How to Clean Dog’s Ears at Home: Step-By-Step

Have you noticed a weird discharge or a particular odor emerging from your dog’s ears? If so, do not be alarmed, as this just indicates that your dog needs an ear cleaning.

You might be hesitant to visit the veterinarian, especially during this climate, so instead, we have provided you with a step-by-step guide on how to properly care for your dog’s ears at home.

Why is Ear Cleaning Imperative

Ear cleaning is a crucial maintenance step for any dog; therefore, it is always important to pay special attention to your dog’s ear canals.

If your dog goes too long without an appropriate cleaning, this could easily lead to ear wax build-up while making your dog more susceptible to an ear infection.

Dogs with naturally large ears, such as Hounds and Dachshunds, may need to have their ears cleaned regularly, as opposed to dogs with smaller ears.

Veterinarians recommend that dogs with larger ears, or ears prone to infection, have their ears cleaned at least once a month with a gentle ear cleaner.

What to look for in an Ear Cleaner

When looking for an ear cleaning solution, you may come across a plethora of recommended homemade remedies.

However, it is always best to use a solution that is veterinarian verified. Some homemade solutions might include damaging ingredients such as hydrogen peroxide or alcohol that can deteriorate your dog’s inner ear.

It is also beneficial to use an ear cleaner that specifically caters to your dog’s needs. Specific ear cleaners have antifungal and antibacterial ingredients that will assist in preventing further ear infections.

Others explicitly only include gentle ingredients: this is ideal if your dog’s ears are sensitive.

Top Ear Cleaning Solutions and Treatments

Finding the best ear cleaning solution can be an arduous task, especially if you do not have the guidance of a trusted veterinarian. So instead, we have decided to provide you with our best suggestions.

BotaniVet Natural Ear Cleaner

This ear cleaning solution is extremely gentle and eco-friendly. It is perfect for dogs who have particularly sensitive ears. It does not contain sulfates, alcohols, or any unsafe chemicals.

Though this solution does include the ingredient silver, which is a great defense for infections. This product is also veterinarian recommended.

Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser

The Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser is definitely one of a kind, it specializes in cleaning, drying, and preventing microbial growth from the ear canal.

This works well for dogs who have sensitive ears, yet, it still does a great job in reducing chronic inflammation.

It has an alluring citrus smell which will be great for comforting your dog during the process. Of course, this is veterinarian recommended as well.

Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone

This treatment cleans and disinfects the ear canal. It specifically treats bacterial and yeast infections and reduces inflammation and itchiness.

If your dog already has or is on the verge of an ear infection, this would be the ideal product. It is also veterinarian recommended; however, if your dog has a specific condition, you should let a local veterinarian know before use.

VetWELL Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner

This ear cleaner is also specifically gentle and even incorporates Aloe Vera, which is naturally soothing and prevents inflammation. The VetWELL ear cleaner is also known for relieving infections from yeast and even mites.

Zymox Ear Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes

This product is similar to the Zymox Ear Treatment, but it is not as targeted towards dogs with infections, instead this is a more general-use ear solution.

It is extremely gentle, and free of toxic chemicals, making it veterinarian recommended. This solution does not have a distinct scent, but it does leave your dog’s ears smelling fresh and clean.

How to know if your dog has an ear infection

If you have missed the signs that your dog needs an ear cleaning, then an ear infection will soon follow. If your dog’s ears appear to be red and inflamed along with a yeasty/bacterial smell, then your dog may be suffering from an ear infection.

It is possible to treat ear infections at home, but remember that ear infections are incredibly painful to dogs; thus, it is necessary that you are particularly gentle, as ear tissue itself is already especially sensitive.

Nevertheless, going to a veterinarian when your dog’s ears are infected is truly the better option, as cleaning an infected ear could worsen the ear tissue.

What to avoid when cleaning your dog’s ears

Before we jump into the steps, it is critical that you are aware of a few things that you should not do when it comes to cleaning your dog’s ears.

1. Q-tips

The first thing that you should avoid is the use of Q-tips or any pointed cleaning tools. When you use Q-tips on your dog’s ears, this exacerbates the possibility of you accidentally pushing the dirt further into their ears and irritating their inner ear.

2. Overcleaning

This article stresses the importance of regularly checking and cleaning your dog’s ears. However, most dogs do not need their ears cleaned as often as others might.

Thus, it is important to know when it is necessary to clean your dog’s ears, and when it is not. If you overclean your dog’s ears, this can inflame the ear canal and provoke an infection.

3. Using little cleaning solution

For the best cleaning experience, you should fill your dog’s ear with an ear solution until it is visible in the ear canal. When you do that, it allows the solution to break down the ear wax, making it easier to remove.

Ear Cleaning Step-by-Step Guide

Now that we have addressed some background information, we can finally get into all the steps that are used to adequately clean your dog’s ears from home!

1. Gather Materials

Before starting with the cleaning process, you need to gather the materials first. You will need the ear cleaning solution, a towel, a cotton ball, or a gauze pad. 

2. Positioning your Dog

If your dog is small, they should be positioned between your legs, with their backside facing you. If your dog is on the larger side, then seat them alongside a wall. With either position, you should have easy access to your dog’s ears.

3. Exposing the Ear Canal

Once you are in your preferred position, place the towel on the floor (it is best to do this on a flat surface) adjacent to your dog’s ear.

Next, gently take control of one ear, and hold it up vertically until the ear canal is exposed. You might have to maneuver it a couple of times to get it fully straightened out.

4. Using the solution

When you have a firm grasp on the ear, place the bottle of solution on the other hand. Slowly squeeze the solution into the ear canal until it is completely full, a little may spill out.

It is very important that you do not put the tip of the bottle directly into your dog’s ear. If this happens, immediately disinfect the bottle tip with alcohol to avoid the spread of bacteria and yeast.

5. Breaking up the Ear Wax

Once the solution is placed in your dog’s ear canal, thoroughly massage the base of your dog’s ear using your free hand.

Do this for at least one minute to completely allow the solution to break up the debris. It is common to hear a squelching sound as the cleaning solution swishes around the ear.

6. Cleaning out the Debris

Now that the debris/ear wax has loosened, grasp your cotton ball (or gauze pad) and wipe away all the remains throughout the ear.

Next, let go of your dog’s ear and allow them to move their head back and forth. This allows the remaining debris in the inner ear to come all the way out. Lift the ear flap, and wipe away the remains again.

7. When to Stop (Suggestion)

Never try cleaning your dog’s ear past finger length. If you try to go too deep this could cause serious uncomfortability and possibly pain to your dog.

Though if your dog seems to be in pain throughout the entire process then you should stop immediately, and take them to a vet instead.

8. Bonus

It does not hurt to give your dog a treat after the whole process is over. This gives them something to look forward to as the entire process could make them anxious and uncomfortable. It could also give them an incentive to stay still, as some dogs can get fidgety.

Final Thoughts

The central point of this article is to stress how important it is to clean and check your dog’s ears. As mentioned previously, ear tissue is extremely sensitive, so just about anything can result in a harsh ear infection.

Although, another essential takeaway from this article was what you should and should not do when it comes to caring for your dog’s ears at home. You should always be gentle and always refer to your local veterinarian if you have any concerns or questions.

Now, if you feel like there was a technique we did not address or a topic we neglected, do not be afraid to let us know in the comments. Also, it would be great if you would share this article with family and friends so you can help spread the word about the importance of pet ear maintenance!