Dogs come in all sizes, and depending on the type of breed they are, they can have different shapes and sizes of ears. You know how important it is to groom your dog on a regular basis, bathing, brushing their hair, clipping nails, even brushing their teeth, but have you ever given much thought to ear care for your dog? It’s important to keep your dogs ears clean and free of dirt debris, and water. Regular cleaning is recommended, and especially for certain breeds. But how do you clean your dog’s ears, and how often?
Dogs with particularly long, floppy ears, like hound dogs, Cocker Spaniels and Labrador Retrievers, are more prone to getting infections than other breeds that have stand-up ears, which is because the floppy ears aren’t exposed to as much air flow as the others, which means that dirt, debris, and moisture gets trapped in the ear a lot easier and can make its way into the ear canal, which is where it can sit and start brewing a nasty bacterial or yeast infection. Some breeds, like the Poodle or Bichon Frises grow hair in their eats, and this limits the amount of air allowed into the ear even more, which furthers their risk of ear infections. Allergies and parasites, like mites are also causes for inheriting ear infections.
How often should your dog’s ears be cleaned?
How often you should clean your dog’s ears is really a subjective answer because it depends on the breed of dog you have, if they are prone to infections or not, if they happen to currently have an infection that is being treated, among other things. To start, you should at the very least, be checking your dog’s ears for dirt and debris on a regular basis, at least once a week for those who aren’t prone to infections or are generally clean dogs, or strictly indoor dogs. Outdoor dogs, those with long floppy ears, active dogs who like water, or are prone to infections, should be checked daily. Check for foul smells (their ears should never smell, which indicates they need a cleaning).
If your dog is prone to infections, cleaning them on regularly can help prevent infections, but regularly can mean once a week or once a month. You want to do it often enough that they are infection-free, but not so often that you irritate their skin. You can ask your veterinarian how often you should be cleaning your specific dog’s ears. He will know depending on the type of breed and health record of your dog’s ears, how often is recommended.
If your dog is dealing with an ear infection, your vet may recommend you clean them daily while he is being treated for the infection. He may even prescribe a particular cleaning solution to use at each cleaning before putting an antibiotic ointment or otic solution in them. According to Jeff Grognet, DVM, co-owner of Mid-Isle Veterinarian Hospital in Qualicum Beach, BC, Canada, cleaning them first helps the ointment or solution to get into the canal better. If you don’t clean them first, you are only just adding more gunk into the ear – there’s already enough ear wax down in there, which just makes a bigger mess of the ear.
One thing to keep in mind, if you are ever cleaning your dog’s ears and he begins to yelp or cry with you simply touching his ears, be sure to get him to the vet as soon as possible, as this is a sign of an active ear infection. The inflammation and pain will make them cry and yelp at the slightest touch. Other signs are a yeasty or foul smell, shaking of the head consistently like something is in the ears, scratching the ears a lot, and discharge from the ears.
Is it ok to clean your dog’s ears at home?
If you don’t feel comfortable doing this, you should let a professional groomer or vet do this. For dogs who need regular ear cleanings, it may get a bit pricey, but it’s better to be sure it’s being done right. If you prefer, however, with the right supplies and learn the correct techniques, it is not hard to do, and your dog may feel more comfortable having it done by his human, and at home.
Proper steps for cleaning your dog’s ears at home
1. First steps are to get gauze and cotton balls that are approved by your vet, plus a vet-approved ear cleaner. You can either get it from your vet or a pet supply store.
2. Ear cleaning time has the potential to get messy. If you prefer, you might want to do this during bath time. If it is in between bath time, just put a towel around his neck and chest, clipping it with a hair clip or similar item, to hold it in place there.
3. Start by squeezing just a little bit of the ear cleaner into the ear. Let it drizzle down into the ear canal and gently massage the base of his ear so that the cleaner gets a little sudsy inside. This will help to breakdown the thick wax and pieces of dirt and debris inside. Your dog will probably start to shake his head, which is okay. If you need to, try to shield the spray coming out of his ears with the towel.
4. Next, gently start to wipe the outer ear flap and inside the ear with a cotton ball or a square of gauze. Try to get down in the canal as far as you can by using your finger with the cotton ball or gauze at the end. Use your finger to gently push it down and wipe. You may need to change out the cotton ball or gauze a few different times, since you want to keep going down end and coming back out, checking your gauze each time. Keep doing this until you bring your cotton ball or gauze back out clean. It is never a good idea to use a Q-tip inside the ear. Not only can it push dirt and debris further in, but you run the risk of puncturing the ear drum if your dog makes a sudden move and you get too deep. Ear cleaners have a drying agent in them, which means that if some solution is left in the canal, it will dry on its own – nor harm done.
5. If your dog is currently on ear medication for an infection, always apply it after the ears have been cleaned and wiped out. If you are dripping a solution into the canal, it’s always a good idea to try to hold the bottle well above the ear so that you have a good visual of how many drops you are squeezing out. Once it’s in the ear, massage the base to really get it dispersed well.
What about ear hair?
If your dog has a lot of ear hair, it might be better to try to pluck some of the hair out before you begin to clean them so you give him a better, more thorough cleaning. If you don’t feel comfortable plucking ear hair (which shouldn’t be too discerning or uncomfortable for your dog), you may have your groomer or vet do this for you. If you do take of the plucking, or even if your groomer did it and you notice your pet’s ears are a bit red or irritated from it, you should probably wait a day or two before you work on cleaning the ears just to let them heal a bit and you don’t risk irritating them any further.