How to Clean Dog Ears Safely in 5 Easy Steps

The man is cleaning the dog's ears. Male hands wipe the dirt with a golden retriever napkin. Isolated on white background
Image credit: jura_felix_jrs

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Have you ever noticed your dog scratching their ears or shaking their head too often? Ear hygiene is more than just a cleanliness routine – it’s your first defense against painful ear infections and mites. Regular cleaning ensures your dog’s comfort and saves you from costly vet visits. Imagine your pet flaunting clean, healthy ears, free from discomfort, and you being the responsible owner who made it possible! Dive in now to discover the ultimate guide on how to clean dog ears safely and effectively, ensuring a happy and healthy pup.

How to Clean Dog Ears Step-By-Step

Here is a quick overview of how to properly clean your dog’s ears:

  1. Gather your materials
  2. Get a friend or family member to help
  3. Prep your dog’s ear
  4. Grab your solution
  5. Wiping and pampering

Follow the steps in depth below to ensure a thorough and proper cleaning!

Step 1: Gather Your Dog Ear Cleaning Materials

Ear Cleaning Solution: Ensure you have an ear-cleaning solution crafted explicitly for our canine companions. While it might be tempting to use solutions made for humans or other critters, this could lead to unwanted complications or irritation. Avoid using hydrogen peroxide, as this can further damage the ear! Not sure which ear cleaner to use? Ask your vet or groomer for their recommendation.

Cotton Balls and Gauze: These are your go-to tools for a safe and effective ear wipe. Steer clear of Q-Tips or cotton swabs. Venturing deep into your dog’s ear canal with them is a risky business and can lead to serious harm. Stay on the safer side: stick to cotton balls and gauze!

Step 2: Get a Friend or Family Member to Help

Dogs, much like us, can be a tad apprehensive about unfamiliar processes, and ear cleaning might just top that list. A familiar face – be it a friend or family member your dog trusts – can work wonders in keeping your pooch calm. If your furry friend is a bundle of energy, your assistant can provide a gentle yet firm hold.

However, if your dog isn’t a fan of being handled or tends to show aggressive tendencies, safety first! Avoid having someone restrain them. A leash can be useful in such cases, allowing you to control the pace and ensure comfort.

Whether you have an enthusiastic wriggler or a dog that’s a bit on edge, invest some time in between cleanings to train your pet to relax and remain still during such sessions. It’ll make a world of difference!

Step 3: Prep the Ear

Start by tenderly holding your dog’s ear and gently lifting it to straighten the ear canal. This simple action ensures the cleaning solution flows effortlessly, reaching the deeper recesses of the ear. For those delightful dogs with floppy ears? Feel free to flip them back, ensuring they’re comfortably out of your way during the process.

Step 4: Grab Your Solution

Gently hold the ear flap and carefully pour the solution into the ear’s opening, ensuring it fills the ear canal. A quick word of caution: don’t be surprised if your dog feels the itch to shake their head – it’s their natural reaction! Embrace it and allow your dog to shake. Afterward, a gentle rub on the ear will further aid in the cleaning process. If they wish to give another headshake, let them indulge.

For those pups that regularly receive ear cleanings and don’t require an intense flush, you can simply dampen a cotton ball with the solution and use this to clean the inner ear delicately. Remember, it’s essential not to venture too deep, as we want to avoid any undue irritation.

Step 5: Wiping & Pampering

Use a cotton ball or gauze to wipe out the ear canal gently and along the ear flap. Subsequently, use a dry, clean cotton ball to ensure no moisture lingers behind. When you venture into the inner ear, tread softly, for it’s a delicate zone.

Conclude with a soothing ear massage for your furry friend, and there you have it – mission accomplished! Wasn’t as daunting as it seemed, right? With each session, you’re stepping closer to mastering the art!

Ear Cleaning Essentials: Swift Tips to Remember!

