How To Clean Golden Retriever Ears (Step-by-Step Guide)

Updated June 1, 2023

A caring owner should know how to clean golden retriever ears to prevent the development of ear infections and maintain their pet’s hearing.

Some dogs never need to have their ears cleaned, but golden retrievers may need it more frequently than other breeds.

Golden retrievers are prone to ear infections because of their ear anatomy and love for swimming, so owners must regularly check their pet’s ears for abnormalities.

Timely ear cleaning helps prevent ear diseases, but incorrect cleaning can cause more harm than good to the dog’s health.

Before cleaning your dog’s ears, learn about the golden retriever ear anatomy, which cleaning solution to use, the correct technique, and common mistakes.

Golden Retriever Ear Anatomy

Golden retrievers have drop ears that cover the entrance to the ear canal, preventing debris from getting inside. However, the ear flap raises when a golden retriever swims, allowing water to get inside.

Like all dogs, golden retrievers have an L-shaped ear canal that leads to the inner ear, where auditory nerves and the Eustachian tube are located. The canal’s shape makes it easy for debris to get inside but hard to get out.

How To Understand Your Dog’s Ears Need To Be Cleaned

Ear cleaning is essential for most dogs because the anatomy of their ear canal makes it impossible for dirt to be expelled without assistance.

However, most dogs don’t need ear cleaning frequently because over-cleaning may cause irritation and increase infection risk.

The truth is that some dogs don’t need to have their ears cleaned at all, so owners must only do it when it’s really necessary. If you wonder how to understand that a dog’s ears need to be cleaned, inspect them visually.

Healthy, clean dog ears should be pink and not have any odor. It may be time for cleaning if your dog is shaking its head more often than usual, you notice dirt buildup or the dog’s ears have a mild odor.

Don’t clean your dog’s ears if they are inflamed, smell yeasty, or the dog appears to be in pain because the symptoms may indicate infection.

Instead, contact your veterinarian. While this may seem counterintuitive, cleaning infected ears causes more harm than good.

Note that golden retrievers need to have their ears cleaned after every swimming session because water trapped inside the canal may cause an infection, and an ear cleaning solution helps to remove the water.

What You’ll Need

Although dog ear cleaning may seem like a tremendous undertaking for inexperienced owners, the process is pretty straightforward and only requires a few supplies: a cotton pad or ball, a towel, and a dog ear cleaning solution.

Don’t use cotton swabs (Q-tips) or anything pointed to clean your golden retriever’s ears because you can shove the dirt deeper into the ear canal and cause an infection. In the worst-case scenario, you can damage the ear and cause hearing loss.

Unfortunately, not every dog ear cleaning solution is equally good. Choose a vet-approved solution instead of a DIY one because commercial solutions sold in veterinary pharmacies and pet stores go through extensive testing and label every ingredient.

In contrast, the internet is full of bad advice, and you can never be sure a person posting a DIY dog ear cleaning solution recipe knows what they’re talking about.

You may come across dog ear cleaning wipes but stick with a liquid ear cleaning solution because it’s more effective. The dog ear canal is long and narrow, so wipes simply can’t reach the dirt built up down the canal.

Furthermore, liquid cleaners better remove waxy gunk. However, wipes are an excellent option for travel or removing dirt from the ear flap.

Check the ingredients on the cleaning solution label. Many manufacturers add tea tree oil to calm the dog’s skin, but some dogs may be allergic to the component. Particular active ingredients are more suitable for specific goals.

Salicylic acid and lactic acid have antimicrobial properties that effectively prevent yeast infections. Hydrocortisone combats itchiness, and ketoconazole is suitable for dogs suffering from fungal infections.

Consider consulting with your vet regarding the best ear cleaner for your golden retriever because each dog’s needs are different. If you want to make a cleaner at home, avoid using undiluted vinegar and other irritating substances.

Choose The Right Moment

Don’t attempt to clean your golden retriever’s ears when it’s full of energy or stressed. Wait until your dog is calm and relaxed. Walk or play with it beforehand to drain its energy and make it sleepy.

