Helen Says: “Listen Up: Ear Health Matters!”


Your dog’s ears are not just for listening—they play a crucial role in maintaining overall health. Keeping ears clean and infection-free is vital for your pet’s quality of life. Neglecting ear health can lead to infection, hearing impairment or in extreme cases, even complete hearing loss.

According to the American Kennel Club (AKC), dogs are more prone to ear infections than humans because of the shape of their ear canals. “The canine ear canal is more vertical than that of a human, forming an L-shape that tends to hold in fluid…Ear infections are typically caused by bacteria, yeast or a combination of both. In puppies, ear mites can also be a source of infection.”

Learning how and when to properly inspect and safely clean your dog’s ears is an important part of your pup’s at-home care.

Some pups, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, may require more frequent ear cleaning and maintenance, as their long ears make them more prone to developing ear infections. Other dogs may rarely need ear cleanings. Paying close attention to your pup’s ear health will help prevent infections and other complications before they become serious.

If your dog usually loves having their ears touched and suddenly pulls away from affection, they might be experiencing some ear pain. Regular gentle handling of your pup’s ears will show you what their healthy ears look like, making it easier for you to know when something’s off. According to the AKC, a dog’s healthy ears should be “pink, odorless, and not dirty or inflamed.” If you notice any changes in appearance, smell or touch sensitivity, it’s time for a cleaning.

Cleaning your dog’s ears must be done with care. Use an ear cleaning solution recommended by your veterinarian and a soft, lint-free cloth or cotton ball. Do not use cotton swabs or anything with a pointed tip, as these can push debris further into the ear canal.

Gently squeeze the cleaning solution into your dog’s ear canal and massage it into the base of their ear. Make sure not to touch the applicator directly to your dog’s skin to prevent the transfer of bacteria. The solution will work to clear out any wax, debris, and buildup. Let your pup shake their head to empty the excess product from their ears. Finally, take your cloth or cotton ball and gently wipe out their ear canal. When in doubt, your groomer or veterinarian will happily demonstrate the proper cleaning technique for your pooch.

While regular cleaning is essential, overcleaning can strip the ear of its natural oils, leading to dryness or irritation. Cleaning your dog’s ears too often could even cause an infection, so consult with your groomer or veterinarian to determine an appropriate cleaning schedule for your dog’s specific needs.

Aside from frequent checks and cleanings, another important measure in preventing infections is keeping your dog’s ears dry, especially if they have floppy ears that trap moisture. Use a clean, dry cloth to gently pat the ears dry after baths, swimming or outdoor activities in wet conditions. This will prevent harmful infection-causing bacteria from building up in their ear canals.

Some dogs show no symptoms of ear infection but others experience significant discomfort. According the AKC, dogs with an ear infection may exhibit one or more of these signs:• Head shaking

  •  Scratching at the affected ear
  • Dark discharge
  • Odor
  • Redness and swelling of the ear canal
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Crusting or scabs in the ears

If you notice any of these issues, consult a veterinarian immediately. Early intervention is key to preventing more serious problems including an infection spreading to the inner or middle ear. A veterinarian can determine what type of infection your dog has and prescribe an appropriate treatment plan. Never try to treat your dog’s ear infection at home without first consulting your veterinarian.

Maintaining your dog’s ear health is an essential part of responsible pet ownership. Dog’s Day Out can be your partner in keeping your pup’s ears clean, healthy, and infection-free. Our full service bathing and grooming services include thorough ear cleaning. Or we can do just an ear cleaning on a walk-in (no appointment needed) basis. Either way, our professional team members are here to provide guidance and help ensure your furry friend’s ears remain SIMPLY EAR-RESISTIBLE.

The advice provided is based on many years of experience as dog parents and operators of one of the largest and longest established dog daycare and boarding facilities in the Twin Cities. Always consult your veterinarian. When not sharing advice, our dog bloggers — Frannie, Lyle, and Helen — share a space with their people, Downtown Dogs owner Ralph Bernstein and his wife, Abbe.