A dog ear cleaner is basically a solution that enables you to remove any dirt or debris from the ears of your dog, ensuring your pooch is able to go about his or her day without feeling discomfort.

What is a dog ear cleaner and the benefits of using a dog ear  it?

Ear cleaning is usually an overlooked part of grooming your pet.

However, just as you would clean your ears out in the morning after showering, your dog would like to clean its ears every now and again.

There are numerous benefits associated to cleaning your dog’s ear and they are:

  • Your dog’s hearing is bound to be improved when you clean his ear
  • Cleaning is bound to help remove any water that is trapped in the ear canal and also help eradicate the potential for ear infections
  • When you clean the ear, you are able to flush out mites, ticks and other critters that flock to the ear
  • You’ll prevent itchiness and other discomforts in the ears

How Does It Work

A dog needs to have its ear cleaned just as you and I would. Some dogs, especially certain dog breeds, are prone to developing ear infections.

Dogs with drop ears (those that hang down like a Cocker Spaniel, Basset Hound or Labrador Retriever) are more prone to ear infections than dogs with ears that stand upright.

This is because floppy ears don’t get a lot of air flow, so debris and moisture get trapped more easily inside the ear canal, where it can fester and bloom into a bacterial or yeast infection.

Some breeds like Poodles and Bichons Frisés grow hair inside the ear canal, which can further limit air flow and lead to ear infections.

A dog cleaner is usually a solution that works when you pour it onto a cotton ball and then clean the inner flaps of your dog’s ear.

Types of ear cleaners (and pros and cons for each)

Types of ear cleaners (and pros and cons for each)


Pros: With drops you can loosen up wax or debris that is deep in the ear canal by letting the solution drip down into the ear and then massaging the outside of the ear to help shake things up. Your dog will do the rest by shaking his head to remove excess liquid!

Cons: Drops can be messy when your dog shakes his head, so you may want to do this outside or in a designated area. You may also want to purchase cotton pads to clean the tops of the ears more effectively.


Pros: With wipes you won’t need to buy additional items such as cotton pads. Ear wipes also tend to be less messy than liquid ear cleaning solutions.

Cons: With wipes you can’t get deep into the ear canal to loosen up debris that you can’t reach.

Wipes vs liquid ear cleaner – which should you choose

Wipes vs liquid ear cleaner - which should you choose

The truth is you cannot go wrong with either one you choose. However, one thing you will have to bear in mind what breed your dog is.

When I say breed, I mean there are certain breeds that have ears that flop down to their face and there are others that have standing ears.

If your dog’s ears are ones that stand, it would make more sense to go with a wipe, as you are able to actively clean the ears.

The design of the ears also has an advantage in the fact that they support airflow, so any debris that ends up in or around the ear is usually blown away.

If you happen to have a dog with ears that flop down, it would be best to make use of liquid ear cleaner as it can be difficult for you to get to the nitty gritty part of the ear that contains the most dirt.

What makes a great dog ear cleaner

What makes a great dog ear cleaner

Formula for your needs

Many ear cleaners have a multi-purpose formula, which can be used in the prevention or treatment of several infections.

Meanwhile, some are specially formulated to address one type of infection only. These cleaners vary in costs according to what their formula is mainly used for.


Don’t buy a dog ear cleaner without doing a bit of research beforehand. The product your friend recommends may not be ideal for your dog.

Know that the wrong choice of dog cleaner can cause more harm than good for your furry buddy. So, always check the label and know the nitty gritty of the product so you’ll know what it is made of.

Take note that a plethora of ear cleaners aren’t made with dogs in mind. Instead of the primary purpose of providing your furry buddy relief, such products are only up for sale for the sole purpose of money-making.

An ideal dog ear cleaner should not contain the following:

  • Preservatives – Preservatives lengthen the shelf-life of ear cleaners, but such can cause allergic reactions, especially for dogs with pre-existing skin irritations.
  • Drying agents – Drying agents are usually alcohol, chlorothymol, or menthol that are added to the formula to help minimize moisture in dogs’ ears. However, some dogs exhibit negative reactions to these drying agents, and hence they are best avoided.
  • Artificial fragrance – “Fragrance” is merely a moniker for “chemicals”. Since companies do not disclose the ingredients, they use to create fragrances, there is no way to determine its safety.

Does spending more means more quality

While you might think that spending an arm and a leg on your dog’s ear cleaner, the truth is you can get ear cleaners at all price ranges.

Typically, the more expensive ones are those that have been formulated to treat a particular issue in the dog. General dog ear cleaners do not tend to cost too much.

How to spot an ear infection in dogs

How to spot an ear infection in dogs

Ear infections are one of the most common medical issues for dogs, and they can present concerning symptoms.

Luckily, most canine ear infections clear up easily with treatment. There are two different types of ear infections generally seen in dogs.

The first is otitis media, which affects the middle ear, and the second is otitis externa, which is an infection of the outer ear canal.

