This article was updated on August 26th, 2023
Not every dog is going to require regular ear cleaning. In fact, overcleaning healthy ears can upset the normal balance and invertently cause ear infections. Then there are some dogs that need regular cleaning in order to prevent recurrent issues.
Signs that Your Dog’s Ears Need Cleaned
Dogs that are prone to ear infections, mainly those with long, floppy, or heavy ears, may require a strict ear cleaning schedule. Cleaning a dog’s ears is especially important following a bath, swim, or day out in the rain since moisture is bacteria and yeast’s best friend.
Clean your dog’s ear based on the recommendations from your veterinarian. This may mean two-three times per week, every month or only as needed. You’ll know that your dog needs an ear cleaning when they :
- Scratch or shake their ears repeatedly for more than one day
- Have foul-smelling or abnormal colored discharge
- Have red, swollen, or hot ears
- Don’t want you to touch their ears
- Are having difficulty hearing
If your dog is no stranger to recurrent ear issues, chances are a good cleaning is all that is needed. However, these signs can also point to more serious health conditions. If these are new signs for your dog or they are not responding to a normal ear cleaning, be sure to see your veterinarian.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
It always helps to have some extra hands when cleaning your dog’s ears. While most pups don’t mind, it can make them a little wiggly. Having someone else there to help hold your dog will help ensure that no one gets hurt. It’s important to see your veterinarian if this is your dog’s first ear issue. Your vet will ensure that your dog’s eardrum is intact before you start pouring liquid into their ears.
What you’ll need to clean your dog’s ears :
- Ear cleaner
- Paper towels or cotton balls
How to clean a dog’s ears :
- Lift your dog’s ear flap and fill the ear canal with cleaner.
- Gently massage the base of the ear to loosen debris
- Let your dog shake to help remove some of the cleaner and debris
- Use a cotton ball or a paper towel-covered finger to remove the rest
What to Use to Clean a Dog’s Ears: The Best Dog Ear Cleaning Solutions
There are many ear cleaning solutions for your canine companion. Depending on what your dog’s ear cleaning needs are, here are some of our favorites :
For general ear cleaning try:
Virbac EPIOTIC Advanced Ear Cleaner
Why we like this product: It is safe to use for many different ear issues and even for sensitive ears. This formula helps to soften and remove excess earwax, hair, and debris and it dries the ear canal to prevent further growth of yeast or bacteria.
Cons: It’s a bit more expensive than other brands and may cause irritation in some dogs.
ZYMOX Ear Cleanser – 4 oz. Bottle
- Cat and dog ear cleaner – quickly and effectively clean non-infected ears in pets of all ages
Why we like this product: It’s safe to use as a regular cleaner for healthy ears. It’s non-toxic and doesn’t contain any harsh ingredients.
Cons: This is for regular cleaning of healthy ears only. It may cause irritation in some dogs.
Burt’s Bees Natural Ear Cleaner
- DID YOU KNOW - Dirt in your dogs ears is common, but when dirt stays trapped in the ear, a smelly, irritating and often very painful dog ear infection can start. Burt's Bees dog ear cleaner cleans, soothes, and removes excess moisture from your dog or puppy's ears
Why we like this product: This is a gentle, yet effective ear cleaner for all types of ears. It contains all-natural ingredients to help soothe as well as clean.
Cons: The essential oils can be a little irritating, so be sure to remove as much of the cleaner as possible with a paper towel or cotton ball.
Disclaimer: This content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your vet for health decisions. Learn more.
Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse for Dogs
- CLEANS & DEODORIZES - Ear cleaner for dogs aids in the removal of wax, dirt and other buildup to clean and soothe dog's ears.
Why we like this product: This ear cleaner can help relieve itching related to allergies, eczema and other skin condition as well as clean the ear.
Cons: It may cause irritation.
For dogs with ear infections, try the following ear cleaning solutions:
Pet MD Veterinary Tris Flush Cat & Dog Ear Cleaner
- While Other Dog Ear Drops Solutions Are Too Harsh For Your Furry Friends, Leading To Allergic Reactions Or Worse, Pet MD’s Mild, Non-stinging Tris Flush Ear Cleaner For Dogs & Cats Was Specially Formulated To Be Gentle But Effective, Flushing Out Nasty Infections From Your Dog Ears, Eliminating The Root Cause Of Your Dog Ear Infection.
Why we like this product: It contains ketoconazole which is an antifungal to target yeast infections.
Cons: It may cause irritation.
Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Ear Therapy
- HELPS ALLEVIATE – This dog and cat ear cleaner was formulated with properties to help promote healthy ear canals. Rinse pet's ears daily with solution and massage area.
Why we like this product: It contains medication to help relieve bacterial and fungal ear infections, yet is gentle enough for sensitive ears.
Cons: It may cause irritation and the medication isn’t necessary for routine ear cleaning.
WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]
Always make sure to have your dog’s ear infection diagnosed by a veterinarian before choosing a medicated ear cleaner.
For routine cleaning without the mess, try the following solutions:
Pet MD – Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes – Otic Cleanser for…
- Advanced Formulation Designed to Gently Clean, Deodorize and Dry Your Pets Ears
Why we like this product: ear wipes are great at helping keep your dog’s ears clean. This is something that you can use every day to just wipe out any dirt or debris from your dog’s ears.
Cons: Ear wipes won’t get as deep down into the ear canal so they won’t clean as thoroughly as liquid ear cleaners.
Product Recommendations for Dog Ear Infection Medicine
If your dog shows symptoms of ear infections, medication might be required to help address the problem at its core.
It’s important to keep in mind that dog ear infections can get worse and not only cause your dog a lot of discomfort, they can actually spread from the outer ear into the middle and inner ear where they can cause hearing difficulty and permanent damage.
Always consult your veterinarian before giving your dog any new medication and make sure a proper diagnosis is made first.
Many dog infection treatments do require a prescription from your veterinarian but there are a few over-the-counter that may help for mild infections.
- Ear care for dogs and cats - soothes ear infections, redness and inflammation for pets of all ages
Why we like this product: Zymox Otic Solution contains hydrocortisone to help relieve itching associated with ear infections. It also doesn’t require cleaning before use so it may be easier for harder-to-handle dogs.
Cons: Always consult your veterinarian before use as it contains a steroid that may be harmful to dogs with certain medical conditions
BEXLEY LABS Curaseb Cat & Dog Ear Infection
- POWERFUL EAR CLEANER: Say goodbye to discomfort caused by itchy and inflamed ears. Curaseb's cat & dog ear wash is specially formulated to cleanse and soothe, providing relief from irritation.
Why we like this product: Curaseb is a good generalized treatment for mild ear infections. It contains medications to treat both bacterial and yeast infections
Cons: Being a more generalized medication it may not work well for moderate to severe ear infections.
Other Tips to Keeping Your Dog’s Ears Healthy
- Keep Hair Short: When you take your dog to the groomer, try to keep your dog’s hair free of extra hair and keep the hair around the ear short. This will help keep their ears dry and free of any infection.
- Remove any excessive hair from ears: If you have a breed of dog that is known for having a lot of hair growing in and around their ears, remove this hair from their ears. You can learn to do this at home or many groomers can do this for you when your dog is getting groomed. Read our article: when to remove the hair inside your dog’s ears.
- Be gentle and use lots of rewards. Dogs respond well to positive reinforcement, so make sure to reward them with treats or affection throughout the entire ear cleaning process. Remember that ear infection/ear mites can be painful so be gentle and take your time.
- Always enlist help. Having another person help you clean and check your dog’s ears will help to restrain your dog to keep everyone safe.
When Home Treatments Are Not Enough: When to See a Vet
If this is your dog’s first ear issue, always see your vet. They will be able to diagnose the exact problem and ensure the proper treatment. If your dog has recurrent issues and you have tried treating your dog’s ears at home with no improvement for a few days it is best to see your vet.
Additionally, if your dog’s ear has pus-like material coming from them, they will most likely need a prescription ear medication to help.
When you take your dog to the vet with an ear infection, your vet will thoroughly clean your dog’s ear and prescribe them antibiotics and antifungal medication to go into their ears. Learn more about the different types of ear infections in dogs here.
Many vets will clean your dog’s ears at the veterinary clinic and apply medication to your dog’s ears that last a week or two. Some of these treatments need to be repeated and others will clear the infection after only one treatment. If your dog has a really bad ear infection, you vet may even send you home medication to put into your dog’s ear each day.
What are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears ?
Bacteria and yeast love dark, warm, moist places just like your dog’s ear canal. If you take one of those factors away, those nasty microbes have a harder time taking over. That’s where ear cleaning comes in. Properly cleaning a dog’s ears helps to remove the moisture and dry out that ear canal to make it less hospitable for microbes in order to prevent ear infections.
If also helps to remove any excess earwax that can be blocking the ear canal and causing hearing difficulties. Proper ear cleaning also gives you a chance to get a close-up look at your dog’s ears to notice any changes in the way of tumors, growths, or injuries that could be a problem.
How to Prevent Future Ear Problems in Dogs
Get to know your dog’s ears, especially what they look like when they’re healthy. This will better alert you to when there is a problem brewing down inside. Make a habit of checking your dog’s ears on a regular basis even if they’re not showing any signs. Not only will this help you identify issues as soon as they start, it will get your dog used to handling their ears should you have to treat them.
Always get your dog’s ear issues diagnosed by a veterinarian. This will prevent you from giving the wrong type of treatment and causing other possible complications in the process. Once you are familiar with your dog’s specific recurrent ear issues, you will know when and how to treat them in order to catch problems early on.