How To Clean Dog Ears


Dog ears are full of bacteria and prone to infections. That’s why keeping a dog’s ears clean is crucial for maintaining good health. You don’t need to go to the vet for that, you can do it at home. Here’s how to clean dog ears.

  1. Sit down and position your dog’s head between your legs.
  2. Hold up the ear’s flap.
  3. Pour the ear cleaner while holding the flap up.
  4. Gently rub below the ear opening while holding the flap up.
  5. Wipe debris with a cotton ball.
  6. Let the dog shake its head.
  7. Wipe again with a cotton ball. 

These are the basic steps to cleaning a dog’s ears. There’s a lot more you should know about though. Dog’s ears are sensitive so you need to be careful. Follow this step-by-step guide to avoid injury and clean your dog’s ears effortlessly.

Preparing Your Dog For Ear Cleaning

Preparing Your Dog For Ear Cleaning

First of all, this will be an uncomfortable procedure for your dog, so you will need to keep it relaxed. If the dog doesn’t have an infection, applying the ear cleaning solution won’t hurt at all. The dog will feel discomfort but not pain.

If you don’t keep your dog calm, it will start moving while you are pouring the ear cleaner. The cleaning will not be successful, and you will spill the cleaner everywhere.

You need to position your dog well. Also, offer a lot of treats to keep its interest. It’s best to position your dog’s head between your legs. You can also try clenching its rear thighs with your legs while you are holding its head with your hands.

Another way to keep your dog in place is to do this in a corner of your house. Position the dog in the corner close to the wall. You can sit against it, closing its only exit.

[Related Article: The Ultimate Beginners Guide To Learn Dog Grooming From Home]

Cleaning Supplies

You can’t do this without the right supplies. I think the first thing that comes to mind to most pet owners is using Q-tips. This is a terrible choice. Q-tips can be bad for humans but even worse for dogs. You can hurt the dog’s eardrum with the Q-tips. Never use Q-tips to clean dog ears. 

In general, because of the shape of dog ears, you shouldn’t stick anything in there. The ears are very sensitive, the eardrum is exposed, you can do a lot of damage. You should wipe dog ears with gauze or a cotton ball, both work fine. [Source]

Because you can’t stick anything in the ears, you will need a solution to do the cleaning for you. There are ear cleaners available in any drug store, you don’t need a prescription. You can also use normal saline.

Hold The Ear Flap Up

Hold The Ear Flap Up

During the cleaning, you need to have a good vision of the ear canal. Most dogs have flaps that fall down and close the ear opening. This is not ideal for ear cleaning.

So, what you need to do is hold up the ear with one hand the whole team. Dedicate that hand to holding the ear flap up. Using the other hand, you will be applying the cleaner and massaging the ear.

Apply The Ear Cleaner

Once you are ready and in position, you can apply the ear cleaning solution. You don’t need to worry about spilling the ear cleaner, it’s not dangerous for the dog’s skin. So, you can apply freely. The goal is to fill up the ear canal.

Hold the ear cleaner with one hand, don’t let it touch the dog’s ears. You can be precise from the medium range. Squeeze the ear cleaner until the ear canal is filled up.

You should hear the ear cleaner bubbling inside. That means the cleaner is working and the dog’s ear is being cleaned.

When you are done pouring the cleaner, put it down, and massage the ear. Do not let go of the ear flap, with your free hand, gently rub in circles the skin around the ear opening.

Wipe Away Debris With A Cotton Ball

Wipe Away Debris With A Cotton Ball

Get a cotton ball or a gauze, completely your choice, both work fine. Clean the inside of the dog’s ear. Be gentle here, you don’t have to get everything in go. Do gentle and full swipes. Do not rub with the cotton ball.

Cover the inside of the flap and easily accessible parts of the ear canal. If you get a big enough cotton ball, quick-motion swipes should be quite effective. You don’t even have to worry about covering each part.

Let Your Dog Shake Its Head

Because the ear cleaner caused pressure and discomfort inside the ear, your dog will try to shake its ear. Understandably so, your dog is not comfortable and it’s trying to find some relief.

Dogs do this instinctively, so they will immediately try to shake their head and ears. Allow your dog to do this. It will help the ear cleaner reach the right spots.

Wipe Away Debris Again

When your dog is done shaking, finish up the ear cleaning. Hold the ear flap up again. Then, take the cotton ball or the gauze, and wipe away excess ear cleaner.

You will see some debris left around the shell and the ear canal. Wipe away everything that is accessible. Do not try to reach far inside the ear. Keep on the surface and around the ear canal, you should be fine.

Dog Ears Cleaning: What To Avoid

Dog Ears Cleaning What To Avoid

  • Avoid using Q-tips to clean your dog’s ears. 
  • Do not start cleaning the dog ears until you are able to keep the dog still 
    If your dog is scared and moves away, you won’t be able to do this properly. You will just waste ear cleaner.
  • Do not clean your dog’s ears if it’s in pain. 
    If holding the ear causes pain to the dog, you need to take it to the vet. Also, if the cleaner causes pain to the dog, stop the cleaning, and consult with a vet.
  • Do not clean ears that are not dirty. 
    Cleaning clean ears increase the chances of your dog getting an ear infection.

[Related Article: Why Are My Dogs Eyes Red Like A Tomato?]

Should I Clean My Dogs Ears

As I said, cleaning dog ears that are not dirty is not a good idea. You are only making things worse. Dog ears should be cleaned only when they are dirty.

Some dog breeds rarely need ear cleaning because their ears stay clean. Other breeds need ear cleaning regularly. Clean dog ears do not have a bad odor, they look pinkish, and there’s no inflammation. Dirty dog ears have visible dirt, they smell bad and sometimes look inflamed. [Source]

[Related Article: Why Are Dogs Noses Wet? Is It A Sickness Symptom?]

Related Questions And Other FAQs

What Can I Use To Clean My Dogs Ears At Home

It’s best to clean dog ears with a dedicated ear cleaner both from a drug store. You can also use normal saline. Never use Q-tips, hydrogen peroxide, or alcohol.

Can I Use Baby Wipes To Clean My Dogs Ears

Using baby wipes to clean dog ears is fine as long as the wipes are pH neutral and they contain no alcohol. I recommend using cotton balls or gauze with a good ear cleaner.

Tim Adams

Tim has experience of 15 years with a wide variety of pets. Anything animal-related is his passion, so he is here to share some good practices to know about owning pets.

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