While grooming and taking care of pooches, one of the most important thing that many pet owners miss is caring for the dog’s ears. Like humans, even the dog’s ears and eyes are very sensitive and need regular care. While dogs with straight and upright ears are less prone to ear infections, dogs with floppy and long ears have higher risk of ear irritation and infection. You may ask why..

Sunlight is very important for dogs as it helps in keeping dog’s skin healthy. Sunlight also keeps the skin free from moisture, fungus and bacterial / yeast formation. While dogs with upright ears get enough exposure to sunlight, the dogs with floppy ears do not receive sun exposure into their ear canals tend to stay moister and therefore they need more care.

Anatomy of a dog’s ear

The ear has 3 major parts:

  • outer ear
  • middle ear
  • inner ear

dogearThe outer ear consists of the ear flap (also called the pinna) which can be upright (a prick ear) or floppy. The ear flap funnels sound into the ear canal. Unlike humans that have a very short ear canal, dogs have a long narrow ear canal that makes almost a 90 degree bend as it travels to the deeper parts of the ear.

The outer ear canal is separated from the middle ear by a thin membrane called the eardrum or tympanic membrane. The ear drum is very fragile and can be damaged by ear disease or during ear cleaning. The middle ear consists of 3 small bones, an air filled cavity called the bulla and a thin tube (the Eustachian tube) leading from the bulla to the back of the mouth.

The inner ear connects to the brain and contains nerves and centers for balance and hearing. The following picture shows a diagram of the right ear as it appears if you are looking at the dog’s head from the front.

The Inner ear problems

Because of the twisty, curvy design of a dog’s inner ears, it’s easy for parasites, bacteria and yeast to hide and thrive in them. This also means that any debris in the canal must work its way up to escape. Infections can result from trapped debris. Dogs with allergies are particularly vulnerable, as are those with floppy ears, like Cocker spaniels, basset hounds and poodles.

11Signs that your dog’s ears need special attention

  • Redness around the flaps and outer ear canals
  • Discharge emitting from ear canals
  • Strong pungent odor emitting from your dog’s ear canals
  • When your dog is profusely shaking his or her ears too frequently
  • When your dog is constantly scratching his or her ears
  • Trying to rub ears on rough surfaces
  • Lopsided head: If your dog’s head seems slightly heavy and droopy on one side
  • Hair inside the hair turns brick red. This is a sign of yeast infection

The most common problems in dog’s ears start from fungal and yeast infection to infection generated from too much scratching. Many a times these problems begin because of allergic reaction of flea bites. Parasites like ear mites that tend to attack the inner ear canal are also responsible for a lot of ear irritation and also leading to infection.

To keep your dog’s ear healthy you have to constantly check for these warning signs and also keep cleaning your dog’s ears.

Ear cleaning basics

dog-ear-cleaning2-178831582-tspYour dog’s regular grooming/maintenance routine should include regular ear checks. This is especially important for dogs that produce excessive earwax or have a lot of inner-ear hair:

If your dog’s inner ears appear dirty, clean them with a cotton ball dampened with mineral oil, hydrogen peroxide or a solution formulated specifically for this purpose. Inner-ear skin is delicate, so allow your vet to demonstrate the proper method for cleaning your dog’s ears.

Do not clean your dog’s ears so frequently or deeply as to cause irritation, and take care to NEVER insert anything into your dog’s ear canal.

If your dog sprouts hair from his ear canal, you or your groomer may have to tweeze it out every few weeks to prevent problematic mats and tangles from forming. Please discuss with your vet whether this is necessary for your dog.


Ear cleaner

Cotton wool



There are various types of ear cleaners, but the most important thing is that you only use a good quality dog ear cleaner.

 Never put olive oil, vinegar, shampoo or any other substance in a dog’s ear. Also avoid poking around with cotton buds in the ear, you will only work any wax and debris further in and potentially damage the ear drum.


Firstly if your dog has very red, itchy, inflamed and painful ears, see your Vet before you start cleaning. It is quite likely your dog has an ear infection, so ear cleaning will not do much good at this point. If your dog has an infection severe enough to damage the ear drum, some ear cleaners can damage the ear further.

Ear cleaning can be a messy job, so find somewhere in the house that is easy to clean and avoid wearing your best Prada for an ear clean.

  1. Give your pet a treat for sitting and show him the ear cleaner.
  2. Gently hold the flap of the ear upright and fill the ear canal with ear cleaner. Direct the tube vertically downwards.
  3. Keep a hold of the ear and move your hand down to where the ear meets the head.
  4. Massage at the base of the ear, aiming to mix the ear cleaner around within the ear canal. You should get a great squelchy noise if you are doing this correctly.
  5. After you have massaged the ear for 20 seconds, stand back and let go of the ear.
  6. Your dog should now vigorously shake his head.
  7. Grab some cotton wool and use it to wipe out the folds at the opening of the ear canal until it looks pretty clean.
  8. Give your dog a treat and repeat with the other ear.

Check this video out to see how it is done: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4odbAlDRiz0

The key with ear cleaning is to use a large amount of ear cleaner. As the ear canals are quite long, the wiping step is not to get all the ear discharge out. The idea is that when you massage, you will be breaking up the discharge lining the inside of the ear canal, so that it forms a solution with the ear cleaner. Your pet can then shake the liquid out.

Remember if you see lots of redness, the ears are particularly smelly or they are painful, see your Vet. Your pet most likely has an ear infection and ear cleaning may be too painful and damaging to perform.

Use Hypoallergenic ear wipes regularly to keep the outer flap and ear canals dry and clean.

Please also be aware that brown or black ear wax—and dry, dark wax resembling coffee grounds—are classic indicators of microscopic ear mites. Only your vet can tell for sure, so please don’t delay bringing a gooey-eared pooch in for a checkup.

Ending note

Most dogs will come to like ear cleaning, so long as their ears are comfortable. This is the one place that dogs can’t scratch themselves, so most will absolutely love it. With lots of treats and encouragement, ear cleaning can become a part of your regular hygiene routine.