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How to clean a dog's ears

Ear infections are miserable! There is no way around that! They can be painful, itchy, swollen and are just plain bothersome!

Arizona Veterinarians see plenty of dogs with ear infections. Some are due to allergies caused by food, the environment or swimming, or genetics.
We’ve compiled some tips to help you clean your dog's ears if he is diagnosed with an ear infection.

Some ear infections are worsened by self trauma and require a little extra help by using an elizabethan collar like the one above. 


1. Don’t clean your dog’s ears right before his veterinary exam! Why is this important?

The veterinarian needs to see the condition that your pet’s ears are in now. By collecting a sample of exudate from each ear, placing it on a microscope slide and staining it with a special stain, they are able to see the organisms causing the problems. They do this by looking at the stained sample under a microscope. 
If all of the debris is washed away by a cleaning before hand, chances are they won’t be able to diagnose the condition or prescribe medications correctly.

2. If you are using an OTC ear cleaner for dogs, that’s okay….. Your vet just needs to know the name of the cleaner, and when you last cleaned the ears. If you have the bottle, please bring it to your appointment! Also, if you’ve put any home remedies in the ears, your vet needs to know that too.

3. Don’t be afraid to admit you have no idea how to clean your dog’s ears. It’s not as easy as you’d think. Your veterinarian or vet staff can do a demonstration and clean your dog’s ears with you during your visit. If you go home and they think you understand how to do it, but you really don’t, there’s a good chance you won’t clean them and your pet’s ear infection most likely will not resolve.

Veterinarians want to resolve your pet’s ear infection just about as much as you do. We don’t like seeing any pet in discomfort!

To clean your dog's ears properly

1. Follow the EXACT directions your prescription label states. Often the first step is to clean first to remove any debris and then add medication. But it is important to read YOUR dog's labeled instructions as they might be different.

(The following cleaning tips are based on an ear infection that is not too painful to clean).
2. Cleaning your dog's ears outside is a good idea so when your pet shakes its head you can get out of the way and the cleaner and debris go into the yard, not all over you or the inside of your home.

3. Using a towel (size appropriate for size of dog) you can drape it around their head and neck to catch any spillage of the cleaner and dry off your pet's face and hair coat.

4. Hold the pinna (Ear flap) straight upwards towards the ceiling, give a hardy squirt of the cleaner filling the canal. (If your pet's ear is super infected and painful, your veterinarian may have different instructions).

5. Gently squeeze and massage around the base of the ear until it makes a squishing sound. This helps the cleaner to reach both the horizontal and vertical ear canals. Once you’ve massaged the ear; let your dog shake his head, releasing any loose particles.

6. Once he’s done shaking, gently take a cotton ball and wipe out any excess debris.


It’s hard for you to reach and harm the eardrum but if your pet dislikes this, he may move suddenly causing the Q-tip to lodge deeper than you meant.

8. If your pet does not allow you to hold his ear up and “squish” the base with the ear cleaner inside, an alternative is to apply the cleaner to a couple of cotton balls and do your best at cleaning the exudate out by wiping gently.

9. You can use regular nasal tissue and twist it until it has a long, pointy tip. This tip can be placed in the canal as far as you can get it by twisting and gently pushing it in the vertical canal. Once you remove the tissue, debris or exudate from the ear should be adhered to the pointed tip of the Kleenex.

10. Lastly, apply the ear Medication according to directions.

We hope this will help you with cleaning your pet’s ears at home! If you are still uncomfortable doing this alone please let your veterinarian know. Ear infections can be tough to resolve and if you aren’t doing everything the correct way the first time, you’ll most likely find that the ear infection will not resolve.

Thanks pet friends!

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