How to Clean Dog Ears and Keep Them Clean

Clean dog ears are very important. If your dog is pawing at his ears or shaking his head more than usual, he may have an ear infection. Or, maybe he just needs his ears cleaned.

This post will go over some basic ear care tips you can follow for your dog. It will also help you decide when you might want to seek help from a veterinarian.

At-home tips for keeping your dog’s ears clean

Katherine van Ekert is a veterinarian with VetPronto, and she gave me some ideas dog owners can try to prevent problems to begin with:

  • Check your dog’s ears every two weeks or so for waxy buildup or discharge.
  • Use a dog ear cleaning product to help remove any wax. (dogIDs carries a dog ear wash.)
  • Avoid sticking Q-tips into your dog’s ear canal unless a veterinarian shows you how to safely do so. You don’t want to puncture the ear drum.
  • Use cotton balls to dry your dog’s ears after swimming.

When you're cleaning your dog's ears at home, the best way to do so is by filling the ear with a cleaning solution, according to Dr. Cathy Alinovi, a veterinarian with Healthy PAWsibilities.

She said to fill the ear, squish the sides to break up any debris and then "stand back and let them shake."

Since dogs’ ears are more sensitive than ours, she said they don’t do well with wipes or swabs, but she will sometimes use a cloth to wipe the ear flap.

Signs something is wrong

I asked van Ekert for some of the signs of ear infections in dogs. She said to watch for itching, pawing at the ear, redness of the ear, a black or brown discharge, puss-like discharge, blood, a head tilt or drooping of the year.

Alinovi said another common sign of an ear infection is pain when the dog’s ears are touched. She said an odor is also likely.

I have a Lab mix who is prone to ear infections, and I can say I’ve seen all of the above with him at one time or another. Poor guy!

Causes of ear infections in dogs

As with people, there are various reasons why a dog could get an ear infection.

“Ninety percent of the time, recurrent ear infections are due to food allergies,” Alinovi said. “I usually treat symptoms for pain relief, then work to get to the underlying cause. For many, it's as easy as feeding a grain-free diet. For others, it's a more complicated food trial.”

According to van Ekert, some additional causes of ear infections could be:

  • Other allergies such as inhalants or fleas
  • Ear mites
  • Foreign bodies such as grass seeds and burrs
  • Excess moisture after swimming
  • Breed disposition - especially those ears that are pendulous or have narrow ear canals, as they trap moisture.

Alinovi said healthy ears shouldn’t get “swimmer’s ear” because dogs are able to shake their head and fling water.

However, she said some dogs have more sensitive ears, so putting a drying ear cleaner in their ears after swimming can help get the last bit of water out.

Do any of your dogs tend to get ear infections?