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Taking care of our pup’s needs is one of the responsibilities of being a pet parent. Sometimes, those responsibilities aren’t fun, and, let’s face it, can be a little gross at times. One of those not-so-fun, but oh-so-important responsibilities is to clean your dog’s ears.
Cleaning your dog’s ears is actually a vital component of Fido’s health care. In fact, ears left uncleaned can actually be detrimental to your dog’s health. However, we still feel uncomfortable doing it, particularly if we haven’t socialized our dogs to this part of grooming.
Some dogs, particularly those with long ears, can develop ear infections if their ears aren’t regularly cleaned. This is especially true for Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels.
How Should I Prepare my Dog for Ear Cleaning?
It is a good idea to check the health of your dog’s ears from time to time, not necessarily just when it’s time to clean the ears. Gently massage your dog’s ears occasionally. If your dog pulls away, that could be a sign that something is wrong.
It’s also a good idea to check the ears for an odor. Odors in the dog’s ears are often a tell-tale sign that an infection could be brewing.
You’ll need the following supplies for cleaning the ears: a cleaning solution that is approved for use in dogs and a cotton ball or a piece of gauze. You should refrain from using Q-tips as these can jab into the ears and really cause ear health issues. If all else fails, you can opt for a clean washcloth.
Q-tips may seem like a great tool for cleaning your dog’s ears, but they actually have the potential to do more harm than good. The Q-tip can actually push dirt and debris further into your dog’s ear canal. It is possible this foreign matter in the ear canal can cause an ear infection, or, if Fido shakes his head with the Q-tip inside his ear, you could puncture the eardrum.
Choose a location that won’t be difficult to clean up. Cleaning the ears can be a messy business. It’s probably best to take Fido to the bathroom or on the back deck where anything that falls to the floor can be easily removed. It is possible Fido may shake his head a good bit while you’re cleaning his ears, sending some of that aforementioned dirt flying.
Can I Use a Homemade Ear Cleaning Solution?
Yes, and no. The best thing to do is to use a veterinarian-approved product that is safe for the dog’s ears. While some homemade cleaners do a decent job, they may contain an ingredient that isn’t safe for dogs. For instance, some homemade ear cleaners suggest using tap water, but some pet experts state tap water can actually contain bacteria that could be harmful to Fido.
Most homemade dog ear cleaning solutions mention white vinegar and a certain amount of water. Our advice is to speak with your vet about the possibility of a homemade ear cleaner. Only if your vet gives you the green light do we recommend attempting to clean Fido’s ears with a DIY solution.
In fact, you can probably pick up an approved ear cleaning solution at the vet’s office.
Steps to Cleaning your Dog’s Ears
First, you’re going to want to examine Fido’s ears for any possible infection by lifting you dog’s ear flap. According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, dog ears should be kept dry. If your dog gets in the swimming pool (or the lake nearby), then you’re going to want to make sure to dry Fido’s ears after a swim.
It’s also a good idea to keep Fido from shaking and getting water into his ears during bath time. This can cause those dreaded ear infections.
Remember the recommendation to rub Fido’s ears periodically to see if he flinches or otherwise acts as if his ears are bothering him? You might want to do that each time you get ready to clean his ears. If his ears seem particularly tender, you might want to take him to the vet for an initial ear cleaning and to make sure no infection or other issues are present.
You’ll also want to lift his ears and check a couple of other things. Are the ears red and inflamed? Does Fido wince in pain when you touch his ears? Do you smell yeast? Any of these issues could indicate an infection. In this case, you should have knowledge on how to treat ear infections in dogs. In addition, it is important to check for ear mites (your dog will have foul-smelling ears and wince in pain). It is also possible that some dogs suffer from allergies that manifest in the ears. Again, you’ll want to make a trip to the vet to rule out any of these issues.
Ok, so now you’re ready to clean the ears! Everything checked out as far as Fido’s ear health; now, it’s time to get down to business! Before collecting Fido, you’ll want to gather all the ear cleaning supplies you need and have them waiting at the location you’ve chosen to clean Fido’s ears.
Choose a time when your dog is calm. It could pay lots of dividends to sit Fido in your lap and rub him before ever reaching for the ear cleaning solution. Speak in soothing tones, and have treats ready for a well-behaved pup.
Lift the dog’s ear flap and squeeze a small portion of the ear cleaning fluid in Fido’s ear. Be prepared for him to shake his head when you do. Squeeze this fluid into the ear canal and put the ear back down. Massage the area at the base of the ear for about thirty seconds. Don’t be surprised to hear a bit of a squishy sound as the dirt and debris loosen in Fido’s ear.
Pro tip: When you are squeezing the fluid into Fido’s ear, be sure to keep the tip of the applicator from touching Fido’s skin or ear. This could actually hold bacteria that may cause a nasty infection if you’re not careful.
Now it’s time for the fun part. Allow Fido to shake his head. You may want to have a towel handy so that loosened dirt and debris don’t land on your person! Wipe down Fido to remove any of this from his fur. Now, take the cotton ball and gently wipe out the ear. Be sure not to go any further than the length of one of the knuckles on your finger.
If you ever notice that Fido is in pain during ear cleaning, contact your vet.
In the meantime, make sure to keep Fido’s ears dry. Check them periodically for the build-up of dirt . You may make cleaning the ears a part of bath time, or you may do this independently of that cleaning routine. It’s also a good idea to get Fido used to your touching his ears so that ear cleaning time is easier.
1. What can I use to clean my dog’s ears at home?
It is always best to use a vet-approved solution for cleaning Fido’s ears at home. Many DIY recipes for ear cleaners on the internet contain ingredients that aren’t good for Fido’s ears, including tap water.
2. What is the brown stuff in my dog’s ears?
Typically, this is dirt, but, it can also be a sign of ear mites. If your dog’s ears have an odor along with the brown stuff, and your dog acts like it’s painful for you to touch his ears, then see your vet.
3. How do you clean a dog’s ears without hurting them?
Make it a calming and enjoyable experience. Be sure your dog is calm. Refrain from using Q-tips as these can push dirt further into the ear canal. Use gauze or a damp cotton ball.
4. Should I clean the brown stuff out of my dog’s ears?
If it is simply dirt, you can probably wipe the dirt out of your dog’s ears. However, if your dog shows signs of an ear infection or an ear mite infestation, it is best to let the vet treat this issue initially.