Ear Cleaning at Home

Pet Tales
by Barry B. Burtis D.V.M.

Ear problems are certainly one of the more common health issues that can affect dogs. Bacteria and yeast can cause ear infections. Wax accumulation in the ear canal can be a cause of irritation or discomfort on its own or act as a predisposing factor for infections. Skin allergies can cause inflammation, itchiness and irritation and often increase wax build-up in one or both ears. Sometimes, all the preceding problems can occur at the same time. Needless to say, the result can be most distressful for both the dog and its concerned owner.

Consultation with a veterinarian is usually necessary to properly diagnose the cause of the problem and develop an appropriate treatment plan. However, regardless the nature of the problem, almost always, one aspect of the care will be to thoroughly clean the affected ear(s). Very often some of this cleaning will be done under veterinary supervision, but, it is most likely the owner will be advised to continue regular cleaning of their dog's ears at home. Here are some ear cleaning instructions for clients that may be helpful in accomplishing this goal. The veterinarian will recommend the interval between cleanings likely to be required.

• Clean the outer part of the ear with ear cleanser and gauze/washcloth.
• Fill (to overflowing) the ear canal with the ear cleanser.
• Insert a cotton ball into the outermost part of the ear.
• Massage the ear canal for 10-15 seconds.
• Use your thumb or fingers in a rotating motion beginning at the base of the ear canal and work to move the ear solution up and out into the cotton ball.
• Be gentle ….. most dogs find this to be a pleasurable sensation.
• Remove the cotton ball - there should be debris/wax trapped in the material.
• If solution remains in the ear, insert another dry cotton ball and massage as above.
• If the cotton ball is dirty when removed, repeat the entire process, beginning with filling of the ear canal with ear cleanser.
• Repeat until the cotton ball is clean
• You may use a cotton-tipped applicator to dry or clean the outer part of the ear. Do not insert the applicator down into the canal. Dogs do have a very long, deep ear canal, quite different from our own. Therefore the applicator would need to go down some distance to injure the ear drum; however, it is important to avoid any risk of this happening.
• If the dog experiences any pain during this cleaning process, stop and consult your veterinarian.
• Do not apply medications prior to ear cleaning or within 1 hour (after) of cleaning the ears

Cleaning a pet's ears may be something that neither the pet nor their owner really looks forward to. Nevertheless, it can be a very important part of treating ear problems and be very helpful in reducing the danger of recurrence of a problem. Just as it is with other grooming measures, such as brushing teeth and trimming nails, the earlier in life you familiarize your pet with ear care, the better. If your dog has healthy ears there may be a very minimum of regular care required throughout its life.  However, it is a very good idea to introduce your pup to the handling and acceptance on their part that is required, should such measures become necessary later in life.