Cleaning Ears

How to Clean Your Dog's Ears


One very important way you can monitor your dog's health is to examine its ears weekly. We may not think to do this on our own but is it especially important for dogs that have floppy ears or dog’s with allergies. Many times, when inspecting the ears you will find that they need cleaning. Cleaning a dog’s ears at home is fairly simple as long as the ears are not infected or damaged. Ensure proper ear care for your loyal companion by regularly inspecting and cleaning its ears, floppy or otherwise.

Inspecting Your Dog's Ears

Inspect the general condition of your dog's ears.

Have your dog sit or stand near you so you can see easily in its ears. If all you see is dirt or normal earwax you can begin cleaning your dog's ears.

    • Look for any drainage of fluid from the ear (clear or gray/brown), thick waxy material, or any scratches, scabs or wounds. If you see any of these signs DO NOT clean the ear and contact your dog’s veterinarian for advice.
    • You will not be able to see deep into the ear canal, as at the base of the ear, where it meets the head, it takes a sharp turn. Therefore, it is not advised to do a deep cleaning into the ears without instructions from your veterinarian. NEVER use a Q tip in the canal itself as you can compact material into this sharp turn or even rupture the eardrum.

Look for parasites and foreign bodies in the ear.

Dogs can harbor any number of unwanted entities in their ears. Dogs that frequently run through grasses or wooded areas can get foreign bodies such as plant awns, grass, or seeds in their ears. If you notice any of these problems, you can first try to (very gently) remove the offending object or try to clean the ears to remove these things. If this doesn’t work, you will need to take your dog to your veterinary professional.

    • Mites, ticks and fleas all enjoy the relatively hidden spots in and around the ears. Mites make the ears intensely itchy and can make the ear produce a thick, brown discharge. You will need to have a veterinarian diagnose and treat ear mites. Ticks and fleas can be killed (and prevented) by the various topical flea and tick prevented easily purchased from your veterinarian.

Inspect the ears for any signs of a yeast infection.

A yeast infection makes the ears smell funky, itchy and produce a brownish discharge. These fungal infections need special medicine to clear the infection; cleaning alone will not cure a yeast infection, in fact it might make the condition worsen. Take your dog to its veterinarian if you see any of these symptoms.

Look for the signs of a bacterial infection in the outer part of the ear.

Bacterial ear infections can range from a mild infection easily cleared with medication to serious infections causing the dog to feel very unwell. A veterinarian needs to be involved in the diagnosis and treatment of bacterial ear infections due to the potential for serious complications.

Keep an eye out for anything that might be a tumor, but remember that these are rare.

Occasionally, odd lumps or bumps are found in and around the ears. Most times these lumps and bumps are nothing but skin cysts or reactions to trauma or bug bites.

    • Carefully watch these at home. If they don’t go away within a week, grow larger, or bother your dog, consult a veterinarian.

Cleaning Your Dog's Ears

Purchase a commercial dog ear cleaner or make you own with common household products.

Either cleaner can be used on the outer portion of the inside of the ear flap. The procedure for cleaning the ear is the same with a commercial ear cleaner as it is with the homemade version.

o   Mix a few tablespoons of vinegar and the same amount of rubbing alcohol together in a clean bowl. Make sure it is at room temperature prior to using, as no one, dogs included, likes cold fluid on their ears. This mixture is safe to use on the visible inner part of your dog’s ears. DO NOT use this mix if you suspect your dog has an ear infection and do not pour into the ear canal itself.

o   There are many good all-purpose dog ear cleaners on the market. Ask your veterinarian for advice on what you can purchase locally. You can also ask for recommendations at your local pet supply store.

Dip a cotton ball into the liquid.

Squeeze out the excess so the cotton is wet but not dripping. If you have a very small dog, you may want to use half of a cotton ball.

o   Alternatively, you can wrap a piece of gauze loosely around your pointer finger and dip it in the liquid. The gauze shouldn't be sopping wet. If you accidentally put too much cleaner on it, wring it out a bit and continue. This is a gentler alternative to a Q-Tip, which can make your dog a bit uncomfortable. Just hold the gauze in place with your thumb and index finger.

Gently swab the inside of your dog's ear flap.

Remove all dirt and debris you can see. If your dog has very dirty ears, the process may take quite a few cotton balls. As long as you're gentle and stay towards the front of the hearing canal, your dog should tolerate this procedure very well.

o   Clean gently though, as the skin can be easily broken. Vinegar and alcohol can sting broken skin.

o   Make sure to gently clean out the crevices as dirt and wax can build up in these areas.

o   Clean the inside of both ears.

Irrigate your dog's ears fully only if it's recommended to do so by a veterinarian.

If your veterinarian advises, usually because the ears are packed full of dirt and wax, you can use the ear cleaner to irrigate (or drench the ears). This should remove much of the sticky thick material from the ear canal.

o   To do so, position the tip of the ear cleaner bottle right at the opening to the ear canal inside the ear flap. Squeeze the bottle to drench the ear canal with fluid. Gently rub the base of the ear (thumb on one side, fingers on others) and massage the ear (very gently!) in this manner for 60 seconds.

o   Use gauze or cotton to clean out the gunk that comes out of the ear. Most likely you will use a lot if the ears are full of debris.

Let your dog clear out its ears after cleaning.

It is natural for your dog to want to shake his or her head after cleaning. Let it do so, but turn your face so you don’t get fluid or debris in your eyes. This will help to clean any excess cleaning fluid out of the ear canal.

o   After your dog has shaken out any excess liquid, give the ears another wipe with gauze or cotton balls. This will remove any material brought out from the ear canal during the head shaking.

Clean your dog's ears regularly. A weekly ear inspection and cleaning (if necessary) would be a great schedule to adhere to and will help you keep on top of any potential ear health problems. Dirt accumulates rather fast and can lead to an infection, especially with floppy-eared canines.


  • After your dog swims is a good time to clean its ears. The cleaning solution will help remove any water in the ear, which is good because water that can cause a dog to develop an ear infection.
  • Rewarding the dog after a cleaning helps it relax and realize that if it cooperates the next time, it will get a treat.
  • Your veterinarian can show you how to properly clean your pet's ears. This is especially important if your dog has had ear problems in the past.


  • Never insert a cotton swab deep into your dog's ear canal! This can cause permanent hearing damage.
  • Never use water to clean your dog's ears, as it can flow into the ear canal and cause an ear infection.


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