How to properly clean your dog’s ears

Veterinarian cleaning dog ears

We all know that owning a dog brings certain responsibilities when we talk about their care, health, and nutrition. Our pets are always there for us, in other words, they’re our best furry friends that keep our backs. As a dog owner, you’ve probably experienced a certain dilemma on how to clean your dog’s ears. Are you going to do it right? Can you hurt him? How does your little pooch feel when you’re doing it? These are only some of the questions that dog owners ask themselves.

The most common symptoms of dog’s ears problems

It’s a fact that there are many dog breeds in the world and each one is unique in its own way. However, when we talk about certain care requirements, most of them have many things in common. Dog’s ears are, after their noses, one of the most important organs that help them to discover the world. Since your pet can’t deal with all the issues by itself, sometimes it’s time for you to take responsibility. That’s why you need to care about his health, care, and nutrition.

When we talk about their ears in general, they are all susceptible to develop different infections. Most infections in those tiny body parts are caused by yeast, bacteria, and mites. While mites mostly affect puppies, yeast and bacteria occur in adult dogs. An ear infection should be examined by the vet, and after examining the dog’s ear under the microscope, you should get a prescribed therapy.

Some of the most common signs that your dog’suffeing from infection are head tilting, bad odor, scratching, smelly and yellow discharge, bloody discharge. Although these symptoms sound pretty serious, in most cases they can be easily solved by performing the correct ear cleaning.

Why do you need to clean your dog’s ears?

Unfortunately, dog owners usually think that bathing a dog and trimming their nails is enough when we talk about their care. However, the truth is actually quite different. Those important organs of hearing also require special care, as well as the rest of your dog’s body. Dog breeds with straight and wide-open ears are on higher risk to suffer from different issues. That happens because the dirt has a free entrance to such ears. Therefore, we recommend you to always make sure your pooch has clean and bad-odor free ears. Remember that dogs with flopped ears require cleaning as well.

Vet checks with the otoscope

The most common ear problems in dogs

  1. Ear mites, otherwise called otodectes cynotic mites, in most cases, present the biggest culprit for your dog’s ear problems. It is a parasitic infection that can be discovered by observing your dog’s behavior and laboratory analysis of skin scraping. The medication treatment usually takes up to 30 days, depending on how serious the issue is. Besides the prescribed medication, your dog will also need frequent debris removing.

    It’s important to mention that ear mites can be easily transmitted to other animals in the household while playing. That’s why when one dog’s having an ear infection, the vet prescribes to the other dog or a cat the therapy too. Otherwise, you might find yourself in a vicious circle.

  2. Luckily (or not), the yeast infection can be easily determined by observing your dog’s behavior and a waxy discharge from its ear. However, this kind of condition, although is quite easy to solve, requires other exams too. Yeast in dogs occurs for many reasons. It can be your dog’s allergy to a certain food, environmental allergy, foreign object in the ear, a polyp in the ear or a ruptured eardrum. The good thing is that the yeast infection may show up anywhere else on your dog’s skin, so that’s why is easy to discover.

    After your vet checks with the otoscope what can be the cause for your dog’s issue, one of the solutions may be using certain dog ear cleaners with antifungal medicines. Unlike mites that mostly affect dogs with wide-open ears, yeast most occur in dogs with floppy ears. It happens because some dog breeds have a hair inside the ear that actually collects all the dirt.

  3. Bacterial infection in the dog’s ears usually develops when the problem isn’t treated on time. It occurs when the dog hurts the ear canal by constant scratching and allows bacteria to grow. That’s why important to clean them at least once a month.

What do you need to know about your canine’s ear anatomy?

Dog ear

If someone would ask us what we have in common with dogs, it would be the ears. The humans’ and the dogs’ ears have pretty similar anatomy with one main difference. The dogs have larger earlobes and longer ear canal.

The dog’s ears consist of the outer, middle and inner ear.

The outer ear presents the dog’s ear ‘shell’ that is covered with skin and fur. It includes the so-called pinnae and the ear canal. The pinnae in dogs depend on the breed they belong, and it’s much deeper from the human’s which explains why dogs hear better from us.

