Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears
Yes, you can degunk your dog’s ears right at home.
How do you clean your dog’s ears at home?
Just like us, your dog’s ears can build up wax and other debris. Dogs can also get ear infections and ear mites. Whatever the reason, when your dog’s ears are gunky, they need to be cleaned
to prevent further problems and to allow ear medications to work effectively. But don’t overdo it. “If your dog’s ears aren’t gunky, don’t clean them! Over cleaning can cause ear disease,” warns William H. Miller, DVM, Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine director of the
Companion Animal Center.
If your dog’s ears do need to be cleaned, you may notice him scratching at his ears, and you may see that the skin inside the ear is red and angry-looking. Cleaning the ears will help to reduce the irritation, although ultimately the source of the infection must be treated to gain long-term relief.
Untreated ear infections can damage the skin inside your dog’s ear and even perforate the eardrum. Severe infections can spread into your dog’s skull, resulting in brain damage and potentially death.
Your veterinary clinic or a groomer can clean your dog’s ears for you. Many groomers clean ears as part of their routine services and should mention it to you if your dog’s ears are particularly gross (if that happens, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian).
At the veterinarian’s office, the staff may do a cytology exam on some of the debris from the ear. This is the only way to definitively diagnose the cause of an ear infection and allows your veterinarian to prescribe the appropriate medication for the specific infection.
You can also clean your dog’s ears yourself at home, of course. This saves you money and is less stressful for your dog. Most dogs tolerate ear cleaning very well or can easily be taught to (more on that to come under Pro Tips).
- Gather together pet-safe ear cleaner, cotton balls, cotton-tipped swabs, and treats.
- Soak a cotton ball with ear cleaner. Place the soaked cotton ball inside your dog’s ear and gently massage the outside of the ear so that the cotton ball gets squished. This causes the ear cleaner to drip into the crevasses in your dog’s ear. You can also squirt ear cleaner directly into the ear, but many dogs are less tolerant of that sensation. Remove the cotton ball when done.
- Wipe the ear out with a dry cotton ball.
- Use cotton-tipped swabs to remove debris from the crevasses of the ear. Do not reach into the ear where you can’t see. You could accidentally puncture the eardrum.
- Continue wiping with cotton balls and swabs until they are clean.
Start getting your dog used to having his ears handled now. Gently play with his ears when petting him, and practice holding his ears open to peer into them. You can even gently rub the inside of his ear with your finger. If your dog is already used to having his ears touched, cleaning will be much less stressful when you need to do it.
Use treats and praise frequently, especially the first few times you clean your dog’s ears. Reward him after applying the ear cleaner and after every couple of swipes with the cotton ball.
Phone a friend! If your pooch is squirmy, enlist the help of a friend or family member to hold him still. You can also place him against a wall or on the couch so that he can’t back away from
you. Some dogs are better for ear cleaning sitting up, while others may prefer to lie down, head on the ground. Experiment to see which works best.
If his ears start to bleed at all, stop and contact your veterinarian. Same goes for if your dog cries out in pain. Some infections can do a lot of damage to the ear, and a thorough cleaning may be too painful early in the healing process.
For additional advice on ways to keep your dog healthy, subscribe to DogWATCH from the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine.