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We're All Ears...
(and Need Cleaning)!

One of the questions Abandoned Angels Cocker Spaniel Rescue asks on their application to foster or adopt a dog is, “Are you aware of the fact that Cocker Spaniels are prone to ear infections and require weekly ear cleanings?” If you haven’t owned a Cocker in the past, you may not realize that this is true. Floppy-eared dogs like Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and Poodles have ears ripe for infection and it’s important to learn how to treat and prevent them.

When I first adopted Frenchy (pictured above), she had a nasty ear infection and cleaning her ears was an absolutely impossible task. The infected ear was swollen and she wouldn’t let me go anywhere near it. In fact, she tried to bite me each time I attempted. It became such a problem that I had to call the rescue and ask for advice. They suggested I try muzzling her from behind (after all, I had to get in there somehow) but she wouldn’t let me do that either. I eventually had to take Frenchy to the vet for a proper cleaning but getting those prescribed drops into her ear canal was a challenge too. She had chronic ear infections for the whole first year she was in my care and it was partly due to the fact that I couldn’t clean them. I felt like the worst pet parent on the planet! At some point during another vet visit, the doctor explained that ear infections in dogs are usually due to allergies. Nobody had told me that before! She suggested that I change Frenchy’s diet to grain-free and eventually… thankfully… her ear infections stopped.

Once the inflammation was gone, my job was to get her accustomed to me touching her ears and cleaning them. Over time (and with lots of treats), she warmed up to the idea and let me clean them on a regular basis. Success!

When a first-time dog (or Cocker) owner adopts from the rescue, we usually give them an in-person demonstration on how to properly clean ears. Here’s a brief rundown:


Cotton Rounds – I prefer cotton rounds rather than cotton balls because there’s more surface area with which to clean. 

Ear Wash  – I like Four Paws Ear Wash or Zymox.

Treats – You’ll need these nearby so you can reward your dog after the cleaning is done. The more you associate ear cleaning with treats, the better! 


1. Fully saturate one large cotton round with ear wash.

2. Lift your dog’s ear flap and stick the cotton round inside. No need to push it in very far!

3. Close the ear flap and squeeze the outside of the ear so the liquid in the cotton ball seeps down into the ear canal. Then, remove the cotton.

4. Gently massage the outside of the ear and ear base with your hands. (Shelby loves this part).

5. Lift your dog’s ear flap again and using a new cotton round, wipe the ear starting from the outside and working your way in. Remove as much wax as you can and grab new cotton rounds as needed. If your dog’s ear is very irritated, try moistening the round with more ear wash for easier removal.

6. It’s treat time! Reward, reward, reward.


If your dog has short hairs sprouting from the inside of the ear, ask your groomer to pluck them. Also, if you own a Cocker Spaniel, it’s a good idea to have the groomer completely shave down the inside of your dog’s ears because that area can be a hotbed for yeast, bacteria, and parasites. Yuck! Trust me, the ears will still look beautiful and you’re just being a responsible dog owner by helping to prevent future infections.

If you see redness, swelling, discharge, hair loss, or smell a foul odor, you’ll want to consult with your vet for a checkup. Keep in mind that very dark wax that looks like coffee grounds could be a sign of ear mites.

Remember to clean those ears at least once a week to prevent infection.

This blog post was originally published on Furry Wiggle Butts here.

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