Have you watched your dog shake their head or scratch their ears repeatedly? I live with three hounds and they all have long ears. Even allergies can express themselves as a chronic ear infection or itchiness. Unfortunately, all my dogs have left the veterinarian with a diagnosed ear infection at some point. With that in mind, regular ear cleanings really do make a difference. So an ear swabbing will lessen visits to the vet.
Cleaning your dog’s ears should be a conversation you have with your veterinarian before you get started with regular monthly or bi-monthly cleanings. As a Certified Vet Technician, I know how crucial an exam is since certain cleaners can actually be harmful to your dog. If your dog is having serious problems, an exam needs to be performed to assess the tympanic membrane (eardrum).
For a convenient option that’s often quite affordable, you can even have a vet come to your house. Services like Vetted help make it easy to bring the vet to you. (They’e offering Rover readers $50 off right now.)
Essential Ear Cleaning Tips
Normal saline can be used and is safe, including products like Virbac’s Epi-Otic Ear Cleaner. Epi-Otic has a low pH of 2.2 and contains no chlorhexidine or alcohol. Caution should be used with cleaners that have chlorhexidine when the integrity of the tympanic membrane isn’t known—this is why an appointment with a veterinarian is important if your dog is having any issues.
Regular ear cleanings done by a pet parent should focus on the external ear canal. A professional vet tech or your veterinarian can walk you through a demonstration of the below steps.
10 Easy Steps:
- It’s important to use cotton balls to remove debris that is visible in the ear canal. Debris is typically wax and sometimes excessive hair. Excessive hair is common in many breeds including terriers and poodles.
- Cleaning ears can be a two-person job, and light restraint may be helpful. Most dogs don’t love having their ears cleaned!
- Gently place the dispensing tip of the bottle just into the opening of your pet’s ear, or soak cotton balls with the cleaner (my fave tip). It may be helpful to warm up the cleaner by leaving it out on the counter so it’s at room temperature.
- Gently squeeze the cleaner (or cotton balls) until you see liquid at the ear canal opening.
- Then massage the ear while holding the pinna (flap) up so you avoid the common shaking a dog will typically do. This massage breaks down the debris.
- Next, clean out that debris. Gently wipe out the ear with those dry cotton balls. You’ll gather some of the debris as you wipe their ear canal. Continue to wipe those ears until the debris is gone. (Ear wipes are also available for a quick cleaning).
- Repeat this until all the debris is gone.
- Stand back and let them shake!
- Dry the ear with the cotton balls to make sure the entire canal is dry.
- Move onto the next ear, rinse, and repeat.
What types of ear problems affect dogs?
In the case of otitis media (middle ear) or interna (inner ear), signs may include pain when opening the mouth, shaking the head, pawing at the ear, tilting the head, or an altered sense of balance. Pet parents should watch for these symptoms.
Routine ear cleanings may not only reduce chances of infection—you may also notice something is wrong just by going through the ear cleaning process.
I strongly recommend you visit your veterinarian if your dog is experiencing discomfort and itching their ears a lot—these signs of infection need to be treated.
The information provided in this article is not a substitute for professional veterinary help.