Since ear infections are generally uncomfortable, even painful, you will probably see behaviors in your dog that include:

  • Scratching at the ears
  • Rubbing ears on the ground or furniture
  • Shaking the head
  • Tilting the head to one side frequently

If you look at the ear, you may discover the following:

  • Redness
  • Inflammation
  • Crusting
  • Hair loss
  • An unpleasant odour
  • Discharge that is black or yellow in colour

How to clean your dog’s ears (step by step guide)

Step 1 – Make it positive

Unless you want a squirmy pooch that makes the process a lot more difficult – and take a lot longer – it’s important to bring your dog along slowly and associate ear-cleaning with something positive.

One tried-and-true method is to have a bag of treats ready to offer each time that your dog cooperates during the process.

Step 2 – Get the right tools

How to clean your dog’s ears (step by step guide)

Just like with human ears, you never want to use cotton swabs because they can hurt your dog’s ears.

Instead, have a bag of cotton balls ready, or wrap your finger in gauze and use it.

You might want to use gloves for the cleaning, but it’s also okay to just wash your hands if no gloves are available.

Perhaps the most important tool, though, is the ear rinse. You want one that’s completely safe for your dog but still able to get the job done.

Look for a product that contains no antibiotics, steroids, alcohol, or toxic materials of any kind.

Step 3 – Put everything within reach

The last thing you want when trying to clean your dog’s ears is to discover halfway through the process that you forgot something and have to get up to find it.

Do this and you’ll likely find yourself needing to wrangle your dog back into position and possibly even having to start the whole process over.

Step 4 – Follow the rules

To clean your dog’s ears without causing harm, you want to start on the outside and work your way in – but only until you start to feel resistance.

If you try to push further in, you can damage your dog’s ear, so err on the side of caution. Wet a cotton ball with ear rinse and wipe the part of the ear that you can easily see, the outer flap.

Then wet a new cotton ball to clean the inner ear. Ideally, you want to do this about once a week.

If the cotton balls or gauze are especially dirty, you may want to think about scheduling an appointment with your dog’s vet to make sure everything is okay.

And don’t forget to give your pup lots of affection and treats when you’re done!


How to keep your dog’s ears healthy

Whether your dog is genetically prone to ear infections or just loves getting in the water, it never hurts to monitor his ears for signs of inflammation.

Prevention is the best approach to total ear health. With that in mind, it is important that we know what to look out for and how to care for the ears properly.

Here are a few steps you can take to keep your dog’s ears clean and itch-free:

Understand the Basics

Understand the Basics - dog ear anatomy

Anatomy – A dog’s ears are quite different than our human ears. Their ear canals form a shape that resembles an upside down horn.

This makes it more difficult for debris to get out as it must work its way upward. A dog might not be able to talk, but you will know if their ears are bothering them.

Ear problems can crop up literally overnight, so don’t delay getting care for your dog if you notice any signs of ear trouble.

If you see any of the following symptoms, it is time for a trip to the vet:

  • Frequent scratching or pawing at ears, head shaking or rubbing of ears against a hard surface
  • Discharge
  • Odour
  • Constant tilting of the head or drooping of the ear downwards
  • Redness or swelling
  • Crusty skin inside or around the ears
  • Hair loss around the ears
  • Excessive dark earwax

Talk to Your Vet

When in doubt, your veterinarian is the person you want to talk to. Give them a complete history and then allow a full examination.

The vet can take a sample of wax from your dog’s ear to determine if something is wrong and what the proper course of treatment will be.

Sometimes minor inflammation just requires cleaning or two, while full infections may require prescribed medication to get rid of the issue entirely.

Ear infections are quite painful for your dog, and getting relief quickly is the key to treating them successfully.

Make Ear Cleaning Part of the Grooming Routine

Taking a look inside of your dog’s ears every now and again is a good idea.

A gentle ear cleaning whenever they have a bath can be helpful and assist in keeping future problems at bay.

Consult with your vet for a mild cleaning solution that would be ideal for your pet.

You want a very gentle solution made specifically for ear cleaning and without any alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, vinegar, or other potentially irritating ingredients.

Dos and Don’ts to do with an ear cleaner for dogs


Cleaning your dog’s ears should start during puppyhood. The more often you clean your dog’s ears, the less complicated the process will be.

When cleaning your dog’s ears, it’s important to be gentle. Never use a q-tip to clean the ears.

Instead, a cotton ball soaked in a dog ear cleaner solution is best. Gently use the cotton ball to remove any debris in and around the ear.


Using the wrong ear cleaning solution

Because a dog’s ear is L shaped, it is important to use an ear cleaning solution to help clean out the hard to reach the horizontal canal.

You should choose an ear wash that contains ingredients that help acidify and dry out the ear canal. Some examples include boric acid, acetic acid, and lactic acid.

Your veterinarian likely has a variety of specialized products that also contain ingredients to break down earwax and even some that potentially help prevent attachment of bacteria or yeast to the wall of the canal.

In a pinch, a mixture of one-part white vinegar to two-parts water can be used. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations.

