by K Marie Alto June 02, 2022 12 min read
How to remove water from your dog’s ears is a must have skill for every dog parent. Especially if your pup loves to play in the water. Which most of them do. Am I right?
Water in your dog's ears may not seem like anything more than an annoyance. It feels unpleasant, but it's not painful, right?
The problem is, that water can work its way into your fur baby's ears even during bath time or when playing with the hose; they don't need to be diving into a pond or pool to get water in places it shouldn't be.
In this blog post you’ll learn everything you need to know about how to safely remove water from your dog’s ears. From why it‘s important to keep your dog’s ears dry to how to tell if there is water in your dog’s ears and how to get it out (of course).
You’ll also learn some preventative measures, why we discourage homemade recipes, and when to take your pup to the vet. I’ve also thrown in a great educational video on how to clean your dog’s ears.
As always, for pet parents 🤓 looking for more dog care guides, never ever ever miss the further reading section at the bottom. My blog is simply packed 📚 with useful resources.
Happy learning and sharing 😊
Making sure you keep your dog’s ears dry and clean should be part of a regular grooming routine.
Exposure to water is a natural part of life, from bath time to swimming and other recreational activities. Most pups love to play in the water. And just like you, your fur baby can end up with water clogging their ears.
There’s normally a balanced ecosystem of yeast and bacteria (both good and bad) living all over your dog’s skin and inside his ears. The presence of water in your dog’s ears creates a perfectly moist and warm environment that disrupts this balance by providing the right conditions for yeast and bacteria overgrowth. This in turn often results in bacterial infections.
While bacterial infections are the most common outcome of water in your dog’s ears, water presence can also provide the right conditions for the growth of fungus and the formation of ear mite colonies.
When left untreated, ear infections cause constant pain and could also potentially result in balance issues and can even lead to deafness.
To reduce the incidence of ear infections in your dog, make sure to clean your dog’s ears regularly including after walks in the rain, after playing in the pool, and after baths.
Keep in mind that while it is critical to make sure your dog’s ears are always dry, not all dogs need to have their ears cleaned.
“While it is important to clean your dog’s ears when needed, over-cleaning may cause irritation in the ear canal, and this can lead to infection. Some dogs that have healthy, clean ears may never need to have their ears cleaned. However, it is recommended to clean your dog’s ears if you notice discharge or an odor when examining the ear. Your veterinarian can help you decide how often your dog’s ears should be cleaned. If your dog’s ears are red, inflamed, or painful, consult with your veterinarian prior to cleaning. Your dog may have an ear infection or a ruptured ear drum.” – VCA Animal Hospitals
If you get water stuck in your ears, it's pretty easy to communicate that fact. You can just say, "Hey, I have water stuck in my ears!"
Sadly, your furry friend can't do the same. While they can bark and otherwise express irritation, you may not understand why they are behaving in such a way.
You can approach this problem in two ways.
First, you can simply make a habit of checking your pup's ears after every time they go playing in the water.
It's not a bad idea to make an ear check part of a common grooming overview, just to look for any possible issues. However, it can be difficult to tell if there's water deep in the ear canal.
Unfortunately, some dogs tend to be skittish with their ears, or find it unpleasant for them to be handled, so it may be harder to deal with if you want to check for water. This may be the case for dogs that were not socialized properly during puppyhood.
Proper socialization of your dog should, among many other things, include making them comfortable with the handling of their ears and other body parts such as their toe beans, no pun intended. Learn about how to socialize and adult dog here.
What’s worse is it can be difficult to tell if there's water deep in the ear canal.
Second, you can watch their behavior. If your pup has water stuck in their ears, they’ll probably try to get it out on their own and in doing so will exhibit some common behaviors:
Keep in mind that a dog's ear canals are both deeper and curvier than ours. That makes them a lot more difficult to clear out, and you can't easily see if something like water is stuck deep inside.
Reading your dog's behavior is often the only way you can really tell.
There are three main ways you can get water out of your dog's ears.
The first is to just let them drain naturally. Sometimes, your dog's head shaking can work the water loose, and it will drain on its own.
