The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner

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Everyone’s seen that slow-motion video of a dog shaking its head after he’s had a swim, right? What they haven’t seen, though, is the ear infection that takes place a few days later from the entrapment of water within the dog’s ear canal. The dog will continue to shake his head, and shake his head, oh and shake his head. Then he’ll start to scratch his ear and rub his face causing you, his owner, to scratch your own head. What’s going on? Your dog has an ear infection. Are you wondering what the next step is? Read below. 

Dog shaking his head, The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner - I Love Veterinary

The Importance of Cleaning your Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears is essential to their overall health. A dog’s ear canal is shaped like an L. Therefore, whatever debris or gunk that gets trapped inside is unlikely to get out. Then this gunk sits in a warm, dark, often moist place. It is the optimal environment for bacteria and fungus to grow, creating a colony of evil for your dog’s ear health. Making ear cleaning a habit will help prevent ear infections from occurring and also help avoid permanent damage or hearing loss. 

How to Know When to Clean your Dog’s Ears

So you know why you should clean your dog’s ears, but now we will discuss when. First off, it is important to note that you can overclean their ears. You’re not eating out of your dog’s ears, so they do not need to be squeaky clean day in and day out. This can lead to redness and chronic irritation, and inflammation. 

Have you ever heard the term “Do not fix something that is not broken?” well, that applies here. Cleaning your dog’s ears should be when they need it or when you are avoiding infection or infestation from occurring. Anytime there is a risk of water exposure to your dog’s ear canal would be a good time to clean them. 

Owner cleaning dog's ear, The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner - I Love Veterinary

Paying attention to clinical signs serves as a good guideline to clean your dog’s ears as well. Knowing what a healthy ear canal looks like will help you differentiate from one that’s in trouble. It should look pink, clean, and be odorless. Below is a list of typical clinical signs that your dog may need his/her ears cleaned:

  • Shaking their heard
  • Scratching their ear
  • Discharge from the ears
  • Odor from the ears
  • Ear swelling
  • Ear redness

A simple ear cleaning can help address your dog’s ear problems; however, any of the above clinical signs can also mean an infection has already occurred, and you will need to seek veterinary care. 

The Don’ts of Cleaning your Dogs’ Ears at Home

As stated above, overcleaning your dog’s ears can lead to many issues. There are a few things to avoid when cleaning your dog’s ears. For one, do not use a cotton tip applicator. It is possible to just further push debris into the ear, and you could also rupture your dog’s eardrum. 

Also, make sure to use a quality ear cleaning solution. You never want to use water, alcohol, vinegar, or hydrogen peroxide. If your dog is experiencing extreme pain, has any discharge, shakes excessively, or has a foul odor, contact your veterinarian. Do not ignore the signs of inner ear infections.  

Floppy eared dog. The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner - I Love Veterinary

The Essential List of Ear Cleaning Supplies

Below is a list of essential ear cleaning supplies:

  • Ear cleaner (read below for top ear cleaners)
  • Cotton balls
  • Gauze (woven will help grab more debris)
  • Towel
  • Flea comb for matted hair
  • Treats

A Comprehensive Step-By-Step Guide On How to Clean your Dog’s Ears Correctly

This can get messy! Make sure you are in a room that can be easily cleaned.  

  1. Make sure to groom your dog before ear cleanings and check for any mats or issues on the outside of the ear.
  2. It’s always better to have help nearby, but if you do not have another hand, then position your dog, so his/her face isn’t near yours, and you can access his ears easily.
  3. Gather all your supplies.
  4. Flip-up your dog’s pinna (ear flap) and squeeze in an approved ear cleaner.
  5. Massage the base of your dog’s ear using your thumb and pointer finger for 30 seconds. This will help break up any debris that is at the bottom of the ear canal. 
  6. Let your dog shake! This will help get the remaining debris out. 
  7. Using a cotton ball or gauze, wipe the debris out of your dog’s ear. Stay superficial and wipe outwards to avoid any further trauma. 
  8. If you notice anything foul make sure to make an appointment with your veterinarian. It helps to take pictures so they can see the discharge that was present prior to cleaning. 
  9. Using the towel, wipe any remaining solution. 
  10. Give your dogs treats for good behavior.
  11. Repeat with the other ear.
  12. Make sure to clean the tip of the ear cleaning solution with alcohol. This is to prevent the spread of any bacteria or fungus in case it touched the ear. 
  13. Apply medication (prescribed by your veterinarian) if needed. 

Vet cleaning dog's ears, The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner - I Love Veterinary

The Top Dog Ear Cleaners

Below is a list of good ear cleaners. However, make sure to always listen to your veterinarian regarding what ear cleaners, solutions, and medications to use. 

  • Virbac EPI-OTIC Advanced Ear Cleanser-this solution will remove debris, wax, and is also a drying solution. The drying helps avoid a moist environment, which can lead to bacteria and fungal growth. It’s gentle enough for frequent use and is well tolerated by sensitive skin. It does not interfere with other medications and will neutralize the odor and ear pH.
  • TrizUltra + Keto ear flush-multi-purpose ear solution that is antibacterial and antimicrobial. Can be used for acute or long-term ear cleaning. 
  • Zymox OTIC Enzymatic Solution-cruelty-free solution that helps to naturally clean and rid of debris in your dog’s ear. Gentle enough to be used regularly and powerful enough to get rid of bacteria, fungus, or yeast. 
  • VetWELL ear cleaner– gentle solution that will relieve yeast, mites, fungus, and infection. The formula is made with aloe- vera.
  • BotaniVet Ear cleaner– an all-natural solution that is made without any unsafe chemicals. This solution is great for dogs with sensitive skin, made with all organic materials, and has an addition of silver. It comes in a variety of scents.
  • Vetoquinol Vet Solutions Ear Cleaning Solution-simple cleaner that helps deodorize, clean, and dry the ear canal.

Bulldog getting ears cleaned,The Scoop on Dog Ear Cleaner - I Love Veterinary

Preventative care

Cleaning your dog’s ears can help prevent bacteria, fungal, and yeast infections from occurring. It’s important to use a quality ear cleaner that is appropriate for your dog’s ear. Not allowing moisture to dwell in the ear canal will keep infections at bay. Listening to your veterinarian on what solution to use will help avoid reinfection from occurring and will hopefully cure the current one. 


Keeping an eye out for any abnormal activity or disease is your job as a pet parent. Regularly cleaning and touching your dog’s ears from the time will help them get used to it in case any future ear issues occur. This is a good practice for both you and your pet if any infection should occur. By cleaning their ears, you are more likely to catch a problem and stop one in their tracts.

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Jaclyn is a Licensed Veterinary Technician (LVT) who has a bachelors degree in journalism. Combining her two interests of writing, and veterinary medicine is a true passion. Jaclyn has already created her own blog called The Four Legged Nurse. She is blessed with two children, a wonderful husband, and four devoted fur babies. In her free time she loves spending time with her family, reading, and riding horses.