How to Clean Your Dog's Ears
Fri, December 3, 2021

How to Clean Your Dog's Ears


Cleaning your dog’s ears is a critical part of your dog’s grooming needs, as some canines need to have their teeth cleaned more frequently, explained Amy Panning, DVM, of VCA, an outlet of over 1,000 animal hospitals in the US and Canada. Frequent ear cleaning is beneficial if you have a dog that is prone to ear infections.

The structure of the ear canal makes it harder for material lodged within the horizontal canal to be removed without cleaning your dog’s ears. If the material is not removed from your dog’s ear, it can cause itchiness and ear infections

Otitis Externa (OE) In American Cocker Spaniels In Finland (2017)

Mirha Kaimio, Leena Saijonmae-Koulumies, and Outi Laitinen-Vapaavuori of biomedical and life sciences journal PMC reviewed medical records of all dogs visiting 55 privately-owned first opinion small animal veterinary clinics in 2010. An online owner survey on ear and skin diseases in American Cocker Spaniels was done to evaluate the owners’ assessments of the clinical signs and management of otitis externa.

Of the 98,726 dogs, 11,281 or 11.4% of dogs had ear-related consultations. The frequency of ear-related consultations for Welsh Springer Spaniels was 34.2%, which was the highest among other breeds. This was followed by Shar-Peis (27.6%), American Cocker Spaniels (27.1%), West Highland White Terrier (26.9%), Bullmastiff (24.5%), Pug (24.5%), and Basset Hound (23.1%).

In total, 8.9% of dogs were treated with topical ear therapy. 8.1% of canines were treated with first-line topical ear medications and 1.2% were administered with second-line ear medications. The breeds that received the topical ear medication prescriptions were Welsh Springer Spaniel (29.1%), Shar-Pei (27.6%), American Cocker Spaniel (22.8%), West Highland White Terrier (23.4%), and Bullmastiff (18.9%).

The frequency of receiving second-line topical ear medical prescriptions was the highest for Shar-Pei (10.5%), American Cocker Spaniel (8.8%), Welsh Springer Spaniel (6.2%), and Bull Terrier (5.9%). Meanwhile, otitis externa prevalence was highest in Welsh Springer Spaniel (31.8%), followed by American Cocker Spaniel (27%), English Springer Spaniel (19.6%), and English Cocker Spaniel (15.7%).

47% of dogs with OE had no concurrent reported skin lesions and 88% of canines had bilateral ear disease. The first episode of OE appeared before the dog turned one year old (46%), 39% of these dogs also showed skin lesions before the age of one, and 12% had them after turning one. Only 22% of dogs showed the first signs of OE after the age of three years.

54% of the ear-diseased dogs’ owners examined the ears of their canines one to two times per week and only 37% did so daily. The most common reported symptoms of OE were scratching of the ears (85%) and foul smell (62%). Of the symptoms related to the skin, scratching (63%) and scaling (33%) were the most commonly reported. Skin lesions commonly appeared on the axillae area (29%), the back (25%), the interdigital skin (22%), and the paws (20%).  

The researchers concluded that the OE prevalence in American Cocker Spaniels in Finland was higher than previously reported among Cocker Spaniels. OE prevalence was highest in Welsh Springer Spaniels. Half of the American Cocker Spaniels showed initial signs of OE before the age of one. The onset of this infection increased the dog of developing end-stage OE. Additionally, OE would require an intensive approach to treat the infection in this breed. Treatment should focus on preventing OE recurrence.



What Supplies Do I Need to Clean My Dog’s Ears?

You will need a cotton ball or gauze, an ear-cleaning solution, and a towel, stated Anna Burge of the American Kennel Club (AKC), a website dedicated to publishing canine-related content. Any cleaning solution you will use should be veterinarian-approved. Unlike homemade ear cleaning solutions on the internet, vet-approved ones are your best bet. Some homemade alternatives contain harmful or irritating ingredients or are not effective.

Don’t use hydrogen peroxide to clean its ears, as it can cause irritation to healthy skin cells. Prolonged use of this household product could eventually damage your dog’s ear. Again, stick to vet-approved solutions.

Most veterinary offices provide ear cleaner for dogs. You can also consult your vet about the product they would recommend for your pet. Do note that some solutions may be more beneficial to your dog’s needs than others. Cleaning your dog’s ears can be messy so it is recommended to do this in a bathroom or a room that is easy to clean in case your pet vigorously shakes his head.



How Do I Clean My Dog’s Ears?

Hold your dog’s ear, lifting the ear flap (pinna) up vertically to expose and straighten its ear canal. While holding its ear flap gently but firmly, hold the ear cleaning solution in your other hand and squeeze some solution into your pet’s ear. Use enough of the solution to completely fill the ear canal. It’s okay if some of the solution spills out of it.

Avoid putting the tip of the bottle into the ear. If it does, clean the tip with a cotton ball to curb the spread of bacteria or yeast. Make sure that the cotton ball is soaked in alcohol. While holding the ear flap up, gently massage the base of the ear below the ear opening with your other hand for around 30 seconds. This helps break down the debris in the ear canal. A “squishing” sound should be heard as the solution moves in the ear canal’s horizontal part.

Using a cotton ball or gauze, wipe away debris from the inner part of your dog’s ear flap and the upper ear canal. Let your dog shake its head, allowing the remaining ear cleaning solution and debris from the ear canal to move out from the canal to the ear’s outer opening. Remove any debris and solution from the ear canal using a cotton ball or gauze.

Don’t use a cotton-tipped applicator (Q-tip) to remove the solution from the ear canal, as it can damage the ear canal and/or eardrum. Q-tips may also push debris deeper into the ear canal. Do the same for the other year and provide treats for your dog. If your dog has an ear infection and requires medication, clean its ears first before applying the medication.

Your vet can help you decide when and how often you should clean your pet’s ears. However, you should seek immediate medical treatment if your dog’s ears appear red or inflamed.