It is important to take time each week to examine your dog’s ears for signs of irritation, infection, dirt and parasites. These at-home ear exams don’t take long, and can help you identify minor issues before they become larger, more painful problems. Simply look inside each ear for signs or redness, discharge, dirt, or waxy buildup. If you notice any of the following, your dog likely has an ear infection and should be seen by a veterinarian:
- Swelling or inflammation (ears are hot to the touch)
- Off-color discharge
- Foul odor
- Noticeable signs of pain when the ears are touched
Owners should never attempt to correct an ear infection on their own. They can be extremely painful for dogs, and infections can lead to permanent damage and hearing loss if not treated properly.
If your dog does not appear to have an ear infection, it is safe to clean his ears.
Preparing to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
It is best to clean a dog’s ears in the bathroom, a mud room, or another room of your home where you won’t mind a potential mess. Most dogs don’t enjoy having their ears cleaned, which means spills are inevitable.
The best tools to use for cleaning your dog’s ears are a good pair of hemostats and some cotton balls. Do not use Q-tips on a dog’s ears, as they can push debris further inside the ear canal, or even damage the ear. Hemostats can be purchased at drug stores, pharmacies, or from your veterinarian. You can purchase an ear cleaning solution specifically created for pets, or you can mix one up at home.
A highly recommended home ear cleaning solution is 1 part white vinegar to 1 part of water. This solution works wonders on dogs that have chronic yeast or bacterial infections in their ears. Another ear cleaning solution you can mix at home is 1 part hydrogen peroxide to 1 part water. Never use alcohol to clean your dog’s ears. Alcohol can dry out the sensitive skin inside the ears and cause allergic reactions.
Ear Cleaning Techniques
Start your dog’s ear cleaning with a good belly rub and soothing words. This will relax your dog and let him know that ear cleaning times are not so bad. Place a small amount of the solution in your dog’s ears, and then massage the base of the ears. At this point your dog will want to do a head shake. Let the dog give a good shake which will help loosen debris inside the ear. Lock down a cotton ball in the hemostat and gently use it to wipe out the inside of the ear. Repeat as often as needed, working from the inside out with a fresh cotton ball, until no more wax is seen on the cotton ball. Finish up the ear cleaning session with a treat and extra words of encouragement to help soothe your dog’s nerves.
It can be easy to become obsessed with ear care, but you do not want to clean your dog’s ears too frequently. Over-cleaning can actually upset the natural flora balance of the ears, leading to infections. Once a week home exams should be sufficient to help maintain clean and healthy ears.