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Ear Infections Gold Care Kit
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How to Clean Dog Ears: A Comprehensive Guide for Pet Owners

Vet Talks 1 min watch
Tips For Cleaning Your Pet's Ears

Keeping your dog’s ears clean is an important part of their overall health. Learning how to correctly clean dog ears can help prevent infections and other problems. This guide will walk you through dog ear anatomy, signs of infection, and how to clean your dog’s ears safely.

The anatomy of a dog’s ear

How to Clean Dog Ears: A Comprehensive Guide for Pet Owners. Structure of dog ear

The anatomy of your furbaby ear matters, pups with floppy ears are more likely to have chronic ear problems than their counterparts with pointy, erect ears.

Dogs with floppy ears are prone to chronic ear problems compared to those with pointy, erect ears due to differences in ear anatomy.

To obtain a better understanding of the ear, let’s break down the anatomy of the organ. The ear consists of three components, the outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear includes the pinna (the part you see that is made of cartilage and covered by skin, fur, or hair) and the ear canal. The size and shape of the pinna can vary by breed and can result in different requirements for grooming and maintenance.

The middle ear starts with the eardrum and includes three tiny bones (hammer, anvil, stirrup), two muscles (oval window, eustachian tube), and a small air-filled chamber. Its structure amplifies sound and links to the back of the nose, allowing pressure equalization. Keeping this area clean and dry is crucial for sound transmission and our auditory system.

The inner ear is a highly complex structure. This part includes: the cochlea, responsible for hearing; the vestibular system, the organ of balance. The nerve endings within the inner ear are responsible for transmitting vibrations to electrical impulses, which allows the brain to interpret these impulses so we can hear! The vestibular system comprises three fluid-filled loops that detect head rotation and body position. This system is what allows rapid movements and response to our external environment. It’s common to notice slight changes in your pet’s gait as they age. However, it’s essential to inform your vet about these changes to rule out any underlying issues.

Signs your dog has an ear infection

Infections of the ear are common in dogs and, in most cases, can be remedied with regular cleanings. Always monitor the ear for signs of inflammation (redness, warmth, or swelling), injury, secretions, odor, or excessive ear wax. Routine maintenance is always easier than treatment.

Labradoodle Shaking Head because his owner didn't clean dog ears

Additionally, when your pup is experiencing hearing loss, scratching, head shaking, dizziness, or loss of balance, this can often be due to build-up, inflammation, or infection within any of these areas. Prompt action and attention is a key component to a speedy recovery.

What you’ll need to clean dog ears

Always monitor the ear for signs of inflammation (redness, warmth, or swelling), injury, secretions, odor, or excessive ear wax.

Before taking on the task of cleaning dog ears you should have all your supplies set up and ready. Laying everything out on a flat surface, with lids off, is a great place to start.

A good quality ear cleaner is essential, solutions like hydrogen peroxide and alcohol can be very irritating and cause more harm than good, especially if there is already present inflammation. Some cleaners have antibacterial and antifungal properties or are simply more efficient at removing wax build-up. It is best to speak with your vet or groomer about what type of cleaner is best suited for your pup’s unique ear composition.

Gauze pads are the preferred type of tool to use. It is because their fibers don’t break off as easily as cotton balls, reducing the risk of fibers being left behind after cleaning. Do not use cotton swabs or pointy objects when attempting to clean the ear.  This is a major risk for causing more injury or trauma to the eardrum and ear canal.

So, what are the steps you need to take?

1. Stabilize your pup and have them calm and under control.

2. While holding the head steady, lift the pinna up vertically to expose the ear canal. Visually inspect for signs of inflammation or excessive build-up. If no concerning signs, proceed with squeezing in some of the ear-cleaning solutions to fill the ear canal. 

3. While still holding the pinna, gently massage the external base of the ear and around the middle ear to work in the cleaner. Working from the inside out, begin wiping with the gauze pad from the inner ear toward the outer pinna. Do not ever go back into the ear canal with a previously used gauze pad! Use a new one each time.

4. Once most of the solution is out, let your pup shake their head. Check the inner ear again and wipe out any new presenting debris. Only go into the ear canal as far as your finger can reach. Use as many pads as necessary until it comes out clean after wiping.

5. Once the ear canal is dry, using a moisturizing agent like Echo Gold can be added to the inner ear, similarly to the cleaner. Add a few drops and massage the base of the ear. If needed, you may use a gauze pad further to apply the echo gold toward the outer pinna. The naturally viscous and moisturizing formula will create a seal to soothe the skin and provide herbal benefits. 

6. Repeat with the next ear. Don’t forget lots of praise and treats can go a long way.

Tips For Cleaning Your Pet's Ears

Other tips to clean dog ears

It is important to keep the auditory canal clean of dirt and hair. It is common to have hair growing inside the ear, to have this removed, it is best to be done by a professional to avoid trauma or injury.

Ears should be cleaned every 3-4 weeks, in cases with recurring infections, it is best to follow your vet’s advice on cleaning frequency. Once-a-week ear checks can be highly beneficial and save you a trip to the vet.

If your pet is a wiggle worm or doesn’t like to have their ears cleaned we recommend having a partner with you when cleaning. This will not only make the process faster and more efficient but safer for your beloved companion.

It is helpful to sit behind your pup with them between your legs. If they are larger, you may need to stand and straddle over them to the right angle for cleaning. Or you can lay them down between your legs.
If you have a partner, have them “hug” your pup around the chest and under the stomach by the hind legs. This will keep the head free and mobile but the body still. 

Natural supplements for dog ear health

Congratulations you have successfully cleaned your pup’s ear safely!

It is highly important to maintain the ears and manage any signs of inflammation or infection by speaking with your vet.  After diagnosis or further understanding of the underlying cause we are able to better tackle and treat their condition. Here are some NHV supplements that can support stars in your companion’s ear health:

NHV Echo Gold -is an herbal formula with anti-inflammatory and antibiotic activity for topical use to help pets recover quickly from ear infections and alleviate the irritating symptoms associated with them. Ear infections are a common condition caused by allergies, wax buildup, water, or small bodies in the ear, such as ear mites.

NHV Stimmune– is an herbal formula that promotes healthy immune activity and histamine response when the underlying cause is internal or diet-related. Stimmune can help with symptoms like hot spots, itchy ears, face rubbing and allergic dermatitis.

NHV Alge-Ex –  targets environmental allergies, fungal and airborne irritants,  offers histamine response and may support symptoms such as ear infection, yeast infection, sneezing, itchy, and eye rubbing.

NHV PetOmega 3 – improves the skin’s barriers and reduces inflammation, which will help inhibit infections from forming.

Unsure about the best supplements for your pets? Don’t hesitate to reach out! Our Pet Experts at NHV are here to help.

Vet Technician Mel

Vet Technician Mel

Mel completed her Bachelor’s degree in Biological Science, a minor in Neurological Psychology, from the University of Alberta in 2012 and a Veterinary Technician program at NAIT in 2015. Mel has self-studied herbalism and naturopathic medicine since she was 15 years old and dealing with her own diagnosis, which only enriched her curiosity more. When not working as part of the NHV Pet Expert team, Mel loves cooking and being with her family, including her rescue kitty, Ursa.

Published: March 29, 2024

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