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Do I need to clean my dog’s ears?- Memphis Area Pet Health

Posted 10.29.15 by Emily Lindsey

Do I need to clean my dog’s ears?  Many dogs rarely, if ever, have their ears cleaned out.  And this can be okay.  However, there are some reasons in which you should make ear cleaning a routine part of your dog’s maintenance care.  You should always incorporate ear cleaning just before or after a bath.  Commercial ear cleaners have drying agents in them to  help get excess moisture out that you may inadvertently introduce during bathing.  Likewise, if you have a big swimmer, you should clean his/her ears regularly to help dry them out.  If you have a dog who is predisposed to ear infections (previous history of chronic infections, allergies, or a breed that is predisposed such as Cocker Spaniels), you should definitely add routine ear cleaning to your schedule.

How exactly do I clean the ears? Dogs and cats have an “L” shaped ear canal, consisting of first a vertical canal, then a horizontal canal.  So sometimes it can be a little difficult to get wax and debris out.

To start, get a general all purpose ear cleaner (unless your veterinarian has recommended something specific for your pet), as they are gentle and contain those drying agents we discussed earlier.  You may need someone to help hold your pet still.  With one hand, hold the tip of the ear up, then fill the canal with your cleanser.  Now take your free hand and squish around at the base of the ear.  This will often make a sloshing noise and sometimes your dog will even make noises like it feels good.  🙂 Take a tissue or piece of cotton, wrapped around the end of your finger, and gently wipe out the fluid.  Then allow your dog to shake any excess out.  Repeat on the other ear.


How often should I clean the ears? Unless otherwise directed by your veterinarian, most ears will be sufficiently maintained with monthly or bi-monthly cleanings.  I would recommend cleaning additionally whenever you bathe your dog or after they have been swimming.

I cleaned them yesterday and today, they’re full of gunk again.  Is that okay?  If there is more than a little dirt and wax present in your pet’s ears, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.  Likewise, if you clean them and they quickly look dirty again, there maybe a medical problem that should be addressed.  Other signs of an ear infection include redness of the pinna (inside of the ear), itchiness and pain.  If you ever suspect an ear infection, you should have your pet checked by yourveterinarian.  An ear swab cytology will likely need to be performed.  This is a procedure where we look at a stained sample under a microscope to determine what type of infection is present and how bad the infection is.  This tells us how best to treat your pet’s particular infection.  We always recommend repeating this swab with any infection your pet has, as no two infections are the same and we need to ensure that we are treating them properly.Otoscopy_dog

What about my cat, do I need to clean his/her ears too?  While cats can also have trouble with their ears, it’s much less common than in dogs.  Cats are also much more sensitive to ear cleanings and their ear drums are more fragile.  If anything, I recommend nothing more than gently wiping a cat’s ears with dry cotton or a tissue.  If you feel anything more is needed, you should have your veterinarian take a look.


-Dr. Amanda Shoemake

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