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How do I clean my dog's ears?

My dog's ears seem to develop some kind of build up in them. Lately he also has been scratching his ears a lot. Could his ears need cleaning out?

Many people may not realize that routine grooming is an important part of caring for one's pet. More frequent ear cleaning may be required for dogs that suffer from ear infections.

My first recommendation is to have your veterinarian check your dog's ears for infection, mites and other problems. You can often tell if there is something wrong by smelling the ear area. If you smell a bad odor, chances are that there is something going on in the ear canal. If your dog is scratching at the ears or shaking his head, the problem is severe enough to be causing some discomfort. There are different products used to clean the ears.

Please consult your veterinarian about the appropriate cleaning agent for your dog's ears. Most veterinarians will be more than happy to demonstrate an effective, painless cleaning method. I will provide a short overview for you. Either squirt the cleaner into the ear canal or soak a cotton ball with the solution and put it into the ear canal. Gently massage the ear at its base to distribute the cleaner for about 60 seconds. Use your finger and cotton balls to clear the cleaner and debris from the ear canal. Wipe the ear from front to back. Repeat this process until the cotton balls no longer appear dirty after wiping the ear. Allowing your dog to shake his head in between these steps may help loosen any debris that is deeper in the canal--just be sure to plan ahead for a mild mess. Avoid using Q-Tips, as you can puncture your dog's eardrum with them. Use your pinky and smaller pieces of cotton to clean the many crevices.

If your veterinarian prescribes any topical ear medications for your dog, apply it once the ear is clean. Your veterinarian will recommend how often you should clean and medicate the ears. For more information about the importance of general grooming, please see our VetCentric Magazine article titled, "The Medical Importance of Keeping Your Pet Well-Groomed."