Regular ear cleaning is an important part of caring for your pet and preventing problems. Our Wales Animal Clinic team understands the importance of preventive pet care so we provide this guide on proper ear-cleaning methods, help with determining when a veterinary visit is necessary, and how to help your furry pal avoid ear infections.

Why clean your pet’s ears?

Unlike people’s ears, which have a straight canal that allows debris to drain naturally, pets have L-shaped ear canals. This shape traps dirt, wax, moisture, and debris easily. This trapped material can irritate the ear canal’s delicate lining, leading to various uncomfortable and potentially serious conditions. including:

  • Ear infections — Excess moisture and debris create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. These infections can be painful for your pet and cause signs such as head shaking, scratching at the ears, redness, swelling, and a foul odor.
  • Otitis externa —This is the medical term for inflammation of the outer ear canal. This condition can be caused by a variety of factors, including ear mites, allergies, and foreign objects lodged in the ear. Otitis externa signs include redness, swelling, itching, pain, and discharge.
  • Aural hematomas — If your pet frequently shakes their head because their ear is irritated, they may develop a hematoma. An aural hematoma is a collection of blood trapped between the ear flap’s cartilage and skin, causing a painful swelling.
  • Hearing loss — Chronic ear infections or untreated ear canal issues can damage the eardrum and middle ear, causing your pet to lose their hearing.

Regularly cleaning your pet’s ears can help prevent these uncomfortable and potentially serious conditions. 

How often should you clean your pet’s ears?

The frequence of your pet’s ear cleaning depends on  their breed. Some breeds, especially those with floppy ears, narrow ear canals, or a history of ear problems, may need their ears cleaned weekly or bi-weekly. However, breeds with naturally dry ears may only require cleaning every few months. A good rule of thumb is to check your pet’s ears weekly for wax or debris buildup, or signs of irritation. If you notice a mild odor or see excessive wax or debris, you should clean your pet’s ears.

Pet ear cleaning supplies 

In addition to ear cleaning supplies, you may want to ask a friend or family member to assist you. Your helper can offer your pet treats and gently restraining them while you clean your pet’s ears. Before you begin, gather the following supplies:

  • Veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls or gauze
  • Treats
  • Towel 

How to clean your pet’s ears 

Once you have enlisted the help of a friend or family member and gathered your supplies, you can begin. To safely and effectively clean your pet’s ears, follow these tips:

  • Choose a calm time and a comfortable spot — Cleaning your pet’s ears may be stressful for both of you, especially if it’s a new experience. Pick a quiet and familiar environment where you and your pet are both relaxed.
  • Position your pet — Have your pet sit or lie down where you can easily access their ears. If you have someone helping you, have your dog sit and face the other person who can gently restrain your furry pal and give them treats, gentle petting, and praise for cooperating
  • Examine the outer ear — Look for redness, swelling, discharge, or excess debris. Stop the cleaning task and consult your Wales Animal Clinic veterinarian if you notice anything concerning.
  • Apply ear cleaning solution — Gently lift your pet’s earflap and squeeze a generous amount of ear-cleaning solution directly into the ear canal.
  • Massage the ear’s base — With one hand still holding the ear flap open, use your other hand to gently massage the ear’s base for about 30 seconds. This helps to loosen trapped debris. You may hear a squishing sound, which is normal.
  • Let your pet shake — Release the ear flap and allow your pet to shake their head. This will help to push softened debris and excess cleaning solution out of the ear canal.
  • Wipe out the ears — Using a cotton ball or gauze, gently wipe away any remaining debris or cleaning solution. Be careful not to insert the cotton ball or gauze into the canal itself. Only clean as deep as you can reach with your finger.
  • Repeat on the other ear — Clean the opposite ear in the same manner.
  • Offer plenty of praise and treats  — Make the entire experience positive! Reward your pet with love, affection, and treats for their cooperation.

Keep these away from your pet’s ears

Some supplies you may think are useful for pet ear cleaning can cause severe ear problems. To protect your pet’s ears and hearing during cleaning, do not use the following items:

  • Cotton swabs — Cotton swabs can push debris further into the ear canal and potentially damage the delicate eardrum.
  • Human ear cleaning products — Products formulated for human ears may have a pH level that could irritate your pet’s skin. 
  • Water — Water can get trapped in your pet’s ear canal, increasing their infection risk.
  • Excessive force — Be gentle! When cleaning your pet’s ears, you should not cause them pain.

When to schedule a veterinary visit

Sometimes, at-home ear cleaning isn’t enough for pets experiencing ear problems. If you notice any of the following, schedule a visit with our Wales Animal Clinic team:

  • Persistent foul odor
  • Constant scratching at the ears
  • Head shaking
  • Pain or sensitivity when the ears are touched
  • Bleeding or discharge
  • Swelling

Ear problems can be uncomfortable for your pet and, left untreated, may lead to serious health issues. Don’t let your pet suffer with preventable ear troubles! Contact our Wales Animal Clinic today to schedule your pet’s ear assessment appointment.