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A Guide for Dog Ear Cleaning: How to Use Your Dog Ear Cleaner


Cute pug dog getting its ears cleaned with a cotton swab

There’s no better way to show your love for your furry friend than taking good care of them. But when it comes to grooming and cleaning them yourself, you’ll oftentimes need a bag of treats to help you get through the process. Cleaning your dog’s ears at home can be especially tricky because this area is pretty sensitive, so you need to be extra careful when doing this without the help of a vet.

If you need some overall guidance on ear cleaning for dogs or aren’t sure how to use a dog ear cleaner correctly, then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we’ve provided a guide for cleaning a dog’s ears and how to use a dog ear cleaner safely and effectively.

Is it Safe to Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

Yes! Before you pick up a bottle of dog ear cleaner and start cleaning your dog’s ears yourself, you should check with the vet to ensure that it’s safe to do so. 

While dogs can be prone to infections, water, and mites due to the structure of their ears, not all breeds need to have frequent ear cleaning. In fact, overcleaning your dog’s ears can lead to dryness and irritation in the ear canal and even more infections. As long as the ears of your dog are pink, odorless, dry, dirt-free, and unirritated, they won’t need to be cleaned as often.

So, how can you tell if your dog has an ear infection and needs a good clean? If you notice any of the following symptoms, then it’s time to consult the vet and bring out the dog ear cleaning tools:

  • Mild discharge, redness, or swelling around the inner ears
  • Ear odors
  • Increased itching and head shaking
  • Consistent head cold (which may indicate a deep ear infection)

Although many dog breeds have ears that clean themselves, those with floppy or hairy ears (like poodles and cocker spaniels) will need a bit more attention!

Another reason you should check with your vet beforehand is because many store-bought dog ear cleaners can be harmful. Knowing which products are safe to use (and if you should be doing the cleaning yourself) is important in order to properly care for your dog. Once you get the green light from your vet, you can start cleaning your dog’s ears at home!

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

Once or twice a month is a good rule to follow for cleaning out dog ears. If you’re not sure how often you should clean your dog’s ears, then consult your vet. Different factors such as dog breed and ear shape and size will determine the cleaning frequency of your dog.

Soft white cotton balls against a turquoise background

Dog Ear Cleaning Tools

Now that you have some background information about cleaning dog ears, you might be wondering what kind of dog ear cleaning tool is necessary for the job. While you’ll definitely need more than one thing, special equipment isn’t a must for this type of pet maintenance since it’s a fairly simple and easy process. Below is a list of essential items that are commonly used to clean dog ears:

You should note that it’s better to avoid the use of cotton swabs (Q-tips) since they can push debris further inside the ear. In addition, there’s a risk of puncturing the eardrum or inflicting trauma to the ear canal when using them.

How to Use Your Dog Ear Cleaner

Cleaning a dog’s ears is generally easy, but things can get a little tough if your furry friend feels uncomfortable and starts to move around a lot; if you can, try to have someone help you. 

With that said, here’s a step-by-step guide on using your dog ear cleaner for this part of the grooming process.

  1. Place a towel or blanket on the floor. This will catch any droplets if you find your dog shaking its head after the ear cleaning.
  2. Position your dog in front of or next to you. For smaller dogs, you can place them on your lap. For larger dogs, have them sit or lie down beside you.
  3. Gently lift and vertically pull back your dog’s ear to expose the inside.
  4. If you have dog ear cleaning wipes, use them to gently clean and massage the outer area of your dog’s ear for 30 seconds. Avoid going any deeper than the entrance of the ear as of now. If your dog shows any signs of fear or stress, start off by showing them the wipe. You can try to place it near the ears, but don’t insert it quite yet; if they aren’t comfortable with the wipe going inside their ears, you might need a few treats to reward your furry friend in between each attempt!
  5. If you don’t have dog ear cleaning wipes, simply wet a clean cotton ball or piece of gauze with your vet-recommended dog ear cleaner and gently wipe away any dirt, debris, or wax for 30 seconds. Remember to not go too deep inside your dog’s ears; the flap and base or entrance will do just fine for now.
  6. Make sure that your dog is still on the same page as you. If they aren’t, use the tips from step 4 to reward and praise them with treats.
  7. Squeeze a small amount of dog ear cleaning solution in your dog’s ear (without inserting the tip of the bottle into their ear) and gently clean the inside with a cotton ball or piece of gauze. Try not to go deeper than ½ inch into the ear.
  8. Allow your dog to shake their head. This is where the towel or blanket comes in handy!
  9. Continue cleaning the inside of your dog’s ear until the cotton ball or gauze is clear of any debris.
  10. Gently remove any excess liquid with a dry cotton ball or piece of gauze.
  11. Repeat the previous steps on your dog’s other ear.
  12. After you’ve finished, give your dog a treat to reward them for their good behavior!
  13. It’s also a good idea to examine the debris and any unusual color on the cotton ball or gauze. If you have any concerns, notify your vet.

At the end of the day, cleaning your dog’s ears at home isn’t all that hard with the use of a dog ear cleaning solution and advice from your vet. As long as you’re careful and have some treats to reward your furry friend, they’ll be happy and healthy!

Contributing Writer: Rebecca Lee