Keeping your dog clean can be a challenge, and that includes maintaining the ears. Most dogs don’t need frequent ear cleaning, but an occasional deep clean can keep your dog’s ears clean, healthy, and free from infection. But if you’re going to clean your dog’s ears, learn how to do it right—bad cleaning habits like blindly sticking a Q-tip deep into your dog’s ear canal can cause serious damage. Here’s a quick guide to the best way to clean your dog’s ears safely.
The 8 Steps to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Before you start, you’ll need a few basic tools. Having an appropriate ear cleaning solution is the most important tool. Look for a vet-recommended brand—don’t use hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol, or a cleaner designed for human ears. You might also find it useful to have a few old towels, some clothes that can get dirty, and cotton balls or pads. Finally, if your dog has long hair in or around his ears, some tweezers or small grooming scissors can be useful too.
1. Get your dog comfortable
When you’re cleaning your dog’s ears, it’s important to get in a comfortable position. Smaller dogs can be restrained by wrapping them in a towel, while you’ll want to find a position that makes it easy to restrain larger dogs. Many owners put their dogs in the bathtub or outside to avoid messes. Make sure that any tools are within reach.
2. Check for ear irritation
Before you start, look for signs of irritation, redness, itchiness, unusual discharge, or foul smell. These might be signs of an infection or ear mites. If you think there’s something wrong with your dog’s ear, don’t clean it yourself—take your dog to the vet.
3. Trim and groom if necessary
If your dog has hairy ears, you might need to trim back the hair to clean properly. Remove any matted hair or hair that makes it hard to see properly. If your dog only has a little hair in the way, you might be able to brush it to the side and clean around it.
4. Fill one ear with the cleaning solution and massage gently
Once you’ve done any grooming you need to, the next step is to insert ear cleaning solution. If your dog has floppy ears, you’ll have to hold the ear flap open. Carefully pour cleaning solution into the ear canal—you might need more than you think. Leave the solution in the ear for about 15-20 seconds and massage the base of the ear gently.
5. Allow your dog to clear out the solution
Release your dog’s head and allow your dog to clear out the solution. Most dogs will shake their heads vigorously, so you’ll probably want to use a towel as a splash guard. If your dog doesn’t shake his head, don’t worry—gravity will do the work too
6. Clean visible ear with wipe if necessary
If your dog has earwax or other gunk on his outer ear or the visible part of his ear canal, you can use a cotton ball or cleaning wipe to wipe it off. Clean gently, especially around the ear canal. Don’t use a Q-tip to poke into nooks and crannies or try to clean deep in the ear canal. This can cause damage to your dog’s delicate anatomy within the canal.
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7. Repeat with the other ear
Once you’ve cleaned one ear, it’s time for the other. You’ll want to repeat the same steps—grooming, ear cleaning solution, and cleaning the visible ear. Make sure to give your dog lots of praise along the way for his patience.
8. Reward your dog frequently
Most dogs don’t like having their ears cleaned, so praise and rewards are important for helping your dog to stay calm and comfortable. You might want to give your dog a treat after each step, especially after the cleaning solution.
Ear cleaning can be a little scary for dogs, but regular cleaning can have lots of benefits, especially if your dog has floppy or hairy ears. Most dogs will benefit from regular cleaning as needed, and it’s a great chance to make sure that your dog doesn’t have any ear mites or other problems.