How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an important task that should be performed on a weekly basis to reduce the chances if a bacterial infection or a yeast infection. Frequent ear cleanings will also provide you with an opportunity to spot a problem such as an ear mite infestation or an infection.

Dogs with long, floppy ears (like the dog pictured in the accompanying photograph) are very prone to ear infections because the ear flaps serve to keep the ear canal covered, warm and dark, with limited air flow. These conditions are ideal for bacteria growth, thereby increasing the pet’s chances of developing an infection. Regular cleanings are especially important in these dogs.

Supplies for Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

You’ll need the following supplies to clean your dog’s ears effectively and quickly:

  • Ear cleaning solution;
  • Q-tips;
  • Cotton pads;
  • Tin foil; and
  • Pet treats.

If you do not have ear cleaning solution on-hand, mix 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 2 parts water. and use this solution to dampen the Q-tips and cotton pads. This will help kill bacteria and the moisture will loosen the ear wax, making it easier to remove.

Step-by-Step Guide to Dog Ear Cleaning

Shake your bottle of ear cleaning solution and then dampen several cotton pads and the tips of half a dozen Q-tips. Place the damp cotton pads and Q-tips on a piece of tin foil.

Begin by using the damp cotton pads to wipe the underside of the ear flaps and the opening to the ear canals. This will remove a large portion of the ear wax.

Next, use the Q-tips to clean the nooks and crannies and the opening of the dog’s ear canal. To avoid injury, only clean what’s visible. Never stick a cotton swab into a dog’s ear canal, as you risk damaging his ear drum.

Once the cleaning is complete, wrap the soiled Q-tips and cotton pads in the tin foil and discard. Then, be sure to offer a dog treat!

Tips for Cleaning a Pet’s Ears

If your dog really dislikes ear cleanings, offer a few treats while you’re swabbing his ears. In time, the dog will associate the process with treats, thereby neutralizing what would otherwise be a bad experience.

Notably, if your dog really dislikes ear cleanings, try warming the cotton pads and Q-tips. Place the dampened pads and Q-tips on a microwavable plate (never place tin foil in the microwave!) and warm them for approximately 10 to 15 seconds. This can make the process a bit more comfortable (but you’ll need to move quickly, as they’ll cool fairly rapidly!)

If your dog has a lot of fur inside his ears, consider trimming the fur to allow for easier access during the cleaning process (or bring your dog to the groomer.) This makes the cleaning process much faster, as you won’t have to worry about cleaning the ear fur as well.

For additional pet care tips and tricks, visit the PetLvr archives!

Photo Source: Evgeniy Lukyanov on

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Mia Carter is a professional journalist and animal lover. Her furry family members include 6 dogs and 12 cats. She is also a feral cat colony caretaker. Carter specializes in pet training and special needs pet care. All of her animals have special needs such as paralysis, blindness, deafness and FIV, just to name a few. She also serves as a pet foster parent and she actively rehabilitates and rescues local strays and feral kittens.

8 Responses

  1. 47
    | Reply

    I’d just like to add…if your dog REALLY dislikes ear cleaning, it’s possible he already has an ear infection and cleaning it is painful. If you notice heavy wax build up, angry red skin, or a funny smell…take your dog to the vet just to be safe.

    • Mia Carter
      | Reply

      Thanks for your comment. You’ve anticipated my next article! 🙂

      Absolutely — if there is redness, excessive discharge or oozing, and odor or if it appears to be painful, then that’s a sign of an infection. In my coming articles, I’ll explore the signs of an ear infection, including yeast infections, so stay tuned! 🙂
      Mia Carter
      PetLvr Blogger

  2. Claire
    | Reply

    When I was a kid we had a dog who lived for about 10 years and was really healthy, I think we only took him to the vet about 4 times in his whole life, we never cleaned his ears or anything, I didnt even know you were supposed to clean their ears.

    We have just got a puppy for my daughter (who is 6 so its really the family pet!) but I am reading a lot about ear cleaning, would you say it was just for the floppy eared dogs or would all of them need their ears cleaning?

