One of the top reasons why dogs go to the vet is because of ear infections. According to the AKC, as many as 20% of all dogs have some form of ear disease. This can get painful for your pooch and pricey for your wallet depending on how bad the infection becomes. That’s why checking and cleaning your dog’s ears should be part of their regular grooming regiment.
How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Ears?
How often you take care of your dog’s ears really depends on the breed you own and your dog’s lifestyle. It’s usually recommended that you check the ears regularly and clean on a monthly basis, but you may have to clear out the ears more often depending on your dog. Even so, you don’t want to clean too frequently because doing so can also cause ear infections. Constant washing strips away the good ear wax that lubricates and helps protect your dog’s skin.
If you take your dog to a groomer then most likely they’re already doing this task for you. If you’re not sure, you can always ask and make sure they get the job done so you don’t have to worry about it. Either way, knowing how to clean your dog’s ears is useful and necessary for your pup’s overall health and can save you money in the long run.
Ear Cleaning Supplies
Cleaning your dog’s ears doesn’t require a lot of supplies. All you really need are:
- Cotton Balls/Pads – You’ll want to avoid using Q-tips for this task. They have the potential to damage your pup’s ear drums and can actually push debris further into the ear canal, causing more problems.
- Cleaning Solution – It’s important that you use solution that’s veterinarian recommended. Avoid using home products like vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and alcohol. All of these can irritate and cause more damage to your pup’s ears.
- Bulb Syringe (optional) – If the cleaning solution is difficult to get into your dog’s ears then a bulb syringe can be a useful tool for you. Make sure to avoid touching your dog’s ear with the tip. This can introduce more bacteria in the process of trying to clean.
- Tweezers (optional) – These are useful if your pup grows hair in their ears. Poodles and Bichons Frises will frequently do this and you’ll need to get the hair out to do a proper cleaning.
- Towel – A great tool to clean up the mess and prevent cleaning solution flying all over you.
- A Room That’s Easy To Clean – A bathroom is a great place or even outside. Your pup will shake to remove the cleaning solution from their ears which can be a pain to clean up after.
- Treats – This makes the process run a lot smoother.
With your tools in hand, you’re ready!
How To Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Like giving your dog a bath, you’ll want to get your pup gradually used to you handling their ears. Use baby steps to get your pup used to sitting quietly and allowing you to touch this sensitive area. Be gentle and remember to reward for good behavior.
Before cleaning, make sure to inspect the ears. Are they inflamed or red? Do they smell bad or have a discharge? Has your dog been scratching their ears a lot frequently? If your dog exhibits these signs, you’ll want to contact your vet first. Your pup may have an ear infection and cleaning your dog’s ears could make it worse.
Usually cleaning doesn’t require much. All you need to do is wipe out the outside of the ear with a wrung out cotton ball filled with cleaning solution. Make sure to get in all the nooks and crannies.
If your pup is extra dirty, you can rinse out their ears.
- Before proceeding, if your dog has hair in their ears, this will need to be removed. If this isn’t something you’re comfortable with, you can ask a vet or groomer to show you how to get the job done.
- Next, fill the ear canal with cleaning solution and massage at the base of the ear for 30 seconds. You can wrap the towel around your pup’s neck to prevent solution getting all over their fur.
- Once done, let your pup shake the solution out. The ear wax should be light in color. If it’s unusually dark, there could be an ear infection.
- Clean up the solution with the cotton ball. Repeat until you don’t see any more debris come up then move on to the next ear.
- Give your pup a treat for being so good.
Maintaining your dog’s ears will go a long way in ensuring your pup’s health and happiness. Ear infections can be painful and very uncomfortable for your dog and prevention is the best medicine for this problem.
Signs of Ear Infection
If you’re worried that your pup may have an ear infection, here are some common signs to look out for.
- Scratching or rubbing ears with paws
- Rubbing head against furniture or floor
- Shaking of the head
- Redness or inflammation on the ear flap
- Odor and ear discharge
These symptoms usually involve an infection of the outer ear and will normally involve a simple home treatment plan from your vet to take care of.
More Serious Signs of Ear Infection
- Head tilting
- Walking around in circles
- Inability to chew
- Rapid eye movements from side to side
If you begin to notice more serious signs then definitely contact your veterinarian and have them investigate the cause. These symptoms usually involve middle and inner ear infections which are far more serious and painful. Your vet may have to administer oral steroids as well as prescription drops. It will also take a lot longer for your pup to recover.
Taking Your Dog To The Vet
If your dog shows signs of an infection, then getting your pup treated is your best option. Your veterinarian will want to know information and details in order to properly diagnose your canine and rule out all the options. Here are some questions they might ask you during your appointment.
- How long has your pup experienced these symptoms? (Pain, swelling, discharge, and odor)
- Does your dog have a history of ear infections? If so, when did they occur and how were they treated?
- Does your dog have any allergies or other underlying medical conditions?
- Is your dog on any medication?
- What does your dog normally eat? Has there been a change to their diet?
- How often do you clean your dog’s ears and what products do you use?
- What activities has your dog engaged in? (Bathing, grooming, swimming)
- Have you trimmed or plucked the hair in your dog’s ears?
All of these questions can help your vet diagnose and treat your pup. Ear infections can be caused by numerous things. The most common being: a damp environment, trauma in the ear, allergies, bacteria, or parasites like ear mites. Each may require a different treatment method for your dog.
More Tips To Prevent Ear Infections
Dog breeds with longer ears will be more prone to infections. This is because their ears don’t get enough air flow to dry out the moisture. Basset Hounds and Spaniels are notorious for getting them, so you’ll have to be extra diligent that their ears stay dry and clean. Whenever you take your dog swimming, take a moment to air out their ears. Using a cotton ball while bathing will also help. Moisture is a breeding ground for bacteria.
A dog that loves to romp outdoors and get into messes will be more prone to dirty ears than a pup that hangs out inside. If your dog frequently gets ear infections, more than once or twice a year, you may want to talk with your veterinarian about treatment options.
Ear Itchiness and Pain
If you notice your dog struggling with pain and itchiness there are some things you can do to help. Using a cool compress can relieve discomfort. Don’t use ice. Ice can cause damage to the skin and nerves in the ear. Instead, use a wet cloth and ring it out. Lay it on the areas that feel hot to the touch for about five to ten minutes. Rinse and repeat.
An ear wrap can also be beneficial if your dog is frequently shaking their head. The flapping of their ears can cause more irritation, so keeping them wrapped might help calm them down. Another trick you can try is keeping your dog’s ears elevated by holding them while watching TV or reading a book. This will allow air circulation which will cool the irritation and keep the ear canal dry.
Keeping your dog’s ears clean doesn’t require a lot of time and effort. Doing so on a regular basis when needed will help prevent ear infections, helping you not spend so much time and money discussing options with your vet.
Did we miss anything? What’s helped you keep your pup’s ears clean?