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A brown longhaired dachshund with wet fur runs on the beach in The Dig's article about water in dogs' ears

Health & Wellness

How to get water out of your dog’s ears

Tips for preventing an uncomfortable ear infection

Getting water trapped in your ears isn’t a pleasant feeling, and the experience is no different for your dog. Not only is it uncomfortable for pups, but it sets the stage for painful fungal and bacterial infections. Fetch’s on-staff veterinarian Dr. Aliya McCullough shares some tips for preventing water from getting into your dog’s ears and how to help your pup if it does happen.

Can dogs get water in their ears? 

Unfortunately, water can make its way into dogs’ ears. And, to make the situation worse, yeast and bacteria love warm, dark and damp places, which make pups very susceptible to painful fungal and bacterial ear infections. Dog breed with long ears (think: basset hounds) are especially at risk — even more so if they love to swim or take frequent baths.

How do you know if your dog has water in their ears?

After a swimming or grooming session, your pup may show signs that water is trapped in their ears. When a dog shakes their coat after being in the water, the soppy, shaking movement usually dispels the water. However, if that full-body shake doesn’t get rid of it, watch out for these signs:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching
  • Rubbing 

How to get water out of a dog’s ear

Even though dogs’ ear canals are longer and curvier than ours, it’s not safe to use cotton swabs (or Q-tips) to clean out their ears. Using cotton swabs on your pup can cause injury to their eardrum or ear canal.

Talk to your vet about the best ear cleaner (one with a drying agent is probably best) to use on your dog. Once they’ve given you the OK, put a small amount of ear cleaner inside their ear, massage at the base and let the product do the rest. If your dog shakes their head while the ear cleaner is in, don’t worry — it’s still doing its job. 

Call your vet if regular cleaning to remove the debris that’s deep in their ear canal isn’t cutting it or if you think your dog has an ear infection (signs include scratching, rubbing or shaking their head). Ear infections caused by fungus or bacteria will need medications — cleaning their ears just won’t be enough to do the trick.

How to prevent water from getting into your dog’s ears

You can prevent water from getting into your pup’s ears by blocking their external ear canals with a large cotton ball before swimming or bath time — just don’t forget to take the cotton out after your pet leaves the water. If you want to bathe your dog without getting water in their ears, avoid spraying water near the ears and use a washcloth around their head.

If your dog goes swimming every day and never has a problem with their ears, there’s no need to change your routine. But for dogs who battle ear infections after swimming or bathing, use a soft cotton rag or cotton balls to dry as much of the external canal as you can.

The Dig, Fetch's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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