How often should you clean a dog’s ears?
Well, whenever they need cleaning. There’s no set rules such as weekly or monthly because some dogs rarely need their ears cleaned while others require frequent cleaning. The signs that a dog needs its ears cleaned are:
- Offensive smell from the ears
- Visible discharge (usually dark & oozy)
- Continual head shaking
In most cases, cleaning ears can be performed successfully without a full anaesthetic, though some owners themselves may require sedation! Once dogs become accustomed to having their ears cleaned, they learn to accept this without undue protest.
Cleaning ears takes two people. One person to hold the head still, preventing it from shaking the ear cleaning solution out. Apart from a helper you will also need a good quallity ear cleaner and a roll of cotton wool. Avoid cotton buds as these are unnecessary and potentially harmful.
Flood the ear canal with the ear cleaning solution and feed loose cotton wool to the canal and then pulling it out. The wax and grime will attach to the cotton wool. Repeat this process until the cotton wool come out clean. If symptoms, especially head shaking, continue despite frequent cleaning then a trip to the vet is required. The dog may have bacterial, fungal or even parasitic infection.
If the ears become a chronic problem, it can be due to one of three causes. Infection deep in the membranes of the ears is not an uncommon occurrence but it can’t be fixed by ear cleaning and the application of drops. Secondly, it may be that the dog has small (stenotic) ear canals that do not allow good ventilation and so keep the area continually moist. Finally, it could reflect the fact that the dog has a chronic skin problem.
Dogs with chronic dermatitis and who are fighting long term allergy situations will often have associated ear infections. In these cases, the owner may have to consider an ear resection to give as much permanent relief as possible.
If ears need to be cleaned weekly then a clear diagnosis is required and your vet is the best person to do this. Ear mites, fungi, bacteria, even foreign bodies can all be the cause of a continually smelly, discharging ear canal. Treatment may involve ear drops but could also include oral antibiotics or perhaps an anaesthetic to remove a grass seed wedged in the eardrum or penetrating the side of the ear canal.