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When and how to clean your dog's ears

Taking care of your dog’s overall hygiene is one of the best ways of keeping them healthy, happy, and a pleasure to be around.

But although it’s easy to notice if your hound has halitosis, or if you’ve got a muddy mutt on your hands, dirty ears can be less easy to spot.

As a devoted dog owner, do you know how to clean a dog’s ears at home? How to spot tell-tale signs of common ear problems in dogs? Or what the best ear cleaner for dogs is?

Here’s everything you need to know.

How often should you clean your dog’s ears?

There’s no one-size-fits-all rule for how often a dog’s ears should be cleaned. Why? Because every dog is different.

Certain dogs – and certain breeds – will tend to have a higher likelihood of wax build-up and other ear complaints. This means their ears will require regular monitoring and cleaning, in addition to their usual vet check-ups.

For other dogs, ear care will be simpler. Particular breeds, with smaller and less floppy ears, will tend to be less susceptible to wax build-up and other issues. For these dogs, it might be best to clean their ears once a month instead of more frequently.


Different breeds have different needs


Just as longhaired and shorthaired dog breeds have different grooming needs, dogs with long, floppy ears and dogs with smaller, shorter ears have different ear hygiene requirements.

Why? Largely because floppy-eared breeds like beagles have less air moving in and out of their ears. This means bacteria are more likely to thrive, and wax build-up is more likely to be an issue.

For long-eared breeds, cleaning their ears once a week may be appropriate, but it’s best to get specific guidance from your vet.


Your dog’s lifestyle and history will also affect how often their ears should be cleaned


It’s not only your dog’s breed that affects how often you should clean their ears. The kind of lifestyle they lead, and their personal history with things like earwax build-up, play a major role too.

If your dog loves to swim, and regularly splashes about in pools, lakes, and ponds, it’s likely they’ll get water trapped in their ears. A warm and wet ear is perfect grounds for an infection to develop! So, dry their ears well after every swim and give them an additional ear clean as often as necessary.

Even if your dog is a certified landlubber, a history of allergies and ear infections may make them more susceptible to future issues and they may need more frequent cleans. As always, you should ask your vet for advice that’s tailored specifically to your dog’s needs.


Happy dog with perked up ears out on a hike

When will you know it’s time to clean your dog’s ears?


Your dog will often tell you when they need you to take a look at their ears. They probably won’t use words to let you know (but please email us if they do, that would be amazing), but the signs should be pretty clear nonetheless.

  • If your dog is pawing at their ears a lot, they might have excess earwax, an infection, or even a parasite such as a tick.
  • If your dog is shaking their head more than usual, they may have clogged or irritated ears that need cleaning, too.

Other signs that may be a bit less obvious include…

  • You notice a foul smell coming from your dog’s ears. This can indicate infection or a build-up of ear wax.
  • Your dog seems to be struggling to hear you. While this could be a sign of hearing loss, among other things, it can also indicate blocked ears that need cleaning.

As a general rule of thumb, you should clean your dog’s ears at least once a month, and you should consult with your vet immediately if you notice any signs of irritation, blockage, or infection.


Fluffy dog getting petted

How do you clean your dog’s ears?


Cleaning your dog’s ears is a pretty straightforward process. Here’s how it works and what to use to clean dogs’ ears…

  • Gently massage your dog’s ears for about 30 seconds to help soften and release trapped wax and debris. For more effective and thorough cleaning, use vet-recommended ear drops before massaging your dog’s ears.
  • Use a cotton ball, soft cloth, or wet wipe to gently clean the inside of your dog’s ear flap. Work your way from the entrance of the ear canal, out to the tips of the ears, to clear away wax and debris.
  • Clean behind your dog’s ears too, and gently clean folds and crevices.
  • When done, gently dry your dog’s ears with a soft, clean towel or cloth.


A few important points and “DO NOTS”


A dog’s ears are a very sensitive part of their body so it’s important to treat them gently. There are also a few easy-to-make mistakes to avoid.

So, when cleaning your dog’s ears…

  • Don’t use hydrogen peroxide – this can cause irritation and damage to the sensitive tissue in your dog’s ears. Stick to vet-recommended dog-friendly ear cleaners instead.
  • Don’t overclean their ears – cleaning your dog’s ears too often, or too aggressively, can cause irritation and even harm. If your dog’s ears seem red or irritated, you may be overdoing it. Check with your vet to be sure.
  • Don’t use cotton buds / Q-Tips on your dog’s ears – these can cause compacted ear wax, skin irritation, and other issues.
  • Only clean around the entrance to your dog’s ear canals – trying to clean the inside of the ear canal can cause various issues.
  • If anything seems wrong, or if you’re in any doubt at all, visit your vet – they’ll be able to advise you on the right steps to take and to treat your dog if necessary.
  • Don’t clean your young puppy’s ears as often as you would an adult dog’s (unless recommended by your vet) – and make sure you only use a gentle ear cleaner suitable for puppies. Getting your puppy used to you gently handling their ears can make the job easier in later life, though.


Maintaining your dog’s overall hygiene is one of the best ways of keeping them happy and healthy, and glowing all over! If you think your pup’s coat could use a bit of a boost, consider giving them YuMOVE Skin & Coat Care Boost, formulated to help maintain healthy skin, boost coat growth, and strengthen coat and nails.

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