    • Mia Carter
      | Reply

      Hi Claire!
      Thanks for your question and congrats on your new furry family member!

      While ear cleaning is more important for dogs with floppy ears, it’s beneficial to all dogs, so I do recommend cleaning your new dog’s ears, as it will dramatically reduce the chances of infection. Since there are many nooks and crannies in the dog’s ears, you can’t really see many of the areas where the wax accumulates (it tends to build up in the little nooks and crannies — areas you can’t see really well. The build-up often looks like a shadow.), so they may *look* clean — but you’ll realize just how dirty her ears are once you try to clean them!

      Some dogs, especially those with cropped or erect ears, don’t produce a whole lot of ear wax and their ears stay fairly clean. I recommend starting out with once-a-week cleanings and if you find that the dog’s ears are staying really clean (e.g., the Q-tips are coming up clean), then you can tailor the schedule (e.g., once every 2 weeks.)

      I would definitely start your puppy on a once-a-week ear cleaning schedule, just to get her accustomed to the process (even if she doesn’t really need them cleaned; just go through the motions on a weekly basis for a few months.) It’s much easier to start a puppy on an ear cleaning schedule; if you wait until she’s an adult, she might get frightened and try to resist.
      (The same goes for nail clipping, teeth brushing, brushing the dog’s coat — do all of these things regularly for a puppy so she gets accustomed to them! It will make her much easier to deal with as an adult.)

      Let me know if you have any additional questions! I wish you good luck with your new puppy! How exciting!
      Mia Carter
      Pet Writer,

      • Krissy
        | Reply

        This is quite useful to me, my dog (about a year old) has never had her ears cleaned out. I could give this a go and I understand the reasons why but I have noticed somethig strange about her.

        She is a little cat like in that I have often seen her licking her paws and wiping her face and eyes, there is no discharge and I have had her checked – she is actaully just cleaning herself. She also rubs her ears. Its quite strange to watch as I have never seen it in a dog before.

        Do you think I should get involved or is she okay to be left to clean herself? I dont want to interfear if I dont need to!

        • Mia Carter
          | Reply

          Hi Krissy.
          Thanks for your question!

          I’ve seen this behavior in my own dogs. But you’re right — it is very cat-like and while some dogs do this, others do not.

          You will still need to clean her ears. Many dogs can get a good amount of debris out on their own, particularly if they use their back foot to scratch inside their ear. But this leaves her prone to scratches (which then get infected) and this method just isn’t all that effective.

          She will probably resist and you may not get both ears at once. You may not even finish an entire ear in one go, but just keep at it and she’ll get used to it, with time. Do a little bit each day if you need to. The key is this: be really gentle and don’t get her completely stressed out. If she seems upset and resistant, just do a little at a time. Don’t keep going until she’s worked up into an absolute tizzy. And don’t make it into a wrestling match or a negative experience.

          I offer lots of treats. A second person can be helpful; they can distract the dog — easy if she’s really excited about certain toys or treats — while you clean her ears.

          I also do ear cleanings right before a nice activity like a walk, a car ride, etc.

          Also, if she’s a large dog, you may try starting with a warm, damp cotton pad. These don’t really work well for small dogs, since the nooks and crannies are small. But it can work for larger dogs, since the nooks and crannies are larger. The cotton pad will get most of the gunk, except for the build-up right in the actual entry of the ear canal. (Plus, you don’t risk jamming a Q-tip into her ear drum if she moves suddenly!) So try starting with a cotton pad.

          I’d also be sure she’s accustomed to having her ears handled before you try cleaning them. Just start playing with her ears while she’s sitting with you. Wait until she’s comfortable with this, then try looking into her ears. Some dogs get really nervous when they feel like they’re being “examined” so she needs to learn that this isn’t a bad experience and you’re not going to hurt her.

          Best of luck! Let me know if you have any other questions.
          Mia Carter
          Pet Writer,

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