Not using enough ear cleaning solution

For optimal cleaning, you should completely fill your dog’s ear canal with a cleaning solution until you can see the fluid pooling in the ear canal, then close the ear flap over the opening.

The next step is to massage the base of the ear until you can hear a ‘sucking’ noise. This suction helps pull debris from deep within the horizontal canal.

Pulling the pinna (ear flap) up can help open the canal so you can easily access the opening.

If it is too difficult to pour the solution in you can also soak a large cotton ball with a cleaning solution and place it at the opening of the canal before massaging.

Using a cotton swab

After you use a cleaning solution, you need to remove the excess liquid and as much debris as possible to get those ears squeaky clean.

Cotton swabs tend to push wax and debris farther into the ear canal where they can no longer be removed.

It’s better to use a tissue or cotton ball or pad to help remove debris from the crevices that form the opening to the ear canal.

If you do need to use a cotton swab to clean in between crevices, make sure you can always see the tip.

Freuqently Asked Questions

What are the common ear problems in dogs?

Bacterial Ear Infections

Some ear problems in dogs are caused by a bacterial infection, also known as otitis externa.

This is one of the most common ear problems in dogs that we treat.

The symptoms of a bacterial ear infection are easy to spot so if your dog is suffering from this you might notice:

  • Shaking of the head
  • Excessive scratching at ears and around head
  • A smell from the ears and occasionally discharge
  • Reluctance to let you near its head
  • Aggressiveness if the affected area is touched

Once an ear infection has been diagnosed it can be treated by cleaning the ears and supplying a prescription medication, often antibiotic ear drops of tablets.

Ear Mites

The next most common ear problem that we come across with our canine patients are ear mites.

If your dog is suffering from ear mites you may notice some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Shaking of the head
  • Excessive scratching at ears and around head
  • Brown particles which look like coffee grains just inside your dog’s ear
  • Black or brown waxy secretion

Due to the nature of the symptoms further complications could result in blood pooling as blood vessels in the ear can fail due to scratching and shaking of the head.

This condition can easily be treated with ear drops which are used with an ear cleaner but it’s important that the problem is professionally diagnosed by a vet before the relevant course of treatment can be decided.

Foreign Objects (like grass seeds)

It may be surprising to know that we also treat dogs who have got something in their ear which shouldn’t be there!

One of the most common foreign objects that cause ear problems in dogs are grass seeds.

This is usually a seasonal problem occurring during the summer months when they have been playing in the long grass.

The seed’s sharp tip pierces the skin getting lodged and causing irritation. The symptoms of this problem include:

  • Vigorous scratching of the ears
  • Shaking of the head
  • A collection of seeds in or around the ear
  • Inflammation in or around the ear

How many drops of ear cleaner should I use?

The number of drops you should use typically depends on the type of ear cleaner it is.

There are some medicated ear cleaners that prescribe the number of drops you should use, so it is always best to pay attention to that.

Can I use a human ear cleaner on my dog?

While in theory, it is possible for you to use a human ear cleaner on your dog, it is not advised as there are so many variants of ear cleaners with some of them containing active ingredients that could be detrimental to your dog’s ear canal.

Can I use a dog ear cleaner on cats?

Since most dog ear cleaners have been made with ingredients that are safe for use on animals, it is possible to use your dog ear cleaner on a cat

How often should I clean my dog’s ears?

the regularity with which you clean your dog’s ears depends on your pet’s breed, coat, level of activity, age, and ear wax production.

We recommend that most dogs with normal ears have cleanings at least once a month.

Others may need more frequent cleanings, especially those that regularly swim or get their ears wet.

Are some breeds more sensitive to ear problems than other breeds?

While any dog can develop an ear infection, some breeds and types are more prone than others:

Cocker Spaniels

With their heavy, floppy ears and thick hair, Cocker Spaniels are at high risk for ear infections.

Labrador Retrievers

Retrievers love to play in the water, which means there is more opportunity for their ears to get moisture in them.

Yeast and bacteria thrive in moist environments, leading to ear infections.

Pit Bulls

Pit Bulls are prone to skin and ear infections, which are often related to allergies.


Dogs with very hairy ears are prone to ear infections. When the hair works right, it keeps debris out of the ear.

But when there is an infection, the hair may make it more difficult for the material to exit the ear canal.


Shar-Peis and other dogs known for heavy skin folds often have very narrow ear canals.

This means that even a small amount of debris can clog the canal and cause significant discomfort.

Narrow canals also mean it’s harder for material to exit once it gets in.

Short conclusion

When searching for the best dog ear cleaner, it is important that you take into account the numerous factors that have been mentioned.

Cleaning your dog’s ear is not a task that should be taken lightly as if it is not done frequently and correctly enough, it could lead to issues like ear infections and could have a detrimental effect to your dog’s quality of life.

Photos from: adriaticphoto / depositphotos.com, edu1971 / depositphotos.com, willeecole / depositphotos.com, rugercm / depositphotos.com. 

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