This isn’t always an effective method, so we don't recommend this option. Since dogs have deeper ear canals, little drops of water and debris can build up and create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria or fungi, which causes an ear infection.
Look Inside a Dog's Ear
Ear infections are unpleasant, painful, and can even lead to hearing loss. Proactive care is always better than reactive care!
The second is professional, vet-approved methods. These commercial products are generally thin creams or drops, usually made with a mixture of oils (to replace the water) and other chemicals.
They're designed to work their way into the ear canal, repel the water and any debris caught in the ear, and then dry out, turning into a powder that then works its way out of the ear naturally.
While it may seem odd to flush water out of your dog's ears by putting something else in them, it's actually very effective.
Dog ear canals are deep and have right-angle turns in them, which makes it impossible to get cotton swabs or other physical implements in there to absorb water. A vet could do it with tools and professional training, but you absolutely shouldn't try it at home.
An untrained hand risks damaging your fur baby's eardrums, scraping the insides of the ears, pushing debris further in, or otherwise causing problems.
The third option is the at-home remedy. You should always be cautious using homemade remedies on something as sensitive as your furry companion's ears.
A homemade shampoo? That's fine. Homemade food? Awesome. Homemade ear cleaners? Be very, very careful. The last thing you want to do is cause further irritation or an ear infection, or even chemical burns, inside the sensitive ears of your fuzzy friend.
While a dog’s ears naturally clean themselves, some pups will need a little extra help.
Getting water in the outer ear can be bad, but getting water deep in the ear canal will almost always make things much worse. A factor that greatly increases the odds of your pup getting water trapped deep in their ears is wax.
In addition to making sure your dog’s ears are always dry, you need to also make sure there is no excess of wax. The fact is, a buildup of wax can lead to water being trapped in the ear that might otherwise have been easily expelled with a simple head shake.
If you're one of my regular readers or followers, you may know that I‘m all for natural alternatives to synthetic products, but only if they are safe and effective.
In fact, I founded toe beans with the sole mission to educate pet parents on how to improve the lives of their fury children via safe and truly natural dog and cat products.
Unlike many online pet product sellers, all the consumables we sell in our toe beans online pet supplies store are developed following a very strict research and development process that puts your dogs and cats’ long-term health, safety and happiness first.
We make sure that all our natural and organic ingredients are also safe. All our consumable products are manufactured by us in the USA, and in our own USDA inspected facility using only USDA certified approved ingredients of the highest quality.
I digressed a bit, but having said that if you're considering cleaning your dog's ears at home to remove excess wax, I highly recommend you be very, very careful with your recipes. I cannot emphasize this enough.
Some of the most common homemade recipes you will find online tend to recommend the use of seemingly innocuous ingredients. Common recipes such as mixing boric acid and glycerin may seem simple to make and apply.
However, the danger of using homemade concoctions for your dog’s ears lies in getting the mix wrong. This is something very easy to do for most pet parents. A little too much of one ingredient and you may end up causing more harm than good.
Additionally, certain ingredients, like alcohol, can dry out, irritate, or burn their ears. Others, like oils, can clog up the ears even worse than the water alone was, which just leads to more problems.
Some choices like hydrogen peroxide might be okay when used in small amounts, but in higher concentrations can lead to chemical burns.
“Cleaners with hydrogen peroxide or alcohol can cause irritation within the ear canal, especially if the canal is inflamed or ulcerated.” – VCA Animal Hospitals
There's a reason most people use commercial ear cleaners, after all.
Before trying an online recipe, it’s always best to chat with your vet about your pup. Bring it up at their annual visit so you already have the answer when the need arises.
If you get the green light, give a homemade option a try. Just make sure to monitor your fur baby's behavior after cleaning their ears and take them to the vet if they exhibit symptoms of an ear infection or ear damage.
Regardless of it being a store purchased or homemade remedy, the application process is typically the same.
If possible, get someone to help you secure your pup, so you can focus on applying the solution. Depending on the recommendation for your solution, apply several drops or fill the ear canal.
Once applied, gently massage the base of your dog's ear to gently help work it down through the ear canal. You don't want to do anything that puts pressure on the eardrum, which can be painful and damage their hearing, so stay away from Q-tips.
