Tips to Keep Your Dog's Ears Clean

Keeping your dog's ears clean is important for maintaining their overall health. 

While some dogs' ears are naturally clean and require little maintenance, others need extra care. Dogs with long or really furry ears, like cocker spaniels, that accumulate dirt and debris more easily are often more prone to ear infections and other problems. 

The physical makeup of your dog's ears isn't the only factor that increases their risk for ear conditions. Yeast and bacteria are two of the most common irritants that can compromise the health of dogs' ears. However, allergies, hormone disorders, ear mites, moisture or wax buildup, and extra hair can also lead to issues.

Regardless of the type of ears that your dog has, checking them regularly to see if cleaning is needed should be part of your regular pet care routine.

Here are some helpful tips to clean your pup's ears safely. 

  • Check to make sure that your pup's ears actually need cleaning. Only clean them if you notice a change like a mild odor or visible debris. Excessive cleaning can lead to irritation or infections. 
  • Clean the external part of your pet's ear only. 
  • Gather your supplies. You'll need cotton balls, gauze, and a towel. Never use cotton swabs or anything with pointed tips, since they could push debris further into the ear or damage the inner structures. 
  • Choose an area of your home that's easy to wipe up---ear-cleaning can get messy. A mudroom or bathroom is a great choice. 
  • Use an ear-cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian. DIY solutions may contain harmful irritants.
  • Add the cleaning solution to the ear canal and gently massage the base of the ear for about 30 seconds. 
  • Allow your pup to shake her ears back and forth once the solution has been added. This is where the towel comes in handy to wipe your dog's face and any excess spray that may have hit you.
  • Gently wipe out the ear canal with the gauze or cotton balls. The AKC recommends going no further than your first knuckle inside the ear.   
  • Use clean gauze to thoroughly dry the ears. Leaving behind moisture creates an environment for microbial growth that could lead to ear infections. 

Sometimes dirty ears signal more than a need for routine cleaning. It could indicate an ear infection. Here are some signs to look for: 

  • Strong yeasty or bad smells from inside the ear
  • Redness or swelling
  • Vigorous ear scratching
  • Constant head shaking
  • Balance issues
  • Crusts, peeling, or scabs around the ear
  • Hair loss
  • Rubbing the ear against objects such as furniture and walls.
  • Hearing issues
  • Bloody, brown, or yellow discharge

If you notice any of these signs or if your dog appears to be in pain while you're cleaning their ears, contact your veterinarian immediately. Your dog could be suffering from an ear infection or another condition that needs medical attention.