Many pet owners do not realise how important keeping their dog's ears clean is in preventing ear infections.
Since your dog should have their ears cleaned regularly, it makes sense that you properly desensitise them so that this is less of a chore, and we show you how.
All you need are a few tools and a bit of patience, as we show below.
Ear Cleaning and Your Dog’s Health
You should clean your dog’s ears regularly. Most dogs need to have their ears cleaned once per month. However, your dog’s needs may differ based on their breed and activity level. For example, a dog that swims frequently may need more cleanings than a dog who is high and dry.
Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly will prevent the development of ear infections. Ear infections, while generally easy to clear up, can be dangerous to your dog. Multiple ear infections can potentially lead to a chronic issue. Dogs with chronic ear infections can be prone to partial or complete hearing loss. To prevent these potentially dangerous infections, we should make sure we clean our dog’s ears frequently. The best way to ensure we clean our dog’s ears is to make the process easier for our dogs and ourselves!
Desensitizing Your Dog to Ear Cleaning
Your dog will be uncomfortable while you are cleaning its ears. Because we cannot communicate freely with our pets it is important to show them that they are in no danger. To do this we must teach them how to tolerate ear cleaning. The process of desensitizing our dogs to ear cleaning is best done slowly, and at their own pace. The point of the process is to reduce the amount of discomfort for your dog. Letting them become acclimated to all the steps of ear cleaning, one at a time, should reduce overall stress.
Teaching Your Dog to Tolerate Handling
The first, and most important, step is to make sure your dog is comfortable being handled. Dogs are not naturally inclined to having their faces grabbed at. This is why we need to slowly teach our dogs to let us touch and move their faces. The biggest mistake dog owners make is throwing a dog headfirst into a new stimulus. Exposure is only half the battle in desensitization! We must pair the stimulus (touching of the face) with reinforcement (food). By adding food to the equation, we create an association between being handled and good things happening.
The simplest way to achieve this is to start by holding your dog’s head. Only hold their head for one or two seconds, then let go and reinforce with a treat. Repeat this until your dog appears comfortable. Once your dog is comfortable, hold them still for an additional second or two. Continue to increase the amount of time you manipulate your dog, and practice moving their head around with your hands. You should only move on to the next step when your dog seems entirely comfortable.
Teaching Your Dog to Tolerate Ear Manipulation
The next important step is teaching your dog to accept having their ears touched. Lightly hold your dog’s ear for a moment, then let go and reinforce with a treat. Once they are comfortable with that, move on to looking in their ear. The next step should be holding their ear open, then applying gentle massaging pressure to the ear. You should also practice gently wiping the interior of the ear with a cotton ball.
When working on any type of desensitization, you should ensure there is enough variability. We want to be able to prevent our dogs from guessing our next move. Do not continually increase the amount of time you manipulate your dog’s face or massage their ear. If you do, each time you go to practice, your dog will be expecting longer and longer discomfort. Instead, make sure you vary the amount of tolerating your dog has to do. When you begin to build up your dog’s training to long periods of time, alternate short practices as well. This will keep your dog from anticipating a long, boring, uncomfortable training session.
Tools of the Trade
Now that your dog is comfortable with being handled, we can begin the ear cleaning process. The first step is to make sure you have everything you need readily available. It would be very unfortunate to fill your dog’s ears with solution, and then realize you have nothing to clean it up with!
Ear Cleaning Solution
Choose an ear cleaning solution made specifically for pets or dogs. Your cleaning solution should be mild, and free of any potentially harmful chemicals. You should stay away from products that use vinegar, alcohol, or hydrogen peroxide, to prevent irritation. Your best choice is an ear cleaner that breaks down wax and helps dry the ear canal. We like OmegaPet dog ear cleaning solution that dries and cleans the ear canal.
You will also need cotton balls to remove the excess wax. Choose soft, round, cotton balls. Do not use cotton swabs on your dog’s ears, or your own ears! They can potentially damage the sensitive skin in the ear canal, or rupture the eardrum. You can choose standard cotton balls from the drug store, or you can purchase finger pads made especially for ear cleaning.
Preparing to Clean Your Pet’s Ears
Before beginning the ear cleaning process, make sure the surrounding area is prepared. You should remove any access hair in or around the entrance to the ear canal. Ear canals that are blocked by matted or excess hair cannot receive enough airflow to keep the ear canal dry. This can increase the likelihood of wax build up and ear infections.
How to Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears
Carefully drip a small amount of ear cleaning solution into the ear canal. Choose an amount that just fills the ear canal, without overflowing out of the ear. Very gently massage the base of your dog’s ear for about twenty seconds. Allow your dog to shake their head to remove the fluid. This shaking should help loosen the wax and bring it out of the ear canal. Take your cotton ball and gently swipe the inside of the ear to remove any excess cleaning solution and wax.
Signs of Potential Ear Infection
If your dog shows signs of a potential ear infection you should seek veterinary attention as soon as possible. Simple ear cleaning solution is not enough to kill the bacteria associated with an ear infection. Some signs of ear infection include:
- Pain while massaging the base of the ear during cleaning
- Red coloration in the ear canal
- Lumps or swelling
- Scratching at ears
- Discharge or odor coming from the ears
- Sensitivity or pain associated with ear manipulation
On one hand, we know to take our dogs to the vet for check-ups and to feed them daily, but we fail to provide them with important preventative health measures like tooth care and ear cleaning.
Regularly cleaning your pups ears can help prevent ear infections and discomfort. By slowly teaching your dog to tolerate ear cleaning, the process can be incredibly simple and easy for you to complete. It is always important to watch your dog carefully for any signs of pain or distress. If your dog appears distressed they could have an infection, or you could be moving too quickly in the training process. Always maintain your dog’s pace, and their preventative health should be a breeze for both of you!
- 1 Ear Cleaning and Your Dog’s Health
- 2 Desensitizing Your Dog to Ear Cleaning
- 3 Tools of the Trade
- 4 Preparing to Clean Your Pet’s Ears
- 5 How to Cleaning Your Pet’s Ears
- 6 Signs of Potential Ear Infection
- 7 Summary