Failing to clean a pet’s ears is a mistake many pet owners make. While it might not seem like an important priority, roughly 20% of dogs will suffer from a painful and damaging ear infection at some point in their lives. Water seeping into the ear after a bath, or getting caught in the rain can lead to infection, bacterial growth, skin irritation, strong odors, and general discomfort for your pet. In order to avoid this kind of unpleasantness, it is important to know how to clean a dog or cat’s ears properly to stave off infections.

Necessary Tools for Keeping Ears Clean

To clean the ears of a cat or dog, you will need certain tools to make sure it is done efficiently and effectively. Some of these will include:

  • Gloves- These are to both protect your hands from bacteria, and to keep any germs on your fingers from getting into the ear or broken skin.
  • Disinfectant wipes- Wipes are useful for cleanse any surface area where waxy buildup, dead skin cells, dirt or dust may have collected, contributing to the irritation.
  • Cotton Q-Tips- When reaching into the tricky corners and creases of the ear, a hydrogen peroxide-dampened Q-Tip can reach into crannies where bacteria is growing.
  • Cotton ballsDuring bath time, placing a cotton ball or two in the pet’s ears will help block any moisture from getting in the eardrum.
  • Mineral oil or hydrogen peroxide – In the case of infection, both of these liquids will help disinfect and clean the area thoroughly without drying it excessively.
  • Other items: cod liver oil capsules, vitamin E oil, and apple cider vinegar, etc.

What To Do

Using a disinfectant wipe made for skin surfaces, wipe your dog or cat’s ears about once a week to help keep them clean. If the ears are healthy and uninfected, they should be able to dispose of excess wax without a problem, however if infection or irritation is beginning to develop, here are some helpful ways tips to treating the problem.

Using clean cloths, dampened with hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar, hold a hot compress against the ears so that the steam will help clean them and soften any hardened waxy build-up.

Some pet owners have found that swabbing vitamin E oil or cod liver oil on the inside of a pet’s ears after the compress help soothe the skin, while keeping the area free from bacteria.
Do allow your cat or dog to wag or shake his head as the ointment soaks into the ear.  This will loosen the wax, causing it to be more easily removed. Wipe the gunk away with a tissue or cotton swab, making sure to move slowly and gently as the area may be sensitive.

Be sure to dry your pet’s ears carefully whenever they are out of the bath, or if they have gotten wet, so that you decrease the chances of infection. While cleaning, avoid rough motions, or probing too deeply into the ear, as this can rupture the ear drum. If the redness, swelling, itchiness, or strong odor still exists a day or two after you have cleaned out the ear, arrange to see your vet as there might be another underlying problem.