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How to Clean Shih Tzu Ears: 12 Vet-Approved Tips

Written by: Chelsea Mortensen

Last Updated on May 16, 2024 by Dogster Team

Female veterinarian cleaning ears to nice Shih tzu dog with ear cleaning rod or cotton stick

How to Clean Shih Tzu Ears: 12 Vet-Approved Tips


Dr. Amanda Charles Photo


Dr. Amanda Charles

BVSc MRCVS (Veterinarian)

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Shih Tzus’ large, floppy ears are adorable but unfortunately, they can be more prone to ear problems such as infections. The shape of their ears means they tend to trap moisture and have poor ventilation. Ear canals are then more prone to becoming warm and sweaty, which is the kind of environment in which bacteria and yeasts that cause ear infections thrive in.

If you have a Shih Tzu, you will need to check their ears regularly and help them out by cleaning out their ears. This helps your Shih Tzu avoid wax buildup and infection.

If you have never cleaned a dog’s ears before, never fear! We’ve broken it down below. Here are eight basic steps for ear cleaning that you can apply to every dog, plus four bonus tips that might help if your pup is not keen on it.


The 8 Steps for Cleaning Shih Tzu Ears

1. Check Ears Regularly

Holding her Shih Tzu dog at home
Image Credit: Drazen Zigic, Shutterstock

At least once a week check your dog’s ears for signs of wax buildup and any other problems such as redness or sensitivity. Many Shih Tzus need regular ear cleaning, sometimes once a week, but it does vary between individuals. If you overclean your dog’s ears it can also cause problems, upsetting the normal flora balance inside the ears. Get into a routine of checking and cleaning. This also means you know what is normal for your pup and can spot signs of a problem more quickly. Discuss what cleaning regimen is best with your vet; this is particularly important if your Shih Tzu has had ear infections in the past.

2. Know the Signs of Infection

Signs of an ear infection include redness, swelling, irritation around the ear, a foul odor, or unusual discharge. You should also look for signs of infection in your dog’s behavior. Your dog might shake its head frequently, scratch its ears, or rub them against the floor or walls. If you see signs of infection, take your pup to the vet for treatment.

3. Prepare Your Cleaning Space

Cotton wool
Image Credit: Regreto, Shutterstock

Before you clean, prepare a space, and get everything ready. You’ll want a light, well-ventilated space where you and your pup are both comfortable. It should be easy to get on your pup’s level. You can get down on the floor or put your dog up on a table or counter.

Here are the supplies you need:

  • Pet ear cleaning solution
  • Cotton balls or gauze pads
  • Clean, dry cloth
  • Plenty of treats

It’s important to use an ear-cleaning solution that’s designed for pets. Using a homemade cleaner or the wrong kind of solution can cause irritations and infections. Speak to your vet about the best cleaner for your dog.

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4. Add Cleaning Solution

Lift up the ear flap and squirt a little bit of cleaning solution into your pup’s ears. Moisten your cotton balls with ear cleaner while you are at it.

5. Massage Can Help

Shih Tzu dog lying on bed with love and care
Image Credit: Kwan Kajornsiri, Shutterstock

Most owners like to gently massage their dog’s ears at this point. This can help break up any dirt and wax and spread out the cleaning solution to do its work. Some dogs also love the massage process, so it can be a great calming moment in the middle of the cleaning session.

6. Take Your Time!

Your dog probably wants to get their ears clean as fast as possible. But it’s important to let the solution sit for 20 to 30 seconds before you dislodge it. This gives it time to soak into the gunk and make it easy to clean. Once it’s soaked in, you can let your dog shake their head like they want to. This will help loosen up the earwax even more!

7. Wipe Clean and Dry

Female veterinarian cleaning ears to nice Shih tzu dog
Image By: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

The last step to take is to wipe the ear clean. A cotton ball soaked in the cleaning solution can be used to wipe out all the dirt and debris from inside the ear. Then use a dry, soft cloth to dry your dog’s ears. When you’re wiping your dog’s ears clean, don’t try to clean deep inside its ears. Instead, stick to the parts of the ear that are visible when you lift the ear flap. Don’t use cotton-tipped applicators such as Q-tips as they can be easily inserted too far into the ear canal and cause potential damage.

8. Stop and Consult your Veterinarian if Your Dog Appears to be in Pain

If your dog seems to be uncomfortable while you are cleaning their ears then stop and contact your veterinarian. Your vet will usually look inside your dog’s ear with an otoscope to check for damage deeper in the ear canal and for things stuck in the ear canal such as grass seeds. If they have an ear infection they usually need medicated ear drops. Your vet will let you know how often to clean them but usually, the ears are cleaned first and then the medication is applied.


Top 4 Tips for Difficult Dogs

Dog’s ears are sensitive. If their first experience of ear cleaning is when they have a painful ear infection, they can come to resent cleaning as they have learned that handling around their ears is painful. Here are some extra tips to make the process of ear cleaning easier for you and your pup.

1. Start Young and When the Ears Are Healthy

Adorable two months white Shih tzu puppy dog
Image By: Lana Langlois, Shutterstock

Due to the shape of your Shih Tzu’s ears, they can be prone to getting sore ear infections. Getting your Shih Tzu used to having their ears handled and cleaned at a young age, or when they don’t have a sore ear, helps them learn that it is not a painful procedure and part of their normal grooming routine.

2. Use Lots of Rewards

Treats or other rewards are a great way to motivate good behavior. You can give your dog a treat right after you squirt the solution in its ears and at the end of the cleaning process. This way, your dog associates ear cleaning with positive things!

3. Speak Calmly

Ear cleaning can be stressful, especially if your pup is stressed too! But a stressed or upset tone of voice can often make things worse. Your dog will pick up that something is wrong and become even more worried! Instead, use a calm, relaxed tone of voice to soothe your dog. Even though your dog can’t understand everything you say, many owners find that narrating each step to their dog helps the dog feel more comfortable. Make sure you only start ear cleaning when you have time and are not in a rush, and sometimes having an extra pair of hands can help too.

4. Consider Anxiety-Relieving Chews

dog owner giving her pet shih tzu a treat
Image By: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

If your dog is really struggling with ear cleanings, there are calming supplements on the market that can really help your dog remain less anxious no matter what the circumstances. You should always use these chews in accordance with the package directions and consult a vet if your dog has any health issues or is on any medication.



Regular ear inspection and cleaning will soon become part of your weekly regime. Your dog might even learn to enjoy it if they get lots of treats and attention! By keeping on top of looking after your Shih Tzu’s ears, your pup will be healthier, happier, and less prone to infections.

See also:

Featured Image Credit: Orawan Pattarawimonchai, Shutterstock

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