If you own a dog or have taken care of one for an extended period of time, you probably know they need their ears cleaned out occasionally. If this is news to you, your dog may be overdue for an ear cleaning.
Your canine's ears can require cleaning for a number of reasons, including earwax buildup, hair growth and general dirt and grime.
In dogs, earwax buildup can cause health issues, including itchiness and ear infections, according to Veterinary Centers of America Hospitals.
How to clean dogs' ears
First, gather your supplies. Here's what you'll need, according to Hill's Pet Nutrition:
Cotton balls or gauze pads
Don't use hydrogen peroxide as an ear cleanser. It can irritate healthy skin cells, according to the American Kennel Club. Instead, use a veterinarian-approved product made specifically for your dog's ears.
After you've gathered your supplies, follow these simple steps, according to The Spruce Pets.
1. Add ear cleaner.
To accomplish this step, hold your dog's ear flap, and squirt a few drops of ear cleanser near the ear opening so that it runs into the ear. Next, you can gently insert the tip of the bottle. While holding the bottle in your dog's ear, you can add more liquid cleaner.
2. Massage the ear.
Your dog may try to shake its head, but don't let it yet. First, massage the base of your dog's ear. If you can feel your dog's ear cartilage near the jaw, you're in the right spot.
After massaging your dog's ear for a few seconds, you can let them shake. To minimize the mess, you can hold a towel near their head.
3. Wipe the ear canal.
Wet some cotton or gauze with the ear cleaner, and wipe dirt and grime from the ear canal. Tweezers can also be used to grab visible debris or excess hair. You can repeat this process as many times as it takes to clean the ear, but stop if the ear becomes red or seems painful.
When you're done cleaning and wiping away debris, make sure to dry your dog's head and reward them with a treat.
How often to clean a dog's ears
You should clean your dog's ears only when they're dirty. Any over-cleaning may irritate the ear canal, according to VCA Hospitals. Different dogs may need different levels of attention paid to their ears.
A healthy and clean dog ear should be pink, odorless and not dirty or inflamed. If it has an odor, especially one of yeast, it is likely time for a cleaning, according to the AKC.
If your dog is shaking its head more than normal, that could be another sign it's time for a cleaning.
The AKC emphasizes that cleaning a dog's ears can prevent an infection, not treat one. If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, fleas, ear mites or any type of allergic reaction, it's time to see a veterinarian.
Food safety: Can my dog eat that? A guide to fruits and vegetables safe for canine consumption.
Just curious?: We're here to answer life's everyday questions.
How to administer ear medication for dogs
If your veterinarian prescribes an ear medication for your dog, you'll likely have to apply it yourself.
According to VMA Hospitals, you should administer the prescribed volume of eardrops while holding your dog's ear straight in order to ensure it flows through their ear canal as intended. Just like when you use ear cleaning fluid, you should massage the base of your dog's ear to spread the medication around the ear canal.
Try not to let the tip of the bottle containing medicine touch your dog's ear, as it could be exposed to bacteria and reintroduce an infection during another application, according to VMA hospitals.
Your dog's behavior: Why do dogs lick you? Explaining why your pet does it and when it might be too much.
Your pup's diet: How much food should you feed your dog? Here's the right amount to keep your pup healthy.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: How to clean dogs' ears or apply medication for an infection