The dog’s middle ear consists of the eardrum and 3 tiny bones (the hammer, anvil, and stirrup). Besides these, there are also two muscles (eustachian tube and the oval window). It’s extremely important to regularly clean the dog’s middle ear, since the dirt may block the sounds and waves and decrease its power of hearing.

The inner ear does the main work for a dog’s sense of hearing. It serves to gather the electrical signals that go to a dogs brain and send him a message. The dog’s inner ear includes the organ of hearing (cochlea) and the system of balance (the vestibular system).

Step by step guide on how to clean your dog’s ears

After you read all the previous facts about these important body parts, here we come the most important part of the article. As a pet owner who cares about your four-legged friend’s health, there is not necessary to visit a vet every time he needs a regular ear cleaning. You can perform it by yourself at home by using a few tools.

As you can guess, no pooch gets thrilled by seeing that you’re preparing some strange tools to put into his ears. Since they don’t understand that we are actually helping them to stay free of infections, you need to know how to relax your pooch.

You can do that by feeding your little furry companion by his favorite snacks. A few cuddles to calm him down and saying praise words will also help a lot. Therefore, both you and your furry buddy need to relax. When you feel your pet feels calmed, it’s the right time to introduce him with the tools. Note that dogs are highly intelligent beings that can’t be fooled so easily.

So, what do you need from the tools?

How to Clean Dogs' Ears
  1. For performing an ear cleaning, you’ll need a few cotton balls or pads, ear wet wipes, canine ear cleaner (ask your vet which one to buy), lukewarm water, and scissors. Of course, you should not forget your dog’s favorite toy and some tasty snacks.
  2. Choose the place where you want to perform your four-legged friend’s ear cleaning. It can be your table, your lap or your sofa. It’s also desirable to ask someone from your family or friends to help you. It’s very likely that he will not stand still, so the other person needs to be present.
  3. Tilt your dog’s head gently so you can see his ear canal. Pay attention if there are any signs of redness, dirt, foreign objects, and yellow or bloody discharge. It’s normal to see a light brown waxy discharge.
  4. In most cases, dog’s ears can be cleaned by using a simple wet cotton ball. However, in case there is a lot of debris and earwax, you’ll need a canine ear cleaner. Put the canine ear cleaner on a cotton ball or a pad, and gently squeeze 2 or 3 drops of a cleaner into your doggie’s ear too. Now, you should carefully insert the wet cotton pad or a ball into his ear and remove the debris. If you couldn’t remove all the dirt from the first try, you can repeat it again.
  5. Use ear wet wipes (try to find hypoallergenic type) and clean your pet’s pinnae. In that way, you should also perform a massage of his ear in order to disperse the ear cleaner inside. Continue to do it for about 15 seconds.
  6. When you finish with the massage of your pooch’s ears, you should allow him to shake his head and in that way, he’ll eject all the excess liquid and dirt from his ears.

In case you’re afraid to perform this by yourself, you can ask your vet to show you how to do it for the first few times. However, in most cases, a dog feels more comfortable when it’s done by the owner. Therefore, you’re the only person who can help him.

How to Clean Dog Ears with 6 Safe Herbal Remedies at Home

Choose 1 or more of these 6 herbal remedies to clean your dog’s ears, prevent and treat infections and repel fleas.  Check with your veterinarian to find out the best choice for your dog’s breed and condition. 

Work with your groomer if your dog won’t allow you to touch her ears so you can keep your dog’s ears clean.

