Max the Yorkie getting ready to have his ears cleaned

Cleaning Yorkie Ears: A Step-by-Step Guide

Your Yorkie’s ears need to be cleaned when you start to see dirt, debris, or wax. This guide to cleaning Yorkie ears will give you tips on what to look for, how to clean ears, what solutions to use and how to avoid injuring your pet.

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Yorkie ears need to be cleaned infrequently but regularly, whether they are dirty, stinky, contain ear wax, or are infected. This step-by-step guide will not only help you determine when your Yorkie’s ears need to be cleaned but also show you the proper cleaning techniques, so you can avoid injuring the delicate parts of your pup’s ear.

In this guide:

Cleaning Yorkie ears

First-things-first: Gather your supplies

  • Cotton balls (do not use cotton swab sticks—it is far too easy to hurt your dog’s ears with them)
  • A towel for clean up—it can get messy!
  • A vet-approved ear cleaning solution, like VetWELL Dog Ear Cleaner
  • Treats!

A note about ear cleaning solutions

There are many ear cleaning solutions from which to choose. Some are simple and mostly natural. Others contain hydrocortisone or antibacterial ingredients. There are even DIY homemade solutions.

What’s in your solution will determine if they’re helpful or irritating to your Yorkshire Terrier’s ears. One veterinarian, Dr. Karen Moriello, recommends using a saline eye solution in place of an ear cleaner.

The best and safest ear cleaning solution is one that your vet recommends for your Yorkie’s specific needs. They can recommend what is right for your dog, whether for routine cleaning, or to keep infections at bay.

How to clean a Yorkie’s ears

There are two ways to clean a dog’s ears. The first is a basic, routine cleaning, which consists of cleaning the pinna, or outer ear, and anything else that you can visibly see. This excludes the ear canal. This procedure can be used when cleaning Yorkie puppy ears.

The second type of cleaning is irrigating the ear canal and is usually only used when your dog has an infection or other type of inflammation.

For either procedure, we recommend recruiting a partner to help calm your pup and hold their head steady during the cleaning process. It helps to position your dog with their back to a corner. Dogs instinctively back away when you clean their ears and positioning their rump in a corner will help prevent too much movement during the process.

Before you start, give your dog lots of praise and scratch their ears—unless they’re infected, of course. This will help them calm down and acclimate to having your hands on that part of their body.

Steps for routine cleaning

  1. Squirt the ear cleaner onto a cotton ball, using enough solution to get the job done, but not too much that excess liquid will drip into the ear canal.
  2. Folding the outer ear back, gently wipe out all the dirt and debris you can see. Avoid pushing the cotton ball into the ear canal. Be sure to clean all the folds and crevices inside of the pinna. This process could take a few additional cotton balls if the ears are really dirty.
  3. Once both ears are clean, dry them thoroughly with the towel or a fresh cotton ball.
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Steps to clean Yorkie ear canals

A professional cleaning may be a part of your dog groomer’s routine procedure, so you may never need to worry about it. However, if you do your own grooming at home, you’ll need to watch for signs that your pup needs a deep cleaning (see some signs lower in this article). When it’s time, follow these steps Dr. Moriello gives in the Merck Veterinary Manual.

  1. Holding their ear flap back, fill the ear canal with the ear cleaner until full. This is where having a partner hold the head steady really helps.
  2. Gently grasp the base of the ear and pull it up and away from the head, straightening the “L” shape of the ear canal. (At this point, your poor pup will be wondering why their ear canals are being flooded and will be dying to give their head a good shake. Have a towel draped over their head and ears to help contain the splash zone that is headed your way.)
  3. Massage the side of the head in circular motions, just below the ear, for about 30 seconds. This helps loosen up debris in the vertical ear canal.
  4. If they haven’t already shaken the cleaner out, shape the cotton ball into a tubular shape and gently insert it into the ear canal. Again, never use Q-tips to reduce the risk of injuring your pup.
  5. Repeat the gentle massage at the base of the ear to help move any gunk and cleaning solution toward the cotton ball.
  6. Folding open the dog’s ear, use the cotton ball to wipe any visible debris from the outer ear. Be sure to clean in the folds of the ear canal, but do not insert anything deep into the dog’s ears! A good rule of thumb is to only clean what you can see. Never insert anything into the ear canal beyond your line of sight.
  7. If the inside of the ear is not completely dry from the cotton swab, use a towel or fresh cotton ball to dry the ears. This is important as excess moisture is a common cause of ear infections.

If you find a great deal of debris is coming out of your dog’s ears, you may want to repeat the ear canal cleaning a second time, but don’t overdo it. Better to wait a week and do another cleaning session than stress your pup too much.

Things to remember when cleaning Yorkie ears

  • Only use a pet ear cleaning solution unless instructed by a vet to do otherwise. Do not use wax removal liquid.
  • Avoid over-cleaning—only clean when necessary.
  • Dry the ears after cleaning, baths, and swimming.
  • Do not use cotton swab sticks; they could injure your Yorkie’s ear
  • Contact your vet right away if your dog shows any signs of infection.

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How often should Yorkie ears be cleaned?

Some Yorkies will only require an occasional ear cleaning—maybe once a month. Others need cleanings more often, especially if they are prone to ear infections, have allergies, or spend a lot of time in water. For healthy Yorkie ears, there is no specific schedule—only clean them when necessary.

How to determine if your Yorkie’s ears need to be cleaned

Before you go through the trouble of getting out all the cleaning supplies, be sure your Yorkie actually needs his ears cleaned. 

Over-cleaning a dog’s ears can cause inflammation and irritation, which can lead to infection. 

The best way to determine when your dog’s ears need to be cleaned is to become familiar with what a healthy, clean ear looks like. It should be pink, not red, clean without dirt or debris, and odorless.

If you notice a slight odor, see dirt or debris, or if your dog shakes his head more than usual, it may be time for a cleaning. However, if you notice redness, irritation, a strong yeast smell, whimpering, or pain, contact your veterinarian right away. This could be a sign of a Yorkie ear infection, ear mites, leather ear, or allergies.

It’s a good habit to look at the ears before every bath, or more often depending on how often you bathe your Yorkie. If they look clean, don’t do anything more invasive than wiping the outer ears clean with a well-wrung-out washcloth. Take care not to allow any excess cleaning fluid to remain in the ear.

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