Keeping your dog's ears clean is an important part of their overall health and grooming, and can prevent or treat potential health issues, such as an infection. However, cleaning your dog’s ears can be challenging—especially if you’ve never done it before.
Your vet can advise you on the frequency in which your pup’s ears need cleaning. Your dog’s ears may also need cleaning if they develop an infection.
Since proper ear care is a necessary when caring for your beloved pup, it’s important that it’s performed correctly to prevent injury or damage to your dog’s ears.
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Check your pet’s symptomShould You Clean Your Dog’s Ears?Your veterinarian can help you decide if—and how often—you should clean your dog’s ears. Your vet may ask you the following:
However, dogs that get water into their ears from either swimming or bathing will benefit from having their ears cleaned.
Dogs with allergies or ear infections will also benefit from routine ear cleaning. In fact, cleaning your pup’s ears can help prevent or reduce the frequency of ear infections.
Check your dog for earwax once a month. Your groomer may also perform a routine ear check.
Bath time provides a great opportunity to inspect your dog’s ears. You can also peek at them when you’re brushing your dog, or trimming their nails.
If you aren’t sure whether your dog should get their ears clean regularly, ask your vet to examine your pup. They can determine if there’s a reason to avoid ear cleanings.
Vets may recommend against routine ear cleanings at home for dogs with damage to their eardrum or pups that have an inflamed ear canal. Pups with trauma to the eardrum or ear canal need careful cleaning performed by their vet.
If ear cleaning at home isn’t recommended for your dog, your vet may also provide ear cleaning services. This may be a good option for dogs with an infection, other health issues, or if you are simply uncomfortable cleaning your dog’s ears.
When To Call Your VetIf your dog’s ears are red, painful, or have a bad odor, they may have an ear infection. If you spot these symptoms, don’t attempt to clean your dog’s ears. Contact your vet immediately.
Some ear infections can be minor, while others can be severe. Your veterinarian will guide you on the best course of treatment and follow-up care.
When To Clean Your Dog’s EarsThere’s no standard timeframe to follow for routine ear cleaning. However, if you notice a buildup of wax in your dog’s ear, it’s time to clean them.
Dogs are all unique and can develop wax in their ears based on their breed, health, and other factors. Your vet can help you determine a cleaning schedule that’s best for you and your pup.
Ear Cleansers for DogsIt’s important to only use a cleaner that’s approved specifically for dogs.
Don’t use household items like alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or essential oils. These materials will not efficiently clean your dog’s ears and may lead to ear infections or damage to their ear canal. An example of a recommended vet-approved ear cleaner is Virbac Epi-Otic® Advanced Ear Cleaner for Dogs & Cats.
When you clean your pup's ears, use clean cotton balls or cotton wipes.
Cotton swabs should never be used as they can push wax down into your dog’s ear canal, making it harder to dislodge the buildup in your pup's ear.
In fact, cotton swabs could potentially cause damage to the eardrum.
How To Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Make sure you have all your supplies within arm’s reach. Have a pet-approved cleaner, cotton balls or wipes.
Have support. If your dog is not used to ear cleanings, you may need another person to help hold them while you clean their ears. Restrain your dog by gently placing an arm around their neck to prevent your pup from pulling away. Use your other hand to gently stabilize their head or the back half of their body.Expect a mess. Until you know how much your dog will fight or wiggle, clean your dog’s ears outside or in a place that’s easy to clean. A towel may be helpful to keep the rest of their body clean.
Be gentle. Carefully hold the exterior floppy or erect portion of your dog’s ear, which is made up of hair, skin, cartilage, and blood vessels (pinnae). This will allow for entry to their ear canal.
Use your cleaner. Fill the ear canal with your vet-approved ear cleaner. Make sure the dog ear cleanser fills both the horizontal and vertical ear canal. Gently massage the base of your dog’s ear while slowly moving your hand upward so the entire ear canal is massaged.
Allow your pup to shake it out. Your dog will shake their head. Shaking lets your dog expel most of the cleaner and wax on their own.
Clean up. Use a clean cotton ball to wipe out as much of the ear canal as you can see. Don’t shove the cotton ball into your dog’s ear. This will avoid injury and the cotton ball from getting stuck. Repeat the flushing and wiping process until the cotton ball is clean and there’s no more visible discharge in your pup’s ear canal. If there is a lot of debris, you may need to flush three to four times.
