEVER use cotton swabs (like Q-tips) to clean your dog’s ear.

The reason why q-tips are not good to clean dog ears is that it’s very easy to push cotton swabs too deeply into your dog’s ear. Unlike cleaning your own ears, you won’t feel when you push it too much, and it’s easy to cause problems. You don’t actually want to get into your dog’s inner ear. This could result in permanent damage to the ear and his hearing.

1. Now to begin, tip your dog onto his side. You’ll see my boxer Chloe in the above video lying on her side. Pour a small amount of dog ear cleaning solution (just enough to fill the ear canal) right into your pet’s ear. Your dog will immediately want to shake his head, so be sure to brace it.

#1 Step on How To Clean Dog Ears

2. Close the ear and begin rubbing to base of the ear in a circular motion. This will help the solution to break up any wax build up. Massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. After you’ve finished, let your dog sit up and shake his head. Don’t worry, this is a natural instinct that your dog will do without hesitation.

#2 Step on How To Clean Dog Ears

3. After your dog shakes his head, it will break up a lot of the wax and bring it out of the canal. Open the ear and then gently wipe the inside clean with the cotton balls. In here, you don’t need to wipe the ear completely clean. Just gently wipe it until you’ve gotten the bulk of the debris and wax out.

#3 Step on How To Clean a Dog's Ears

4. The process stops here. A dog’s ears are designed to dry themselves, so you don’t need to worry about getting every drop of solution.

NOTE: While the technique of how to clean dog ears is important, picking out an effective dog ear cleaning solution is just as essential. However, do NOT confuse canine ear cleaners with dog ear infection treatments (used for a specific health problem). These products contain different ingredients and cannot be used interchangeably. 

If you’re looking for a good dog ear cleaning solution, I’ve previously done a comparison and review of several most popular brands. You can watch the video and my full review in this article on The Best Dog Ear Cleaner Comparison. You can also make your own homemade dog ear cleaner and those looking for a natural solution may opt for this option. It’s not as effective, but you can find a full guide on how to do it in this article.

3. How Often to Clean Dog’s Ears

When discussing how to clean dog ears, the most common question that I always hear is, “How often should I clean my dog’s ears?” The answer depends on many factors. It can be anywhere from once or twice a week, to every two months.

Your dog’s breed, age, activity level, coat type and level of earwax production will all determine how often his ears will need to be cleaned. Generally, at least inspecting your dog’s ears should be done every other day to make sure there’s nothing abnormal.

A brief conversation with your vet will help you find an answer. On average, most dogs should have their ears cleaned at least once per month, but your dog may need it more frequently. If your dog is a regular swimmer, it could be as often as once a week. Talk to your veterinarian to decide on the best schedule for your Fido.

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