How to Clean Dogs Ears: A Step-by-Step Care Guide

Ear cleaning is an essential grooming procedure to keep dogs healthy and happy. dog's ear canals have a deep, dark, and moist environment with limited airflow, creating the perfect breeding ground for bacterial and fungal infections. But how do you go about cleaning a dog’s ear? Well, the truth is there’s more to a dog’s ear than meets the eye. Under those floppy (or perky) ears lies a complicated vertical and horizontal configuration of canals. Cleaning a dog's ears requires a thoughtful approach. In this article, we’ll take you on a step-by-step journey to clean canine ears and give you professional tips on how to clean your dog's ears safely and correctly.
Dr. Kathryn Dench - Qualified Veterinarian Surgeon with over ten years of experience in small animal medicine.
October 4, 2022
min read

What Supplies to Use

Cleaning dog ears is a simple exercise that doesn't require special equipment. Here is a list of what to use to clean dog ears at home.

Dog ear cleanser

Some people may advise you to use homemade cleaners. However, dog ears are sensitive to the substances used, and imbalances may trigger more problems than good. 

If you’re asking, “what can I clean my dog’s ears with?” our answer is to use vet-recommended ear cleaners. Examples of good ear cleaners are Zymox Otic Ear Solution, Virbac Epi-Optic Advanced Ear Cleanser, and Pet MD Veterinary Tris Flush.

Unless your veterinarian advises you to use a specific product, stay away from alcohol- or hydrogen peroxide-containing solutions because they are abrasive and might irritate your dog's ears. You can request your vet to help you make the right choice. 

Cotton balls

Use cotton balls or gauze to clean the outer part of the ear. Avoid inserting cotton balls into the ear canal since they can push debris further inside or get stuck inside, damaging a dog’s hearing permanently.  


Ear cleaning is not a pleasant experience for dogs. Giving treats can help calm a dog during the procedure.


This one’s optional, but having your dog sit on a towel during the procedure helps to keep the mess contained in one place!

How to Clean Dogs Ears: Step-by-Step

Ear cleaning doesn’t require professional qualification. So, what’s the best way to clean dog ears? Start by inspecting your dog's ears to ensure they aren’t inflamed, smelly, reddish, or itchy. If you see any of these warning signs, get a vet to check your dog’s ears before you do any cleaning. 

If the ears appear normal, proceed with these simple tips on how to clean out a dog's ears.

  1. Restrain your dog (you may need to enlist some help!)

  1. Hold your dog’s ear flap vertically

  1. Slowly fill the ear canal with the ear cleanser until it begins to flow out. Don’t insert the cleaner bottle’s tip into the ear 

  1. While still holding the flap upwards with one hand, gently massage the base of the ear with your other hand’s fingers for about 20-30 seconds

  1. Release the ear flap and let your dog shake its head as you hold a towel to prevent the liquid from splashing all over

  1. Use cotton balls or wrap your index finger with a cotton pad and wipe the ear canal as far as your finger can reach

  1. Reward your dog with a treat and repeat the procedure on the other ear

If the ears look dirty after cleaning, have excessive discharge or anything abnormal, contact your vet immediately. Did you know pet insurance may cover ear infections and medications to treat them? Click here to learn more and compare affordable plans.

What about plucking?

You may have heard people say their dog’s hairy ears need plucking regularly. While it’s certainly true that overly-hairy ear canals can trap air, water and bacteria inside, the main function of hairs is actually to keep things out! Not only that, but each time a hair is plucked, it causes a certain amount of pain and inflammation at the site that it’s plucked out of. While some dogs cope ok with this, in others it can trigger an ear infection of its own.

In general, unless your veterinarian specifically instructs you to pluck your dog’s ears, it’s best not to. Excessively long hairs poking out of the ear can be trimmed carefully, and the cut hairs removed with tweezers to prevent them from falling into the ear canal.

Why Do I Need to Clean My Dog's Ears?

Ear hygiene is an essential aspect of keeping your dog healthy. A dog's ear canals have complicated structures, and when dirt gets trapped, it can be impossible to remove without proper cleaning. Here are the benefits of regular ear cleaning:

Remove dirt and dust

Dirt and dust can cause discomfort, but cleaning makes a dog feel fresh and comfortable. It can also make it easier for them to hear, which may (or may not) make them more responsive!

Remove moisture

Swimming and taking a bath can lead to water entering the dog's ears. The extra moisture in the ear canal encourages pathogenic microorganisms and promotes microbial growth.

Prevent infection 

Ear cleaning physically removes bacteria, and also helps remove allergens and wax. By cleaning your dog’s ears regularly, you’re also more likely to notice any discharge in your dog’s ears, which could be an early sign of infection. Ear infections can be really difficult to treat, so getting to the vet at the earliest sign is your best chance of tackling an infection effectively.

Final Thoughts

Cleaning a dog's ears is a hygienic exercise that’s often overlooked. However, it is crucial to keep your dog healthy and protect their hearing. Most vets recommend once monthly cleaning for healthy ears, to keep the ear canals clean and clear. Don’t clean more often, unless your vet advises you to, as it can cause irritation. 

If you have any concern about your dog’s ears, such as noticing discharge when you’re cleaning, or your dog seeming to be in pain when you touch their ears, or even what ear cleaner is best for your dog, your veterinarian will be happy to help.

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GoodPaw Pet Services Inc., GoodPaw, offers free advice, product information and other editorial resources that are intended for informative purposes only, and should not be used in place of proper veterinary care. This information should not be used to diagnose or treat your pet. If your pet is experiencing any health concerns, contact a licensed veterinarian. GoodPaw assumes no responsibility for action taken based on information given from

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