Unless they swim frequently, most dogs’ ears remain healthy with a regimen of benign neglect. They rarely need to have their ears cleaned. “The normal ear comes with its own built in ear cleaning mechanisms,” says dermatologist William H. Miller, V.M.D, at Cornell. “If ear cleaners are used when they aren’t needed, they can damage the normal cleaning mechanisms.”
If your dog has a history of ear problems, it’s wise to check his ears weekly for signs of infection. Clean his ears only if his veterinarian recommends it for an active ear infection, or he is recovering from an ear infection or injury. Given the go-ahead, here’s what you should know:
- Use a mild cleanser made for dogs such as Oti-Clens, or other veterinarian cleaning product. You can purchase them through veterinarians and pet supply stores.
- Never clean ears with alcohol, which can sting or dry delicate ear tissue.
- You can use a cotton-tipped applicator to clean the folds and creases near the surface of the ear, but don’t push it into the ear canal. That can pack debris deeper into the ear.
- After he swims, thoroughly dry the interior of your dog’s ears. Depending on the ears’ sensitivity, and veterinary advice, treat them with a 50:50 or 25:75 solution of white vinegar and water to acidify the ear canal. The acidification helps to inhibit the growth of bacteria and yeast.
- Use one hand to tilt the dog’s head downward. With the other, squirt enough cleanser into the ear to fill it. Gently massage the outer part of the ear to move the fluid into the ear canal so it can loosen any dirt and debris inside.
When you’re done, stand back and let your dog shake his head. That helps to remove the dirt inside. Finally, wipe the ear with a cotton ball to remove any excess cleanser as well as any remaining debris the dog shakes loose.