Just about every dog owner has seen their beloved companion feverishly scratching at their ears. It usually only happens once in a while, but, in some instances, it can become a regular problem. What can be done? Well, if your dog seems to scratch far too often, you could make your own homemade dog ear cleaner to provide your pooch with some much-needed relief.
Read on and you’ll learn why your dog might be scratching so much and a simple trick for helping soothe your dog’s itchy ears.
Ear Infections in Dogs
Now, if your dog can’t seem to quit scratching their ears, an ear infection might be the culprit. Dogs with floppy ears (such as English Setters and Cocker Spaniels) have to deal with this problem on a regular basis, but it can happen regardless of breed.1 The type of infection that strikes dogs most often is known as otitis externa, which affects the outer portion of the ear canal.2
Unfortunately, this type of infection can be very painful for your pet. You might notice your dog shaking their head frequently, or moaning while scratching. These are signs that the infection has developed to the point to where the insides of their ears are likely inflamed and bright red. You might also notice a foul odor and discharge coming from one or both ears.3 (Learn more about ear infections in dogs here.)
Causes Of Ear Infections
There are many different causes of ear infections in dogs. Here are some of the more common ones.
There are good and bad bacteria in a dog’s body, just like a human’s. When the balance between good and bad is thrown off, an ear infection can result. One potential cause of an imbalance is a compromised immune symptom, which can lead to an overgrowth of the Staphylococcus bacteria.4
Yeast also lives in your dog’s ears. If this microscopic fungus grows out of control, your dog could get an ear infection. An infection caused by yeast is usually characterized by an accumulation of wax in your dog’s outer ear canal. It can also result in the formation of scabs. Dogs that are regularly in water are particularly susceptible to yeast infections. The water that gets trapped in their ear canals is a favorable breeding ground for yeast.5 (Read more about yeasty ears.)
If something gets into the ear, such as a tick, that can lead to severe irritation and, ultimately, an infection.6 When this happens, don’t try to remove the object yourself, because this could do more harm than good. Instead, you should take your dog to the vet right away.
Ear Infection Prevention
One way to help prevent infections is to make sure your dog’s ears are thoroughly cleaned on a regular basis. This can be easy to do, whether you use a homemade dog ear cleaner or buy one at the store.
Be warned: ear cleaning in dogs can get messy. Your dog will likely vigorously shake their head during the process, sending whatever ear cleaning solution you’re using all over the room. As you clean the ears, don’t dig into your dog’s ear canals with a Q-tip, because you could damage their eardrum.7
How to Flush Out Your Dog’s Ears
Flushing your dog’s ears will help clear them of debris, but you have to be careful. Some dogs dislike the process. And, if your dog’s ears are already inflamed, or have sores, flushing will be extremely painful for them.8 In this case, it’s best to get them to your veterinarian for an examination as soon as possible, because your dog may already have an ear infection.
Before you start the flushing process, make sure you have all of your supplies for a homemade dog ear cleaner on hand before you start, including:
- Cotton balls
- A bulb ear syringe filled with cleaning solution
- Towels for clean-up
- Wash your hands thoroughly, so that you don’t run the risk of adding germs to your pet’s ears. Put your arm around your dog’s head, or have someone else hold their head gently but firmly.
- Lift the ear to expose the ear canal and flush the outside with the solution. Then, quickly wipe away debris and wax with a cotton ball. Use a towel to soak up any liquid that remains in the canal.9
- To flush out the inside of the canal, place the tip of the syringe near the ear opening. Make sure you don’t go too deep into the ear canal. If you do, that could cause severe damage.
- Gently squirt the solution into the ear, and then massage the base of the ear near the jaw. If you can hear a “squishing” sound, that means the liquid is in the canal. Massaging helps loosen debris.
- Do this for a few seconds, and then release your dog and let them shake. That should clear the liquid from their ear canal.
Dry your dog’s ears, and then provide some praise and a treat.10
Easy DIY Dog Ear Cleaner
You can make a safe, effective dog ear wash at home, and you’ve got several options to choose from. Here are just a few:
You can also use a combination of olive, almond, and mineral oils as a natural dog ear cleaner. This can help stop the buildup of wax. To do this:
- Add a couple of drops of each oil to the outside of your dog’s ear canal.
- Wait until your dog shakes their head. This will spread the oil around the canal. If the dog doesn’t shake his or her head, massage the ears to help spread the oil.
- Use a cloth or cotton ball to remove the oil and any wax that has accumulated.11
Another effective, safe, DIY dog ear cleaner involves using a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water.
- Mix one part 3 percent hydrogen peroxide with one part water.
- Pour the mixture into a bulb ear syringe.
- Flush the dog’s ears with the solution.
- Wipe away the leftover solution from your dog’s ears.
Some vets believe that hydrogen peroxide could be harmful in certain situations because it not only kills the bacteria that cause an infection but sometimes it also gets good bacteria. In addition, hydrogen peroxide can leave water in the ear canal if not properly used. This could provide a breeding ground for any harmful bacteria that might survive the cleaning. Always speak to your veterinarian before using this method to make sure he or she says it will be safe for your dog’s specific situation.12
You can make a great dog ear wash using vinegar as the main ingredient, along with boric acid, iodine, and rubbing alcohol.
- Pour two ounces of white vinegar into a glass.
- Add a half a teaspoon of boric acid and a few drops of rubbing alcohol and iodine.
- Mix well by vigorously stirring.
- Dip a cotton ball into the mixture until it’s thoroughly soaked.
- Gently wipe the outer portion of your dog’s ear canal.
- Wipe the area with a damp washcloth.
Be very careful, however, not to use vinegar on a dog that has already developed an ear infection. If you suspect infection, take your dog to the vet.
Wrapping it Up
Dog’s ears, just like people’s ears, are self-cleaning, but there are times you might want to clean your pup’s out. Doing so can help clear your buddy’s ears of dirt, yeast, and bacteria that could lead to a painful, troublesome infection. If you’re not sure how often to clean your dog’s ears, talk to your veterinarian.