Feeding your dog can help make it calmer because the body will redirect energy towards digesting the food. However, ensure your dog has some space left in the stomach for treats – you may need them!

Gain Control

Dogs don’t typically like to have their ears cleaned and may be impatient. Although golden retrievers are the friendliest dogs, some may even be aggressive and not allow the owner to touch their ears.

Start by gaining complete control over your dog. Position your golden retriever between your legs. If your dog refuses to cooperate and tries to escape, you may have to use a harness and a leash.

Unfortunately, you can’t explain to a dog that you’re cleaning its ears for its good. However, you can convince it that ear cleaning isn’t that bad by giving it treats for patience.

This way, you draw connections between ear cleaning and rewards. Over time, your dog will start associating ear cleaning with positive emotions and won’t be as hesitant.

The Cleaning Process Step-By-Step

Dogs typically shake their head when fluid gets into their ear, so choose an area that’s easy to clean, such as a bathroom or kitchen with tiled floors. Ensure that the ear cleaner is at room temperature.

Once you’ve gained control over your dog, take its ear by the flap and fold it to open access to the ear canal. Then, pour the ear cleaning liquid into the canal opening – you should pour enough ear cleaner to reach the canal’s bottom.

Continue holding your dog’s ear flap upwards, preventing it from shaking its head. Gently massage your dog’s ear base for about 30 seconds to dislodge debris.

Take a cotton ball or pad and carefully remove the dirt and debris you see on the ear flap. Don’t reach down the canal to remove deeper dirt as you can harm your dog.

If there’s still dirt left, repeat the process, but be careful not to over-clean the ears. You can hold a towel under the dog’s ear to prevent liquid and dirt from spilling all over the place when the dog shakes its head.

How Not to Clean Dog Ears

Since you wonder how to clean a dog’s ears, you may also want to know the things to avoid when cleaning dog ears. One of the most common mistakes when cleaning dog ears is using hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen peroxide is an antiseptic, so many owners think it’s beneficial for dogs’ ears since it eliminates bacteria. However, the product can irritate the sensitive ear skin and damage the ear canal.

Undiluted vinegar and alcohol aren’t suitable for cleaning dog ears for the same reason. Don’t use plain water either because it may get stuck in the ear and create a perfect environment for thriving bacteria, leading to an infection.

Some owners are afraid to pour too much cleaning solution into their pet’s ear, but completely filling the ear canal is essential. An insufficient amount of solution won’t harm a dog but won’t be effective either.

Never use a cotton swab to clean your dog’s ears because you can cause irreversible harm to your dog’s hearing and push the debris further into the canal.

Don’t clean your dog’s ears on the couch or wearing a white shirt. Ear cleaning is messy, and you don’t want to also clean your furniture or clothes afterward.

If your dog can’t stand ear cleaning, don’t discipline it. Many dogs misbehave during ear cleaning, but punishment will only create new negative associations with the process.

When to See a Vet

Every owner should know the symptoms of ear infections in dogs to spot the problem and seek veterinary help early. If you notice any abnormalities in your dog’s ears, don’t clean them at home but contact your veterinarian.

Healthy dog ears shouldn’t have a yeasty or foul odor, yellow, brown, or bloody discharge, or crusts and scabs inside the ear. An infected ear is typically red and swollen. The dog may scratch the ear or excessively shake its head.

If the ear infection is severe, your dog may lose coordination, walk in circles, or show signs of hearing loss. Don’t clean your dog’s ears if it appears to be in pain.

Unfortunately, distinguishing between a regular dislike of cleaning and pain is often tricky. Pay attention to the extent of pain signs and whether they appear when you touch a particular ear area.

Ear infections in dogs can be caused by allergies, parasites, bacteria, fungus, foreign bodies, injuries, moisture trapped inside, wax buildup, and autoimmune disorders.

Image credit: Pexels

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