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Dog Ears and “Howl” to clean them

Frenchie listening with his ears.
“I’m listening!!”

Taking Care of Dog Ears

Keeping you dog fit and healthy is just like taking care of a child. There are many things that you have to check on your dog to make sure there isn’t anything wrong or bothering them. I will be discussing how to keep dog ears clean and problems that can occur with them.

Why Clean Dog Ears

Dog ears need to be cleaned routinely.

Cleaning your dogs ears is something you need to do at least a month. How often you should clean your dogs’ ears depends on their coat length (longer the coat, the more hair in the ear), how often they swim and get them wet, wax production, and age.

A Dog’s Ear Canal

anatomy pic of dogs ears

Dogs have a longer ear canal than us humans have. Also, their ear canal curves into an “L” shape. This makes it easier and less frightening because it is hard to reach the ear drum with your finger.


Cleaning dog ears may sound frightening to do yourself, but it is actually very easy. You want to make the experience a good one, so I would suggest having something to keep the dog occupied while you are cleaning, like having a surface covered with peanut butter to keep their head steady. The materials you should have on hand to clean their ears with are:

Soft guaze for cleaning inside of ears.
  • Guaze — This should a soft gauze that won’t scratch the inside of the ear.
  • Cottonballs — You can split these in half if you have a dog with littler ear canals.
  • Q-Tips — These should only be used on the outside of the canal for the creases of the ear. (If the dog shakes if you have a Q-tip in their ear canal, it can break off inside and hurt the dog. And it will be harder to retrieve the Q-tip out of the canal.)
  • Dog ear cleaner — This should be a special cleaner for dog ears. (Usually your vet has this for sale without a prescription or you can buy it at your local pet store.) Using alcohol or hydrogen peroxide will strip the ear canal of good bacteria and may cause dry, itchy ears that can become irritated.
How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

First, you squeeze the ear solution into the ear. (Yup, go ahead and make a pool inside the ear.) Then swish the ear around to get the built-up wax loose.

Next, you use the gauze or cotton balls to swipe the inside of the canal. (I personally like to use the gauze because you can get deeper and it has enough of texture to grab ahold of the wax.) Use a clean cotton ball/gauze every-time you swipe the ear.

Go ahead and let your dog shake it’s head. This will loosen up more build-up. Once the inside of the canal is clean, you can use the q-tips to clean the creases on the outside of the canal that the cotton ball/gauze didn’t get. You can then dry off around the ear with a soft towel.

Longer Hair Coat Dog Ears

King Charles dog with floppy ears

A dog with longer hair coat, there are hairs inside of the ear. If you take your dog to the groomers, they usually will pluck these out so wax doesn’t build up around the fur and cause an ear infection. These breeds are usually Malteses, Poodles, Terriers and Labradoodles to name a few.

Smelly Ears
Infected ears in a collie

If there is a pungent smell coming from their ears, there could be an infection. You should take them to the veterinary clinic so they can clean their ears and give them ear medication to fight the infection.

Dogs like to shake their heads

Dog shaking head with ears flapping hard.

Dogs like to shake their heads and ears after waking up, drying themselves off after being in water, and to shake off a tickle in their ears or their body. But if you notice your dog is constantly shaking, pawing, or scratching at their ears over and over again, this could be sign of a problem they may be having. It could an ear infection, hair in the ear canal, ear mites, or a foreign object like cheat grass (this is a grass seed that has barbs and works itself into areas).

Ear Hematomas

Dog shaking head with ears flapping hard against head.

Shaking their heads repeatedly can cause an ear hematoma. This is when a blood vessel between the skin breaks open and causes a pooling of blood. The dog’s ear will start to look like a balloon filling up with air.

This needs to be seen as soon as possible. (If the dog scratches it open, this can make for a big mess and healing may take longer.)

Mainly dogs with floppy ears get these because of the slapping against their head. If your dog has ears that go straight up, not cropped, their ears abstain more slapping against the head. German Shepards, Corgis, and Huskies have a lot of problems also with hematomas.

Treating the Hematoma
What a ear hematoma looks like when the ears inflate with blood.

Surgery is usually needed to repair ear hematomas. If is a small area, the veterinarian may just use a local anesthesia, cut the area open, and inject a steroid.

If it is most of the ear, the veterinarian may consider doing the surgery by using full anesthesia. The vet will then cut the ear for draining of the blood and may cauterize the blood vessel that is broke. Then the vet will wrap and fold up their ear up against the dog’s head

Then comes the aftercare.

This is usually between 6-8 weeks. In this time period, the dog shouldn’t shake their head. If the dogs starts to shake, quickly make them stop. (There are special head wraps that you can buy to help keep the dressing on and the ear in place. (See Chloe’s story below.)

After the first week of care, the vet will want to check on them and change the dressing. This will usually be every week until the ear has heeled and dressing is no longer needed.

Another Hematoma?

This is very possible to happen again if the vessels in the ear break open. This can be very frustrating as an owner. But every dogs’ ears are different. If the vessels in the dog’s ear are tiny and thin, they may be prone to hematomas. Your veterinarian should notice this and go over the plans of care.

Pet dog has buttons sewn onto her ears.

Chloe’s Personal Story

My Chloe baby

I was working in a veterinary clinic. Had no idea what an ear hematoma looked like on a dog’s ear yet. All I noticed was Chloe’s ear started having a small area, the size of a grape, on her ear inflating like a small balloon.

First Ear Hematoma

It grew very slow, but I could see it getting bigger everyday. By the third day of ballooning up, we took her to the vet. They said it was an ear hematoma because of her shaking her head because there was a hair in her ear.

They said the hematoma was pretty small, so they could just go ahead and cut, drain, and wrap her ear up. I was working and got to help with her small surgery. It was used with local anesthesia, a simple small puncture, drain, and wrap her ear which took nothing but 15 minutes. We did our best to not let Chloe shake her head.

We were very strict in aftercare. All our check-ups went great and her ear was back to normal.

Second Ear Hemotoma

One month passes, and I see her getting the same lump on the same side of her ear. All I could do was say, “Well, here we go again!”

My Chloe with a head wrap on.

This time after the vet opened it up and drained it, they injected a steroid to stop the vessels from bleeding and plug up the area. Her head was once again wrapped up. This time we bought a special head wrap that velcro over the dressing. It was a life saver. (I highly recommend getting them.) All our check-ups went perfect. The vet said that should solve the problem.

Third Ear Hemotoma

My Chloe with a head wrap and inflatable collar.

Three months go by after all the aftercare went well, then here comes Chloe with her same ear blowing up like a balloon, getting bigger every couple hours.

This time the vet injected even more steroid in her ear. He said her ear will probably be warped, but I didn’t care about that. I just wanted this to be the last time dealing with this.

She now has a warped ear with lumps where the steroid is. We’ve been in the clear for 2 years!!

My happy Chloe with her wonky ear.

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