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14 Helpful Tips on How to Clean Shih Tzu Ears (Dog Care Guide)

Chantelle Fowler

By Chantelle Fowler

Female veterinarian cleaning ears to nice Shih tzu dog with ear cleaning rod

Ear cleaning is an essential task every dog owner should get comfortable doing. Learning how to do it yourself saves you money and also makes your dog more comfortable with the process as opposed to having a stranger do it. We won’t lie to you, though; it can be a challenge, especially with breeds like Shih Tzus.

Like other long-eared breeds, Shih Tzus may be prone to ear infections. Their ears can get gunky, smelly,  itchy and may even ooze a dark discharge, so the sooner you get comfortable cleaning its ears, the better.

Keep reading to find our tips on how to clean your Shih Tzus delicate ears.

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The 14 Tips for Cleaning Shih Tzu Ears

1. Check for Any Signs of Infection

The first step should be examining your dog’s ears to look for signs of infections or ear mites. Are there black specs that look like black pepper? Are the ears red or swollen anywhere? Is there a strong scent coming from the ears? Do you notice a black or yellowish discharge? If so, there is a chance your pup may have developed an ear infection or ear mite infestation.

Don’t waste any time once you recognize these signs. An ear infection can put your dog in a lot of pain and discomfort that they won’t be able to control themselves. Therefore, your pup should be seen by your vet as soon as possible for treatment.

veterinarian examining the heard of a shih tzu dog
Image Credit: Elayne Massaini, Shutterstock

2. Set the Stage

Before starting the ear cleaning process, prepare the supplies you’ll need, including:

  • Cotton balls
  • Ear cleaning solution
  • Towel

You should also spend a few minutes with your pup, calming and soothing it before you get down to business. Give it a good tummy or back rub, and speak to it in calm, gentle tones.

3. Choose the Right Cleaner

There are a ton of ear cleansers on the market, but we like Vet’s Best Ear Relief Finger Dog Wipes as they eliminate the need for cotton balls. In addition, these single-use finger-shaped wipes slide onto your finger, making them simple to use. We also recommend Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner, designed for sensitive ears. The non-irritating solution removes debris and excess wax and has a low pH, so it won’t interfere with other ear products.

Stay away from products containing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as these ingredients can irritate your pup’s sensitive ears. You can also ask your vet for cleaner recommendations.

White bottle for mock up of pet ear cleaner product
Image Credit: Maria Jose Silva Jimenez, Shutterstock

4. Be Prepared for the Squirmies

If your Shih Tzu isn’t particularly fond of the ear-cleaning process, you’ll need to be prepared to deal with a squirmy pooch. We recommend wrapping a bath towel around its body from the neck down. Put the legs inside the towel as well. This is similar to swaddling a newborn baby and should soothe your wiggly pet.

You should also have a few bribes nearby in case your dog gets really squirmy. Bring its favorite treats and have them on standby in case your pup needs a little extra motivation.

5. Look for Hairs

Look inside your dog’s ear for any little hairs. Shih Tzu hair continually grows in the ear canal, which can be problematic if it combines with ear wax. If there are some hairs you think may make cleaning the ears difficult, gently pluck them. You can also use scissors to trim them but use them carefully to avoid hurting your pet.

6. Clean the Ear

Once all the stray hairs have been contended with, you’ll need to hold your Shih Tzu’s ear flap up slightly and squeeze a few drops of the cleaning solution on your dog’s inner ear flap close to the opening.

Using a cotton ball, wipe off any excess ear wax or debris from your pup’s ear. Dip the ball in an ear-cleaning solution designed specifically for dogs’ ears.

Make sure you use a different wipe or cotton ball for each ear. You might need to use one or two wipes for dirty ears.

shih tzu puppy sitting on a couch
Image by: Pattarit S, Shutterstock

7. Massage

Try gently massaging the base of your dog’s ear for 20 to 30 seconds to loosen up any stubborn dirt. Then, wipe away the debris with a clean cloth or cotton ball.

8. Do Not Enter the Ear Canal

Putting anything too far into your Shih Tzu’s ear can rupture its ear drum and cause severe pain and damage. This is why we never recommend using a cotton-tipped application (AKA Q-tip) when cleaning dog ears. The swabs can push debris further into your pup’s ear canal and make rupturing the eardrum easier. A ruptured eardrum can be extremely painful and even lead to hearing loss.

9. Speak Calmly

During the entire ear cleaning process, speak quietly and calmly to your dog for reassurance. This can keep anxiety levels to a minimum and make the job much easier for you and your pup.

10. Consider Chews or Thundershirts

If your dog hates getting its ears cleaned but is overdue for a cleaning, you might need to take alternative measures to make the process easier and less stressful.

Try offering a calming chew to reduce anxiety levels. PetHonesty’s Calming Hemp Chews are one of our favorites, as they promote relaxation without making your pup drowsy.

Thundershirts are also a great anxiety-reducing measure to try. These vests apply gentle and constant pressure to your dog’s body to calm anxiety and fear.

giving shih tzu a dog supplement
Image Credit: ALPA PROD, Shutterstock

11. Don’t Discourage Ear Shaking

Your dog will probably want to shake its ears after you start cleaning them. Let it shake its head to its heart’s content as this will help shake out any remaining debris while removing any leftover cleaning solution.

12. Dry the Ears

Don’t forget to dry your dog’s ears at the end. Use a dry, clean cloth to ensure there’s no moisture left. Any damp environment can lead to yeast growth, ear infections, and fungus. The entire ear canal should be dry.

13. Rewards for a Job Well Done

giving food stick to Shih Tzu dog
Image Credit: Michael Mong, Shutterstock

After cleaning is done, don’t forget to reward your pup for being such a good boy or girl. Offer it its favorite treats and plenty of verbal praise to help it make positive associations with ear cleaning. Of course, there’s a good chance your Shih Tzu won’t be eagerly jumping into your lap for its next ear clean but providing a reward afterward is the least you can do.

14. Don’t Be Too Proud to Call in the Pros

There may come a time when your dog’s ears are so dirty that you don’t feel confident handling the cleaning yourself. That’s completely fine. Professional dog groomers clean ears all the time as part of their services and will be happy to help you with this job. Groomers also know exactly what to look for in terms of infection and mite infestations, so having their professional opinion on your pup’s ear health is handy, too.

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Final Thoughts

No one likes to clean their dog’s ears, but it is just one of those jobs that need to get done. Your dog’s health depends on it. Don’t put your pup at risk of developing an ear infection by putting off ear cleaning for too long.

Don’t feel bad if you’re not sure you can handle this task. Your Shih Tzu’s groomer should be able to help you out.

Featured Image Credit: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

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