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How do I clean my dog’s ears?

Q: I have a German Shepherd. What's the best way to clean my dog’s ears?

A: The best way to learn how to clean your dog’s ears is for your veterinarian or a veterinary care professional to show you how it is done in person. However, most dogs, including German Shepherds, do not require routine ear cleaning. If you do find it necessary to clean your dog’s ears on a regular basis, you really should have the ears checked out by your veterinarian. 

Having said that, it is very important to routinely check your dog’s ears once or twice a week to make sure that there are no problems. If there is any inflammation, an abnormal odour or unusual discharge, your veterinarian should be consulted. If your dog has a history of chronic ear problems, regular home ear cleaning must become an essential part of your dog's routine.

If ear cleaning does become necessary for your dog, it is critically important that your veterinarian or one of the veterinary support staff demonstrate the correct procedure so that no harm is done to the ear canals or the ear drums. The structures of the ear are extremely sensitive and can easily be damaged. 

What you use to clean the ears is also very important. Rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, mineral oil, or water should never be used to clean the ears. Alcohol can cause irritation and excessive drying, and may kill the normal resident bacteria which inhabit the ear canal and which keep the disease-causing bacteria under control. Using mineral oil or water can actually contribute to ear infections, particularly if not properly cleaned from the ear canal. Commercial ear cleaning solutions are preferred both for their effectiveness as well as safety.

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