Check out this short 4 min video to learn about your dog’s ear anatomy and how to safely apply the cleaner.
How to Clean a Dog's Ears
You'll generally want to use these ear cleaners on one ear at a time for two reasons. First, the tickling sensation will likely cause them to shake their head to get it out. Second, and this is very important for homemade solutions, it’s always good to see how your pup reacts several minutes after the initial treatment.
Once you’ve gotten a good massage in at the base of the ear, if your pup shakes their head, go ahead and let them.
The massaging action allows the solution to loosen up any ear wax or debris that is trapping water in their ears, and with a good share it should all come loose and come out. Then, take a cotton ball or two and clean up around their ears. Easy peasy!
As they say, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.
While you can't protect your fur baby from everything – if they really want to dunk their head in a puddle or even their water dish, no force on earth will stop them – if you know you're going to be playing around water or giving them a bath, there are some steps you can take to help keep water out of their ears.
The first is to use a commercial product to protect their head from water. Depending on your breed and the size of your fur baby, you may have a few choices. Earmuffs, doggy earplugs, hoods or gaiters, or even shower caps can all work to keep most of the water out of their ears.
Yes, this is not a joke, all of these products already exist for dogs – most to reduce sound, but their ability to cover or close the ear also helps deter water infiltration.
These are generally the most effective options when you're giving them a bath or playing with them in a way you can more easily control, like in a kiddy pool or with a hose on a hot summer day.
If you're taking them to the local beach, a doggy swim day at the local public pool, or if they don't tolerate a hat or gaiter, your other option is large cotton balls.
Large cotton balls are absorbent but also serve as a barrier for the deeper parts of the ear canal. Tuck one into each ear before letting them play, and periodically replace them when they get too soaked.
A word of caution, you must be careful when you pull them out. You don't want to squeeze them and trickle water right down into their ears – that would pretty much defeat the purpose now, wouldn’t it?
An additional consideration is to make sure your dog’s ears are decently clean before tucking in the cotton balls. The last thing you want is to push debris down the ear canal and cause an infection.
Luckily, water in the ears is generally not dangerous enough to warrant a trip to the vet. However, some dogs – such as those with floppy ears – are more prone to ear infections because of their anatomy.
If you suspect water got stuck in your fur baby's ears and they haven't cleared up after a couple of days, you'll need to get them cleaned out to avoid infection. Ideally, this will still be early enough that there won't be any real infection to deal with, but you still want to get their ears cleaned.
If they do develop an ear infection, you'll see many of the same symptoms as listed above for water stuck in their ears. You may also notice a nasty discharge from their ears or a foul smell coming from them.
If your fur baby has a history of ear infections, skin issues, or other ear problems, you'll also want to be more proactive with taking them to the vet. The more sensitive their skin and their ears are, the more easily they can end up with ear issues.
Our recommendation and the safest option is to find a commercial ear-cleaning product specifically designed for removing water from a dog's ears. There are a lot of different products on the market, so don’t hesitate to ask your vet for a recommendation.
Home remedies can be fine for some fur babies, but as we’ve said, you need to be very careful with them, so you don't do more harm than good.
Do you have any questions or concerns about how you can remove water from your canine companion's ears? Was there anything that I mentioned today that you would like additional clarification on? If so, please be sure to leave a comment down below! I'd be more than happy to assist you and your furry friend however I possibly can!
Read More Dog Care Guides
Additionally, if you are feeling like getting a little special something for your fur baby that is made right here in the USA (or anywhere but in Asia), 100% pup safe, USDA certified organic and brought to you by a US company, check out Toe Beans boutique online pet supplies store!
K. Marie is an animal lover, wife, kitty mom, dog auntie, writer, and co-founder of Toe Beans, a proud American family-owned online boutique pet supplies store focused on the improvement of the life of furry family members via pet parent education, better products, and advocacy. She has over 20 years of experience as a pet momma. She loves sharing her personal journey and experience as a pet parent via her blog and Facebook page where she currently has more than 30K followers (@furrytoebeans) and counting :-).
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