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Good pet owners know that their furry friend’s health is paramount. This includes not only the physical health of the pet but also their overall cleanliness and hygiene. A key part of this includes maintaining your dog’s ear health. Regular cleaning your dog’s ears helps prevent infections and other complications.


dog, animal, pets

In this guide, we walk you through the steps of cleaning your dog’s ears. We include the tools you’ll need, the right technique, and how often you should clean your dog’s ears.

Why Clean Your Dog’s Ears?


Just like humans, dogs also produce wax in their ears. This wax, along with dirt and debris from the environment, often builds up over time, leading to discomfort and potential infections.


Some breeds are more prone to ear problems than others, especially those with long, droopy ears like Basset Hounds, Retrievers, and Cocker Spaniels. Keeping clean dog ears on these breeds and mixes presents some challenges. They might need more frequent ear cleaning than other breeds.


dog, basset hound, bloodhound


Not Just Floppy Ears


However, all dog ears need regular cleaning. Dogs love to dig and play outside. Even pets who spend most of their time indoors develop some buildup.


Regular cleaning helps to remove this buildup and keeps your dog’s ears healthy. It also allows you to regularly inspect your dog’s ears for signs of infection or other issues.

Signs Your Dog’s Ears Need Cleaning


Before you start cleaning, you must know what a healthy dog ear looks like. A healthy dog’s ear should be pink, odorless, and not dirty or inflamed.


Signs that your dog’s ears might need cleaning include:

Excessive Wax Build-Up:


If you notice a lot of wax in your dog’s ears, it’s probably time for a cleaning. However, it’s best to pull out that ear cleaner before the ears show signs of excessive wax.


cleaning dog ears to remove dirt

Bad Odor:


A bad smell coming from your dog’s ears can indicate infection. You probably won’t have the odor issue if you clean your dog’s ears regularly.

Redness or Inflammation:


These could be signs of an infection or other health issue and should be examined by a vet. When you clean a dog’s ears, check into the entire ear canal for signs of redness. Sometimes the problem starts deeper.


infected dog ear, cleaning dog ears


Head Shaking or Scratching:


If your dog constantly shakes their head or scratches their ears, this could indicate irritation or discomfort in the ear.


When a dog scratches his ears, he often adds to the problem. Those feet add more dirt and debris to the ear canal. When the itchiness intensifies, he continues scratching and often this leads to scratching open the tender skin on the underside of the ear or in the ear canal.


dog scratching ears, cleaning dog ears


Swelling or Bump on the Ear


Ear infections often lead to a swelling or lump forming on the dog’s ear. While this might resolve, it’s best to visit your veterinarian at this point to ensure the infection is resolved. Ear infections and hematomas sometimes need surgery on the ear flap to correct the problem.


Aural Hematoma

Before Cleaning Dog Ears, Understand the Anatomy


The dog ear canal is a part of the external ear that connects the pinna (the visible part of the ear) to the eardrum (the membrane that separates the external ear from the middle ear).  


The dog ear canal is much longer and narrower than the human ear canal. It makes a sharp bend as it goes deeper into the ear.  


cleaning dog ears, understanding ear anatomy  

The ear canal of your dog is composed of three cartilages: the annular, the scutiform, and the auricular.  



The ear canal is lined with skin that has hair follicles, sebaceous glands, and ceruminous glands. These glands produce ear wax (cerumen) that helps protect the ear canal from dirt, insects, and infections.  


The ear canal also has muscles that can contract and relax to adjust the size and shape of the canal. A dog ear canal is designed to funnel sound waves to the eardrum. The eardrum then vibrates and transmits the sound to the middle and inner ear.  


The dog ear canal can also help the dog locate the direction and distance of the sound source by moving the pinna and changing the shape of the canal.  


The dog ear canal provides an important and sensitive part of the dog’s hearing system. Keeping it clean and healthy offers important benefits to your pet.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears might sound like a daunting task, especially if you’ve never done it before. But with the right tools and technique, it can be a relatively easy and stress-free process.