Keeping your dog’s ears clean isn’t just a matter of hygiene—it will help you notice problems early.
If you notice things like redness, frequent heavy debris, odor, or pain, it's time to move past your routine cleaning at home and contact your veterinarian.
This can help you to nip a problem in the bud and prevent a more severe infection and pain from developing in your pup.
Joel DeJaynes, DVMVeterinarian
6 Tips for Keeping Your Dog Safe Around a Christmas Tree; By Hanie Elfenbein, DVM. Reviewed by Sandra C. Mitchell, DVM, DABVP
The winter holidays are a magical time, punctuated with glittering lights, shimmering ornaments, Christmas trees, and brightly colored garlands. Not only are all these things fun for us, but they’re also intriguing to our pets. However, before you set up your tree and start taking out your decorations, take a moment to consider these Christmas tree safety tips to keep your pup happy, safe, and healthy throughout the holidays. Dog Christmas Tree Safety TipsIt can be very difficult to keep a young puppy away from the Christmas tree, particularly if this is their first Christmas. Even an older dog—who may have learned not to jump on the tree—can still be curious.
Here are a few pet safety hazards and precautions you should consider.
1. Don’t Let Them Chew on Branches and NeedlesA live tree can be especially dangerous to pets.
Dogs like to chew on a tree’s limbs, and the fir tree oils can be irritating to your pup’s mouth tissue, causing symptoms like drooling and vomiting. If your pet is chewing on the branches, there’s a pretty good chance that they are also swallowing the needles.
When ingested, pine needles can get caught in a dog’s intestinal tract, puncturing the lining or bunching together and causing an intestinal obstruction. Both can be fatal.
Additionally, you should be careful with artificial trees as pets are likely to chew those crunchy needles, too. These trees can cause the same kind of obstruction in a dog.
The best way of protecting your pup from these afflictions is limiting their access to the area around your Christmas tree.
Consider purchasing a dog-friendly gate or pen to surround the Christmas tree.
2. Don’t Let Them Ingest Fake SnowFake snow—also called flocking—is a popular Christmas tree decoration.
However, it can cause serious problems in pups when large amounts of it are swallowed.
If you’re going to have a tree in your home, it’s best to get a regular, non-flocked tree.
3. Keep Them Away From Christmas Tree WaterSome trees are treated with chemical preservatives to keep them fresh longer.
These chemicals drain into the water in the base of the tree, making the water poisonous to drink. Dogs will drink the water if the base of a tree is left uncovered.
You should cover your tree’s water with a tree skirt, towel, plastic wrap, or aluminum foil.
However, putting a gate or pen around your tree is the safest and best preventative of toxicity in pups.
4. Maintain a Barrier for Christmas Tree LightsChristmas lights should be positioned away from the bottom of the tree.
Electric cord injuries will damage a dog’s mouth tissue and can lead to long-term problems eating, difficulty breathing, and even death.
Regularly check the electric light cords frequently for signs of chewing (which is also a fire hazard).
To ensure your pup’s safety, put a gate or pen around your tree. You can also buy plastic fish tank tubing, split them, and cover your lights. This makes them much more chew-proof.
5. Keep Ornaments Out of Reach
Hang your ornaments on the uppermost branches of your tree and tightly secure them on the branches. It’s better if you select tree ornaments that don’t easily shatter.
For delicate glass, treasured, or priceless ornaments, consider creating an area where they can be displayed that is far out of reach of your dog's tail, paws, or mouth.
You can hang these from a garland that’s placed across a mantel, over a doorway or window, or you can hang them in shadowboxes on the wall.
6. Remove the Threat of Tinsel, Strings, and Candy CanesTinsel is one of the most dangerous tree decorations you can choose.
If your pet ingests even a few strands of tinsel, they are highly likely to develop an intestinal obstruction.
This also occurs when edible ornaments—such as popcorn and cranberry strings and candy canes—are ingested by your pup.
These strings can tear a dog’s intestines and can be fatal. Leave these decorations off your tree.
Other decorations that can be deadly to dogs (and children) include:
By following these tips, you can be confident in creating a happy, healthy holiday season with your furry, four-legged family member.
Hanie Elfenbein, DVM, Veterinarian
Dr. Elfenbein graduated from the University of California, Davis School of Veterinary Medicine in 2016. She currently practices in...