How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

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Cleaning your dog's ears may look easy but it is more difficult than you think. Dogs have long ear canals and improper cleaning can result in a ruptured eardrum, pain or lacerations of the canal. If the ears are severely infected, they may be too painful for you to clean at home, and you should consider having a veterinarian clean the ears, possibly even under sedation. However, you can perform routine cleaning safely and easily if you follow these steps:

  • Restrain your dog. Start by wrapping your small dog in a large thick towel with just her head exposed or having someone help hold the body and legs of a larger dog.
  • Clean the ear lobe. Using a cotton ball, paper towel or gauze sponges moistened with water, gently rub the large pieces of dirt, wax and debris off the ear lobe. Repeat on the opposite ear.
  • Clean the cartilage of the ear. After most of the debris has been removed with the moistened cotton ball, use a cotton tip applicator (Q-Tip®), moistened with water, to gently remove the pieces of debris trapped within the cartilage of the ear. Be very careful not to place the Q-tip down the ear canal. This will stimulate head shaking and can lead to ear trauma.

    It is safest to clean only the parts of the ear you can see. If there is significant wax just inside the ear canal, you can briefly place the tip of the Q-tip into the ear canal to remove the debris. However, this is important: You should ALWAYS be able to see the cotton tip of the Q-tip.

    After cleaning ears, it is a good idea to offer a treat. This will help make the next ear cleaning session a little smoother.

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