  • Aloe Vera: One of the best plants to use as a remedy for ear mites and bacterial infections is aloe vera. When you use fresh aloe, cut off the leaf and remove the yellow part of the gel near the leaf. Aloe vera gel is a simple answer to how to clean dog ears with a product that’s also good for her skin. This yellow part, aloe latex, contains aloin, a chemical that may irritate your dog’s skin if she’s allergic to latex.  You can use your finger or a cotton ball to rub aloe vera gel into your dog’s ears.
  • Apple Cider Vinegar: You can use organic apple cider vinegar (ACV) to clean your dog’s ears and repel ticks and fleas.  Mix a 50/50 solution of ACV with water and use a spray bottle to apply it.  Put your hand over your dog’s eyes and lift up her ear flap if needed to spray inside her ear.  You now have a quick solution to how to clean dog ears. Only 2 or 3 short sprays are needed.  Apple cider vinegar can sting, so don’t use on open wounds.  You can use a soft towel or cotton ball to wipe the inside of your dog’s ears.
  • Castor Oil: Apply this pale yellow non-toxic oil as a remedy for ear mites.  Rub castor oil on your dog’s skin to help repel parasites and pests like fleas because it cuts off the pests’ source of oxygen.  You can use your finger or a cotton ball to safely apply castor oil in and around your dog’s ears.
  • Grape Seed Extract: When you know how to clean dog ears with safe products in your own kitchen it makes it easier to take better care of your dog. This herbal remedy is rich with antioxidants and benefits your dog because it’s non-toxic, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and contains vitamins C and E.  You can use grape seed extract or oil for your dog’s bacterial infections, ear mites, eczema, eye and skin infections. 
  • Lemon: Lemon oil and lemon juice are a basic herbal remedy for your dog’s ear infections. You can mix 1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice with 3 tablespoons distilled water and use 2 or 3 drops of this solution as a remedy for your dog’s ear infections. The answer to how to clean dog ears can be simple when you always have fresh lemons in your kitchen all year. Lemon oil can be applied to your dog’s ears in cold weather to help avert frostbite.  Mix lemon juice and green tea with equal amounts and apply to your dog’s skin inside her ears with cotton balls or a soft cloth as a remedy for ear mites.
  • Mullein: Another herbal remedy for your dog’s ear infections is mullein which is a wooly leafed biennial plant and grows throughout the United States. Mix mullein oil with garlic as a remedy for ear mites.  Use 2 drops twice daily and rub into your dogs ears.  Your dog will enjoy the massage, too.

How often do you need to clean your dog’s ears?

Well, you’ve probably already heard that frequent ear cleaning is not recommended not only for the dogs but also for people. On the other hand, if you don’t clean them at all, it can also develop a problem.

According to the vets, it much depends on the dog breed you own, its age, activity and earwax production. However, doing it once a month can prevent your pooch from developing different problems.

If you own a dog that you like to take to go swimming in summer months, it’s highly advisable to regularly put the ear sterile drops in order to prevent him from certain infections.

In case you live with a high-energy working dog, that likes to sniff around, run, discover new places and odors, then it might sometimes show an ear issue. High energy dogs often get a foreign object stuck in their ears such as the piece of grass and plants.

Allergies may also present some of the biggest culprits for your dog’s ear problems. For example, the French bulldog breed is known for its tendency to show certain environmental allergies. That’s why their outer ears need to be cleaned by a wet ear wipe every time you get back from a walk.

What about cutting your dog’s ear hair?

Unfortunately, dogs with hair inside the ear are more prone to develop an infection. Therefore, you can ask your vet to groom the hair inside your dog’s ears and to show how to perform it by yourself in the future. Dog’s hair may collect not only dirt but also different allergens that cause a nervous scratching in our furry companions.


Once you decided to own a dog, you’ve made a contract for life. In that contract is written that you’ll be there always for him and that you’ll keep each other’s back. It means that your dog’s health not only depends on his genetics but also on you. Therefore, love your dog, and keep him healthy by providing him the best care, and nutrition. And, of course, don’t forget to clean his ears regularly!


  • Emma Reply

    Thank you for this very good website. I’ve been able to get plenty of excellent pet care
    information here. My question is should I clean my dog’s ears?

    • Sarah Robert Reply

      Thanks you!

      This is an important part of pet care, and something that needs to be done regularly. Ear mites can live in the skin cells in your dog’s ears. To prevent and avoid fungal and bacterial ear infections, you’ll need to check his ears for a thick waxy buildup with a foul odor.