  • Reward Your Dog: Post-cleaning, shower your pooch with praise and a treat or two. Positive reinforcement goes a long way in building positive associations with uncomfortable scenarios.
  • Young & Restless: Increase your handling sessions for younger or more energetic canines. This helps them acclimatize to the routine and will make them more comfortable when being handled not only for ear cleanings but vet visits and nail clipping sessions too!
  • Safety First: Never venture deep into the ear canal. Stick to cleaning only what you can clearly see. And cotton swabs? A big no-no! Cotton swabs easily push debris further into the ear, and you can cause damage to the ear if you reach the ear drum.
  • One at a Time: Perfect one ear first, ensuring it’s clean and comfortable before you switch to its counterpart.
Macro ear of a jack russell dog.
Image credit: AntonioGravante

Signs Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Being vigilant about potential signs is your best bet to ensure your dog stays ahead of a nasty ear infection. If you suspect any ear anomalies, don’t delay. Schedule an appointment with your Veterinarian promptly. Your furry friend deserves the best medical attention at the right time.

Keep a lookout for these signs of an ear infection:

  • Excessive wax build-up
  • Head tilting
  • Head shaking
  • Ear twitching
  • Excessive scratching in or around the ear
  • Moisture is present in the ear
  • Foul odor
  • Swelling and redness of the ear
  • Pus oozing from the ear


A tad of black or brown ear wax doesn’t raise any alarms; it’s just part and parcel of being a dog. However, noticing an excessive, discolored waxy accumulation might be waving a red flag. Such build-up can hint at the onset of an infection, potential ear mites, allergies, or other underlying health concerns. Always best to keep an observant eye!


Dry ears are the norm for dogs, so if you spot any dampness, it’s a sign to pay attention. Excessive moisture can be the harbinger of an impending infection. If your pup is a frequent swimmer, water may get trapped into the ear canal. This scenario is especially prevalent in our delightful floppy-eared companions. Always good to be vigilant after splashy adventures!


A pungent aroma from your dog’s ears is a no-go. If your pup’s ears emit an unpleasant scent, it’s a glaring signal pointing toward an ear infection. Healthy ears should be free from foul odors. Always trust your nose in these matters!

Swelling and Redness

If your dog’s ear looks inflamed, this is another indicator that your dog may have an ear infection. Such inflammation is often a precursor to an ear infection. Always look for any signs of redness or swelling in your pup’s ears.

Oozing of Pus

Should you spot pus—typically green or white—in your dog’s ear, don’t delay. This is a stark sign of a serious infection. At such moments, scheduling a visit with your veterinarian is crucial.

Signs of Ear Mites

At first glance, ear mite symptoms can eerily mirror those of an ear infection. But a telltale sign is the crumbly, dark discharge with a reddish-brown hue. The surest route to an accurate diagnosis? A visit to your trusted vet. Should mites be the culprits, your vet will chart out the right medication for your dog.

Do you have multiple pets? Ear mites love company! If one pet is affected, it’s a call to action. Discuss with your vet about treating all your pets to shield against a resurgence of these pesky mites.

When to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Balancing your dog’s ear hygiene is akin to a fine art. While maintaining cleanliness is imperative, going overboard can ironically tip the scales toward more common infections too.

A splash in the pool or a swim in the lake? Lovely! But remember, especially for those adorable floppy-eared companions, ensuring the ears are dry and moisture-free is paramount to avoid potential ear complications.

PRO TIP: A good rule of thumb? Aim for a monthly ear cleaning. Rest easy if you’re someone who pampers their pup with regular grooming sessions. Your groomer typically handles this duty for you.

Wrapping Up: Ready, Set, Clean!

With these straightforward guidelines at your fingertips, you’re all set for your dog’s next ear-cleaning session, and you’ll know how to clean dog ears, whether it’s for your pup or a friend’s. A smidgen of preparation can transform the task into a swift and seamless affair, ensuring your canine companion stays happy and healthy!

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