Cleaning Dog Ears: Practical Tips for at Home

Vet cleaning a dog's ears

You should clean your dog's ears if too much earwax forms. This can even be done well at home with some practice.

In some cases as a dog owner, you can't avoid cleaning your four-legged friend's ears. Regular care is important especially with dogs that tend to suffer from ear infections. Our guide will explain what is the right way to clean your dog's ears and when it is necessary. 

Cleaning dog ears: why is this important?

First of all, it's completely normal for wax to form inside your dog's ears, because this secretion possesses an important cleaning function. 

It binds deposits such as dead skin cells, hairs or dirt particles and transports them out through the external auditory canal. The sebaceous and sweat glands in the external auditory canal therefore constantly produce this yellow-brown, wax-like mass. 

In some cases, however, too much earwax forms or inflammation can occur. Dogs with an ear infection then frequently scratch their ear, which swells and reddens. Dogs with inflamed ears often hold their head askew or shake it increasingly. 

When and how often should I clean my dog's ears?

Has your dog played in deep mud and its ears are now dirty on the outside? You can remove large clumps of dirt from the ear muscle quite easily with a damp cloth: 

In some cases, however, the dirt is deeper set and the ears need cleaning more thoroughly: 

With an ear mite infestation

Ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) are no rarity amongst dogs and cause what is known as ear rash. They live in the external auditory canal and feed off tissue fluid and skin cells. 

Typically parasite infestations lead to the earwax turning dark brown to black in colour. The mass then starts to develop a foul smell and irritates the skin in the ear, which can cause inflammation. 

Before an ear examination

The vet has to clean your dog's ears beforehand if they wish to examine them more closely with an otoscope (ear speculum). 

The otoscope allows the vet to take a look inside the external auditory canal and the eardrum. Vets use this, for instance, if they suspect a middle ear infection (otitis media) or they want to locate a foreign body stuck in the ear – such as an awn. 

With dogs that tend to suffer from infections

Healthy dog ears generally don't need to be cleaned regularly. However, if your dog is prone to having dirty and inflamed ears, it is recommended to regularly clean its ears. 

A common reason for ear infections is also swimming in lakes, ponds or streams. 

What is the right way to clean my dog's ears?

As a rule, you can clean your dog's ears at home without help from a vet. You can use the following step-by-step instructions for this: 

1. Observing the ear

It's important to observe the ears from inside and outside before each time they are cleaned. Pay attention to possible ear injuries or irritations. You can have your dog's ears cleaned by a vet if it doesn't let you touch them due to possibly being in pain. 

2. Applying rinsing solution

Applying a mild rinsing solution helps to remove dirt and earwax later on. Commercially available soaps or alcohol solutions cannot be used, because they can damage sensitive skin and trigger painful inflammation. Special ear cleansers adapted to the skin in dogs' ears are recommended. 

Find a selection of care products specially designed to clean dog ears in the zooplus online store. 

Vet using a dog ear cleaner
An ear cleanser for dogs helps with stubborn dirt.

3. Massaging rinsing solution into the ear

You have to massage in the solution in order to remove all dirt particles in the depths of your dog's ears. To do this, grab the base of your dog's ears with your fingers, then gently knead and massage in the fluid. 

4. Removing the dirt with cloths

You can now remove from your dog's ears the dirt dissolved by rinsing with the help of cotton wool or soft cloths. Definitely don't use cotton buds, because they can damage inner ear structures like the eardrum. By doing so, you also push ear secretion back into the depths of the auditory canals. In most cases, your dog will shake its head afterwards anyway and remove the cleanser from its ears along with any dirt. 

What must I pay attention to when I clean my dog's ears?

Dogs' ears are generally very sensitive. In order to avoid injuries or infections in the ears, it is very important to proceed with caution when cleaning them. Make sure only to use mild solutions and blunt devices. 

If your dog shows signs of severe pain, you should initially stop with the cleaning and reassure your dog. If it won't be calmed down and refuses entirely to have its ears cleaned, a vet can of course help you. 

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