We love our dogs and want to take the best care of them, but we have to always keep in mind that they belong to a different species than we do. Many of their features are very dissimilar from ours. We all remember as kids being warned that we should “wash behind our ears”. How about dogs? How often should their ears be cleaned?
A healthy dog that spends most of her time indoors, may not require routine ear cleaning and probably will be fine with just wiping the ears out with a drying agent following her usual bath (see How Often Should I Bathe My Dog?).
If your dog likes to get very dirty, his ears will need to be wiped out each time he plays. Make sure that you use an approved ear cleanser that is tested and labeled for use in dogs. Homemade solutions with peroxide and/or vinegar are not recommended. The idea is to clean and dry out the ear canal, and most homemade solutions turn to water and do not evaporate well, leading to a worse environment than you started with. Terrible to think that you while you were trying to help, you created a problem!
If your dog gets wet (from a bath or a swim) a swimmer’s ear preparation can help dry out the excess moisture. It is best to use a swimmer’s ear astringent that is labeled for dogs since these have been tested for safety and comfort in dogs.
If you do plan to clean your dog’s ears, remember that dogs must be trained to accept this handling. Be patient when teaching a puppy to accept ear cleaning and do not force her if she is afraid. You can start by offering her favorite treat every time you touch her ears and advance from there. Be patient and always stop and go back to the step where she was comfortable if she resists.
Ear infections in dogs are some of the most common reasons for veterinary visits. Sometimes regular maintenance cleaning can help. Be aware that once your dog’s ears are infected, cleaning them out is not enough and you will have to visit your veterinarian for prescription medications. Ear infection (otitis externa) is a very common and painful condition, so if you notice that your dog seems uncomfortable when you handle her ears or you notice odor or discharge from the ears, stop reading right now and call your vet.
Make sure that you apply only what medications your vet prescribes for a particular infection and complete the protocol exactly as instructed (discarding any leftover medication at the end). Improperly managed otitis is a danger to us all because it exposes bacteria to antibiotics without killing them and they can become resistant. This is where our worst resistant bacteria come from and they threaten us all.
There is no rule of thumb for frequency of ear cleaning because every dog is different. Be sure that you are checking their ears everyday so that you will know if there is a dirty buildup that needs to be wiped away, and don’t forget, if your dog swims or plays in the dirt, he will need something done to maintain his ears every time.
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Note from iHeartDogs Team: If you’re looking for a safe, easy and natural way to clean your pup’s ears, checkout out our Project Paws™ ear cleaners in the iHeartDogs shop! All products are vet formulated, Made in the USA, and every purchase will help feed shelter dogs!