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How to Clean Your Dogs Ears

For many dogs the pain and discomfort of ear infections is a common occurrence, particularly in summer. Regular ear infections can also be secondary to allergies, and should always be treated by your veterinarian. There are many options now available for allergy management from topical treatments, to oral medications or injections so have a chat to us about what treatments might be best to reduce the likelihood of ongoing ear issues.

One of the biggest reasons that dogs are prone to ear infections asides from underlying allergies, is that the ear canal is L-shaped. This is often complicated by having a very hairy ear canal (particularly in Poodles) floppy ears (Cocker Spaniels) or a narrow opening (Pugs and Shar Peis). The hair and narrow opening can trap ear wax, sebum and sloughed skin cells. This contributes to that warm, dark, humid environment that bacteria and yeast love.


Cleaning the ears with a specific ear cleaning solution regularly can sometimes be helpful to reduce wax/sebum from building up. We usually only do this once per fortnight or month. Overdoing ear cleaning can be just as detrimental, so please speak to your veterinarian about the best schedule for ear cleaning in your pet. If your pet is showing signs of an ear infection, such as shaking his/her head, scratching the ears, pain around the head, a head tilt, or balance problems, please book a visit with your vet as soon as possible.

How to Clean Ears

We are always happy to show you how to perform this procedure in person, however these simple tips can also help.

Whenever you clean ears, have everything ready to go and some treats handy to make the experience positive for your pet. It's also a good idea to ensure you're not wearing your best ball gown or near a favourite sofa while doing this, as it can get a little messy.

1. Find a comfortable position for you and your pet. It is sometimes easier to have your pet up on a table facing away from you, with their bottom tucked into you or sitting on your lap facing away from you. That way it is easy to control your pets movement.

2. Start the process with a treat and a nice ear massage. Most dogs don't mind a bit of an ear rub from time to time, so this gets things off on the right foot. If you can't even touch your pet’s ears at this point, you will need to do some extra work with your pet. This involves lots of treats and baby steps, slowly increasing the amount of time your pet tolerates you touching around their neck, head then progressing to the point you can touch the ears.

Pairing these new sensations with food rewards helps to make the process easier in the future. You don’t want your dog running as soon as he sees you with the ear cleaner. If your pet is ok with having his/her ears touched, you're ready to go.

3. Gently holding up the flap of the ear, fill the ear canal with ear cleaner. Remember that the ear canal is L-shaped, so the nozzle on the ear cleaner needs to point vertically down into the ear, not horizontally. Fill the ear until it overflows with ear cleaner.

4. Using thumb and forefinger, massage around the base of the ear. You should be able to hear a squelchy noise as the liquid is dispersed and mixed around within the ear canal.

5. Use cotton wool or gauze swabs to wipe clean the external part of the ear canal where all the folds are. There is no need to push anything down the ear, as the tendency is to then push the wax and debris further down the ear canal towards the ear drum. Just wipe out what you can see and reach with the cotton wool. Folds at the opening of the ear canal can be gently wiped clean

6. Stand back. Your pet will now shake his/her head and work more of that wax and debris out of the ear. The job of the ear cleaner is to break up the secretions in your pets ear canal, so they are easily dislodged. Some ear cleaners also have an alcohol base, which helps to dry the ear canal after cleaning.

7. Give a big pat and some treats.

8. If your pets ears are particularly dirty, you can repeat the above process.

Remember, dogs with ear infections need more than just an ear clean to fix the problem. If your dog is painful, has particularly smelly ears or is shaking his/her head and scratching, its time to visit your veterinarian. This is also a good chance for your veterinarian to show you how to clean your pets ears in person.

-By Dr Gwen Shirlow


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