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Dog Ear Care: Ear Types, Infections, and Dog Ear Cleaning at Home | Pupford

September 25th, 2023

Filed under Health + Wellness

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When it comes to grooming a dog, ear care can be an area that is often neglected. But it is necessary to help them avoid irritation and even infection. So we've put together this handy guide to tell you everything you need about dog ear care.

But before that, you’re probably familiar with the wonders a dog's nose can perform. Their ability to sniff out missing people, bombs, cancer, and even distinct body scents with their 300 million scent receptors is out of this world. But, here's what's also interesting; a dog's ears are just as impressive as a dog's nose. Dogs' emotions can be expressed through their ears, their hearing frequency is higher than a humans, they can hear four times better than we can, and their ears range in a variety of shapes and styles!

Related Reading: Dog Nose Facts & Cleaning Guide

In this article, we break down the types of dog ears, common infections, and how you can clean your dog's ears properly at home.


Dog ear types differ from breed to breed. The most common types of dog ears are:


bat ear dog ears example

Erect ear, broad at the base and rounded at the top.

Example: French Bulldog


button ear dog ears example

Semi-erect ear with a tip that folds over.

Example: Pug


butterfly ear dog ear example

Erect ear like the spread wings of a butterfly.

Example: Papillon


drop ear dog ear example

An ear that hangs down over the side of the head.

Example: Basset Hound


prick ear dog ear example

A pointed ear that stands erect.

Example: German Shepherd


semi-prick ear dog ear example

A pointed ear that folds over slightly on the top.

Example: Collie


rose ear dog ear example

An ear that folds backward.

Example: Bulldog


filbert ear dog ear example

A triangular ear with rounded tips and velvety texture.

Example: Bedlington Terrier


v shaped ear dog ear example

A long ear that hangs down and ends in V-shape.

Example: Vizsla


candle flamed ear dog ear example

Long, narrow, erect ears resembling a candle's flame.

Example: English Toy Terrier


Ear infections can be painful for your pup, so getting them to the vet is essential to get them treated right away. The longer the ear infection goes untreated, the worse it can become. Some breeds may be more prone to ear infections than other dogs.

Ear shape, presence of hair in the ear canal, lifestyle (like dogs that swim a lot), or medical conditions (allergies) can also lead to ear infections.

Related Reading: Dog Eye Boogers & Discharge


Sometimes dogs do not demonstrate any symptoms of ear infection. Ear infections are typically painful for dogs, so you will need to frequently examine your dog's ears to know if they are clean and healthy. The following are some common symptoms of a dog ear infection:

  1. Dark discharge
  2. Unpleasant odor
  3. Redness or swelling of the ear canal
  4. Pain
  5. Constant head shaking
  6. Itchiness
  7. Scabs in the ears

Around 20 percent of dogs suffer from some ear disease in one or both ears. If you note that your dog has any of these symptoms, you must get them to the vet immediately. Do not attempt to clean your dog's ears if there is any sign of infection. It can be too painful for them and requires a veterinarian's help.


common causes of ear infections in dogs like allergies

There are several causes of ear infections in dogs. Understanding the factors contributing to the infection will help prevent future pain and discomfort. Most of the time, an ear infection results from an underlying problem which includes:

1. Ear Mites

Ear mites live in a dog's fur. Ear mites are typically black and cause a lot of pain and itchiness in the ear. In addition, ear mites devour skin debris, which triggers inflammation and perpetuates the infection.

2. Environmental Allergies

Some of the most common environmental allergies that can cause ear infections in dogs include mold, pollen, and dander. Dog allergies cause the skin barrier to lessen, producing excess wax in the ear canal, which makes yeast and bacteria, which in turn permits severe infection strains to grow.

3. Endocrine Issues

Hypothyroidism and Cushing's disease can be the culprit behind your doggo's ear infection. However, you can blame endocrine disease if a dog gets otitis externa and is not itchy.

4. Food Allergies

More than 20 percent of ear infections begin with just otitis externa, and ear disease occurs in 80 percent of ear infections from food allergies. Animals with food allergies tend to have recurrent skin and ear infections unless the underlying cause is taken care of.

5. Inhalant Allergies

Inhalant allergies are the most common underlying cause of ear infections in dogs. However, seasonal allergies are usually the perpetrator.

It generally worsens over time. Dogs who suffer from this tend to have itchy feet, faces, and ears. In addition, they are susceptible to secondary skin and ear infections which often occur after treatment.


how to clean your dogs ears

When considering the best way to clean a dog's ears, the most important thing is ensuring that your dog is comfortable with the entire process.

Of course, it's ideal if you start handling or cleaning their ears when they are a puppy. As a result, they'll be more likely to be ok with ear cleaning when they're older. But, unfortunately, this isn't always possible, particularly if you have a rescue or an older dog who's never had its ears cleaned before.

Start by gently touching their ears and stroking them to gauge how your dog will react. If they don't seem to like their ears touched, don't force it! Also, never try to clean a dog's ears if they're stressed or struggling: this could upset your dog and you could also get hurt. Work to slowly desensitize your dog to having their ears touched and if needed, enlist the help of a professional.


Before you start cleaning your dog's ears, ensure you have the following things:

  1. Damp cotton wool or cotton wool pads
  2. Ear cleaner (must be a dog specific, never use products intended for human use)
  3. A clean towel
  4. A second pair of hands (especially useful if your dog is not used to having its ears cleaned)
  5. Plenty of treats for during and after the ear cleaning
  6. Never use cotton buds/Q-tips to clean your dog's ears, as these can be inserted too far into the ear canal and potentially cause damage.

A step-by-step guide to cleaning a dog's ears at home:

  1. Ensure your dog is comfortable, then lift their ear, holding it between your thumb and forefinger to get a good look inside the ear.
  2. Examine the ear and check for redness, discharge, or a bad smell. It is normal for there to be a small amount of light-colored wax. However, suppose there is a considerable amount, and the ears are very red, or there appears to be pus or a foul smell; it's a sign of a problem and will require veterinary attention.
  3. Gently wipe the ear's entrance with damp cotton wool, removing dirt or excess wax.
  4. Insert the tip of your chosen dog-friendly ear cleaner into the ear canal – being sure not to insert it too far – then squeeze the bottle to release the ear cleaner.
  5. Massage the base of the ear to help the cleaner pass into the ear canal.
  6. Let your dog shake. Your dog will definitely want to shake its head during this process, and now's the time to let them. This helps get the leftover ear cleaner and any additional debris out of the inner canal. Next, grab hold of the ear flap and clean it again using a cotton ball or gauze pad. Never penetrate your dog's ear farther than your finger can reach.
  7. Give your dog a treat. You're halfway there! Reward your pup and repeat the process on the other side. Offer another treat when you're finished.
  8. If your veterinarian has given you ear drops to use, it's best to apply them within a short period after you've finished cleaning them. This will ensure that the medicine will enter the ear effectively and be absorbed without getting stuck on excess wax.

Ear cleaning is no fun for anyone, but with the right method and a well-executed plan, it's an important part of canine hygiene to help your pup avoid chronic ear infections!

Do you have a dog-tested ear cleaning process? Let us know in the comments; we're all ears. 😄

And speaking of ears & hearing, be sure to check out our guide to training a deaf dog if your dog has impaired hearing!


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