Dogs are known for being a man’s best friend, and as part of their health care routine, it’s important to check their ears regularly.
This handy, pet parent-friendly guide will teach you how to clean dog ears properly, depending on their breed and lifestyle. In it, we’ll cover the mechanics of a dog’s ear and the role they play in your pooch’s overall hearing health.
We’ll also go over how to spot signs of an ear infection and other ear troubles in your best four-legged pal, how different types of dog ears need an altered cleaning approach, and how you can make the whole experience as calming and stress-free as possible.
So, if you’re looking for a one-stop-shop that’ll teach you all you need to know about how to clean dog ears – good news, you’ve found it! So, let’s get to it:
How Do Dogs Hear? And Why Do They Need Clean Ears?
It’s no surprise that your dog’s hearing is extremely crucial, both for their day-to-day life and their relationship with their favorite human family!
We’ve all heard the term ‘dog whistle’ and in popular culture, dogs are often depicted as having very sensitive hearing. But exactly how important is a dog’s hearing for its survival, and how does that differ from us humans? Let’s examine some of the differences:
The main difference is in the quality of sound – dogs have much better hearing than we do! They can hear sounds at a frequency of up to 60,000 hertz (Hz), whereas the average human can only detect frequencies up to 20,000 Hz. This means that dogs can hear sounds that we can’t even begin to comprehend (let alone strain to hear).
Dogs use their sense of hearing for more than just detecting potential threats or incoming predators. They also use it to communicate with each other and develop social bonds within their pack.
A dog’s hearing is so sensitive that they can actually pick up on very subtle changes in pitch and intonation, allowing them to tune right into human emotions like happiness, sadness, anger, and fear.
The Different Parts of a Dog’s Ear & the Anatomy of a Good Clean
Now that we know how important a dog’s hearing is, let’s take a look at how their ears work:
A dog’s ear is made up of three main parts – the outer ear (also called the pinna), the middle ear, and the inner ear. The outer ear is the part that we can see on the side of a dog’s head, its main function is to capture sound waves and direct them into the ear canal.
The shape of a dog’s outer ear can vary greatly depending on the breed of the dog, but all dogs have one thing in common – they have very long and narrow ear canals. This makes them susceptible to dirt, debris, and wax build-up, which can lead to infection if not cleaned regularly.
The middle ear is located behind the outer ear and contains three tiny bones (the incus, malleus, and stapes) that transmit sound vibrations from the ear canal to the inner ear.
The inner ear is where these vibrations are converted into electrical impulses that are sent to the brain, where they are interpreted as sound. The inner ear also contains the vestibular system, which helps to maintain balance and equilibrium.
How to Spot the Signs That It’s Time to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Now that we know how a dog’s ear works, let’s take a look at some of the signs that indicate it’s time for a good clean. If you notice any of the following:
- Excessive scratching or head shaking
- Redness or swelling of the outer ear flap
- Brown or yellow discharge from the ears
These are all strong indications that your pup needs to have their ears cleaned. Additionally, keep a close eye out if your dog seems to be in pain or acting differently than usual. This could signal ear trouble and it might be time for a trip to the vet.
Check for signs of ear mites too, which include black or brown discharge and crusty skin inside the ear canal. Signs of allergies affecting your dog’s ears are also important to watch for, like redness, itchiness, and hair loss around the ear area.
How Often Do a Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning?
If your dog’s ears are healthy and clean, you should be able to see the tympanic membrane (aka the eardrum). This is a thin, translucent layer that separates the middle ear from the outer ear canal. If you can’t see this membrane, it’s a sign that there’s too much wax build-up.
How often you need to clean your dog’s ears will also depend on their breed and lifestyle. For example, dogs with long or floppy ears are more prone to ear infections and will need their ears cleaned more often.
Likewise, dogs that swim or have allergies may also need their ears cleaned more frequently. In general, it’s a good idea to check your dog’s ears once a week to see what condition they’re in and if a clean is needed.
Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears Safely and Effectively: Tips, Tools & Techniques
Cleaning your dog’s ears can be a delicate and daunting task for any pet parent, especially if you’ve never done it before or if your pup is particularly sensitive. It always helps to have the following supplies to hand:
- A dog-friendly ear cleanser (never use human ear drops!)
- Cotton balls or gauze pads
- A soft, clean cloth
If you’re using a liquid ear cleanser, follow the instructions on the bottle for how to apply it. If you’re using a dry powder cleanser, simply lift your dog’s ear flap and sprinkle a small amount into the ear canal. Once you’ve applied the cleanser, gently massage your pup’s outer ear for 30 seconds to help loosen any wax build-up.
Next, take a cotton ball or gauze pad and carefully wipe away any discharge from inside the ear canal. Be careful not to go too deep – only clean the parts of the ear that you can see! Once that’s done, use a soft, clean cloth to wipe away any residue from the ear cleanser.
For the inner ear, you can use a dog-friendly ear flush to help remove any remaining wax or debris. Once you’ve done that, let your pup shake their head to remove any excess fluid. Finally, use a clean cloth to wipe away any residue. When you’re cleaning the outer ear, only use gentle, circular motions – and avoid using cotton swabs as this could cause serious damage.
If you’re struggling to get your dog to sit still during the cleaning process, try wrapping them in a towel or have someone help hold them steady. It’s also a good idea to give your pup a treat afterward to encourage positive reinforcement.
Grab their favorite squeaky toy, take them on their favorite walkies, or let them chew on an extra juicy bone after you’re done cleaning. This will help ensure they’ll be much happier to let you clear out their lug holes next time around!
Watch Out for These Puppy Pitfalls When Learning How to Clean Dog Ears
There’s a lot involved in cleaning your perfect pooch’s ears safely. You’ve got to be thorough, sensitive, and careful. For a better result, try to avoid these common mistakes:
- Not checking for debris, such as grass seeds, beforehand. This can result in your dog’s ear becoming irritated and sore.
- Applying too much pressure when cleaning. This can cause damage and swelling in your pup’s ear.
- Not rinsing off the cleanser properly. This can leave your dog’s ears feeling itchy and uncomfortable.
- Using cotton swabs. These are very dangerous for your dog’s ears and should never be used.
How Can I Prevent Ear Infections and Hearing Problems in My Dog?
The best way to prevent ear infections and hearing problems in your dog is to keep their ears clean and dry. If you notice any discharge, redness, or swelling, make sure to clean their ears and contact your vet as soon as possible. You should also avoid using Q-tips or cotton swabs inside the ear canal as this could cause irritation or damage.
If your dog enjoys swimming, make sure to dry their ears thoroughly afterward – you can even use a hairdryer on a low setting if necessary. And last but not least, try to avoid using harsh chemicals or cleaners around your pup’s ears.
Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this handy guide for pet parents on how to clean dog ears safely and effectively. If it’s your first time or you’re having trouble settling your pup, just remember to go slowly and be gentle with them – and with yourself. And as always, if you have any major concerns, be sure to contact your veterinarian for specific advice. Happy cleaning!