      With ear mites being contagious, you’ll also need to visit your veterinarian to check for mites and fleas. At the same time, you can ask your veterinarian to show you how to clean your dog’s ears properly. This is important because it keeps ear wax at bay, and helps prevent ear infections.

      When your dog’s ears are clean, you’ll keep ear mites away that consume ear wax and ear oil. Your dog will then begin scratching his ears a lot which could cause damage. Dogs that swim need to also have special ear care. Bacteria and yeast that’s always present in the ear can cause an infection if the ear is wet. Dogs with long and heavy ears need to have extra special attention given to their ears because of the lack of air flow, which results in a moist environment in the ear.

      There is a huge array of ear care products today like Bio-Groom Ear Fresh. This product has a special technology that clings to the ear hair in the ear canal. Natural ear cleaning lotions like Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Ear Wash has natural herbal extracts, and both cleanses and soothes at the same time. Ear cleaning wipes are terrific too because they’re soft and effective in getting the ear wax and oils out of the ear.

  • Grace Reply

    Hi! I just want you ask, is it okay if there’s a remaining ear cleaner solution in your dog’s ear? Thank You. Im looking forward to your answer.

    • PetOnBed Reply

      Hi Grace,

      As pet parents we understand the importance of preventative care by inspecting and cleaning our dog’s ears regularly to prevent a build-up of dirt that may cause painful ear infections. That said, over- cleaning your dog’s ears may also lead to infection and possible irritation. Keep in mind that if you’re having issues, your veterinarian can show you how to properly clean your dog’s ears.

      Successful ear cleaning is actually very simple with the use of a veterinary- approved ear cleaning product and cotton balls. After using the ear solution, your dog will probably shake his head to get the solution out. After he’s done this, you can wipe out all the gunk from his ears with a clean cloth or cotton ball. You should not dig deep into the ear, but clean only the part that you can see. That said, try to keep your dog’s outer ear as dry as possible to prevent inflammation and infection later on that is caused by excessive moisture in moist ear canals.

      In the final stage of cleaning your dog’s ears, you should try to dry out as much of outer ear as possible to prevent a sudden increase in moisture, and possible future ear infection. Your dog’s ears need to be kept dry and well-ventilated year round. If your furry best friend has just gone swimming or had a bath and is prone to ear infections, ask your vet about ear drying agents that can be used. Always check with your vet if you have any questions! And finally, check out our Facebook for the latest on pet care!

  • Dan Thomas Reply

    Is it a positive sign if the external canal and the crevices and flaps are dirty? Does this mean the canal is doing it’s job by self cleaning and pushing the gunk out?? We rehomed our Cockapoo in July just seems he is always having an issues with his ears. Lately he shakes his head a lot and then has a slight twitch with his rear leg. I think I may have over cleaned the inner canal? The middle ear seems to be dirty every other day at the moment. Just so confused

    • PetOnBed Reply

      Thanks for reaching out! Your goal is to keep your dog’s ears clean. You can do so with ear wipes or a cotton ball that’s moistened with either a veterinary or over the counter-ear cleanser that’s specially formulated for dogs.

      You’ll need to remove the excess ear wax and grime from your dog’s ear flaps and crevices. With any excess head shaking, you’ll need to visit your veterinarian to ensure that he doesn’t have an ear infection.

      To prevent ear infections from occurring, you should inspect your dog’s ears every week. If you live in warm weather, your dog may be prone to more ear infections because trapped moisture and even water from swimming may trigger an ear infection. Your vet may prescribe a topical antibacterial or antifungal medication for your dog’s ears.

      Keep in mind that a dog’s ear canal is L-shaped, so it’s easy for dirt and moisture to get trapped. Your furry best friend may also be prone to allergies like food allergies or even an immune deficiency. That said, to help prevent ear infections in the first place, you’ll need to keep your dog’s ears clean and dry.

      As usual, if you feel that your dog’s ears are infected and painful, consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Keep in mind that, as with humans, ear infections are excruciatingly painful in dogs and always need treatment.

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