Ear Cleaning Made Easy

By Emily Hoppmann, DVM

At Elgin Veterinary Hospital when a patient is not feeling well our goal is to not only diagnosis and win the battle against the current illness, but also to help prevent it from coming back! Ear infections are one of the top reasons for repeat veterinary visits, so it is even more important to cure the current infection, and address the underlying reason(s) for the ear infection. If the underlying reason is not managed a pet will continue to have returning ear infections and these chronic infections can lead to much more serious diseases and changes within the ear itself. Chronic changes within the ear can result in medical therapy no longer being an effective treatment option, meaning the patient has no other alternative than to have the ear problems addressed surgically. The most common underlying causes that can contribute to ear infections are environmental allergies, swimming and other activities involving water (such as bathing/grooming), the breed of the dog and the genetic makeup of the dog. Developing a strategy to prevent full blown ear infection not only helps decrease the pain and discomfort your pet experiences due to the infection, but also helps decrease the frequency of trips to the veterinarian to address the same issue over and over.

Using the medicated ear wash we recommend to clean your pet’s ears regularly is a great way to help prevent ear infections and other potential problems that can result from ear infections, such as neurologic disease. The anatomy of a dog’s ear is not the same as a human’s ear making it harder to see and recognize early signs of infection. A dog’s ear canal is L-shaped, so often times infection in the ear does not become apparent until the infection has become more severe and starts to involve the entire ear. Some signs of a possible ear infection include an unpleasant odor, discharge (that returns even with cleaning), scratching at ears/neck, shaking head, and pain. Animals instinctually hide illness and pain very well, making it even harder to catch problems early. A few of the signs that can indicate pain include panting, restlessness, not wanting to play and/or your pet isolating himself from rest of the family. At home ear cleaning helps to eliminate multiple types of bacteria and fungus that cause infection, inflammation and pain in the ear.

These are the steps we recommend for the easiest and safest way to clean your dog’s ears. However, if at any time during the process of an ear cleaning, you feel your pet becomes overly aggressive or you feel that the process is too painful for your pet, stop immediately and give us a call.

Step 1: Find the perfect ear cleaning space.
– This is a very important step in the ear cleaning process. You ideally want to find a space where your pet can either sit or lay comfortably, while still giving you room to clean the ears and not ruin your white couch
– After picking the right space and being sure you have everything you need nearby, you are ready to start the ear cleaning process.

Step 2: Ear cleaning process.
– Position yourself on the side of your pet opposite from the ear you are cleaning
– Gently wrap one arm under your dog’s neck and hold the ear flap up and out of your way.
– Use your other hand to gently squeeze the ear cleaning solution into your pet’s ear canal until the canal is filled to the brim. o It is best to keep the cleaning solution at room temperature and to squeeze the solution gently into the ear canal to prevent irritating or causing discomfort to your
– Next, fold your pet’s outer ear flap back down covering the opening to the canal. Then, gently massage the solution into the deeper part of your pet’s ear. To do this, gently compress the base of the ear, which runs down the neck.
After the solution is massaged into the deeper part of the ear, allow your pet to shake his head to release some of the solution
– Finally, wipe away any discharge.  This can be done by gently wiping the visible parts of the ear with a tissue or soft rag. Do not use anything sharp, such as a q-tip, that can fit down into the canal and rupture your pet’s ear drum.

Step 3: Praise your pet for being such a great patient!
– Be sure to give your pet positive reinforcement and approval after ear cleanings. With consistent positive reinforcement, your pet will come to realize that ear cleanings come with a reward!  To avoid obesity, it is best to reward your pet with verbal praise instead of a high calorie treat. If your pet is especially food motivated, using a kibble of your pet’s food, plain Cheerios or fruit and vegetables can be low-calorie rewards.