Supplies You’ll Need


To clean your dog’s ears, you’ll need a few supplies:


  • A dog ear-cleaning solution:


These are specially formulated to clean your dog’s ears safely and effectively. They seep into the dog’s ear canal to reach areas you can’t see.


Avoid using household products such as vinegar or alcohol. These products often cause irritation, stinging, and even damage to the delicate skin and tissue inside the ear canal. Vinegar and alcohol also alter the pH balance of the ear, making it more susceptible to infections and inflammation.


A good dog ear cleaner includes a drying component, which helps prevent moisture buildup and bacterial growth in the ear. It should also be gentle, non-toxic, and soothing for your dog’s ears. By using a proper dog ear cleaner, you can keep your dog’s ears healthy, clean, and comfortable.


  • Cotton balls or gauze:


These will be used to wipe away the cleaning solution and any wax or debris. For very small dogs, a cotton swab might work best. However, these need to be used with caution to avoid poking into the ear canal during ear cleaning.


  • A clean, dry towel:


This will come in handy when your dog shakes their head after the cleaning.

Step-by-Step Cleaning Process




Assemble all your supplies in a place that’s easy to clean, like a bathroom. If your dog isn’t used to having their ears cleaned, you might want to have a second person to help keep them calm and still.

Apply the Cleaning Solution:


Lift your dog’s ear flap and gently squeeze the cleaning solution into the ear canal. Be careful not to let the tip of the bottle touch the ear to avoid contamination.

Massage the Base of the Ear:


Massage the base of your dog’s ear for about 30 seconds. Listen for a squishing sound as the solution works to break up the wax and debris.

Let Your Dog Shake Their Head:


Your dog will naturally want to shake their head to get rid of the cleaning solution. This is a good thing—it helps bring the wax and debris to the surface.

Wipe Away the Solution and Debris:


Using a cotton ball or gauze, gently wipe out the ear canal. Avoid pushing debris back into the ear canal. You need to wipe from inside to outer ear.

Dry the Ear:


Use a clean, dry towel to pat the ear dry. Leaving the ear wet can lead to infections.

A Note on Cleaning Frequency


The frequency of ear cleaning depends on your dog’s breed, lifestyle, and overall ear health. As a general rule, check your dog’s ears once a week and clean them as needed.

Ear Cleaning, Simplified


Cleaning your dog’s ears is an essential part of their grooming routine. Regular ear cleaning helps prevent infections, removes buildup of wax and debris, and keeps your dog comfortable.  


With the right supplies and technique, clean your dog’s ears at home. If you notice any signs of an ear infection or other problems, consult your vet immediately. Regular ear cleaning, along with regular vet check-ups, helps ensure that your dog remains healthy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How often should I clean my dog's ears?

The frequency of ear cleaning depends on your dog’s breed, lifestyle, and overall ear health. As a general rule, it is recommended to check your dog’s ears once a week and clean them as needed. Breeds with floppy ears may require more frequent cleaning to prevent wax buildup and potential infections.

What signs indicate that my dog's ears need cleaning?

Signs that your dog’s ears might need cleaning include excessive wax buildup, a bad odor emanating from the ears (indicating a possible infection), redness or inflammation, head shaking or scratching, and swelling or bumps on the ear. Regularly cleaning your dog’s ears allows you to detect these signs early and address any potential issues promptly.

Can I use household products like vinegar or alcohol to clean my dog's ears?

It is not recommended to use household products such as vinegar or alcohol for cleaning your dog’s ears. These products can cause irritation, stinging, and damage to the delicate skin and tissue inside the ear canal. Additionally, they may alter the pH balance of the ear, making it more susceptible to infections and inflammation. It is advised to use a specially formulated dog ear-cleaning solution that is gentle, non-toxic, and designed to clean the ears effectively.

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