Physical Exam and Ear Swabs – WHY?

It is important to have an exam by the doctor and perform diagnostics (i.e. Ear Swabs) to determine the cause of the ear infection. The doctor must evaluate the ear drum to verify it is intact before prescribing ear medication, as some ear medications are toxic to the middle/inner ear. There are also different ear cleaners that are targeted to treat your pet’s specific ear condition. Once your veterinarian has prescribed the appropriate ear cleaner and medication you are ready to start.

Important Reminders

  • Restraint: Restraint, depending on your dog or cat’s temperament, may be a two-person job (one person to restrain, another to clean).
  • Cats: If you have someone available to help, have them hold the cat on a table cradled next to their body. Have the person hold the front lets and chest tight so the cat can’t get away. Use a towel to restrain if the cat is too wiggly. Wrap the cat up like you would if you were wrapping a burrito/taco. Be careful not to wrap too tight.
  • Dogs: If you have someone available to help, have them hold the dog in a sitting-position between their legs facing you. It is often helpful to have the dog backed-up into a corner in the sitting-position to prevent the dog from backing out from the restrainer’s legs.


Note: Cleaning can be messy, so it should be done in an easy-to-clean area such as your kitchen or bathroom or even outside.

  • Lift the ear pinna (ear flap) so you can see the opening to the ear canal.
  • Fill the entire ear canal with your cleaning solution until you see the solution flowing out of the ear.
  • Massage the ear canal. You will hear a “swish-swish” sound (like a washing machine). This action helps loosen the debris deep down in the ear canal.
  • Stand back and let your pet shake its head. The shaking will push the loosened debris up and out of the ear canal.
  • Wrap a piece of paper towel or Kleenex around your finger and gently blot out the excess debris and moisture. Don’t worry about pushing your finger too far into the canal. The ear canal is “L” shaped, so there is no threat of your finger reaching the ear drum.

​Use caution when using q-tips to clean your pet’s ears. The q-tip is small enough that it could cause damage to the ear drum.

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