How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

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Most dogs have fairly clean ears most of the time.  As a general rule, most dogs can benefit from having their ears cleaned about once a month.

Some dogs are prone to otitis externa (ear infections of the outer ear canal) and need their ears cleaned more often.  Some dogs get wet ears from swimming or baths and need their ears cleaned right after so they do not stay wet.  Some dogs with active ear infections need their ears cleaned daily with a specific prescription ear cleaner.  Some dogs have their ears cleaned by their groomers or never have issues and you will never ever need to touch their ears except to pet them.

The safest bet is to ask your veterinarian how often your dog needs his or her ears cleaned and what product to use.  Most veterinary teams will even demonstrate for you how to clean ears.

You will need:

  • Your Dog
  • Ear Cleaner – Use a cleaner prescribed or recommended by your veterinary team.  No alcohol!  No peroxide.  No water.  Nothing stingy!  Nothing that smells gross because it will probably end up on your T-shirt!
  • Cotton Balls
  • Cotton swabs (maybe)
  • Play Clothes
  • Either open space (outdoors) or a non-carpeted room like the bathroom
1.  Turn your dog’s first ear inside out.  He or she will look super cute:

Joy the Puppy Demonstrating an Inside Out Ear

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2.  Pour a small amount of cleaner into one ear until the ear canal is full and you can see cleaner at the ear’s opening.

Joy the Puppy Being a Good Sport

The external ear canal of a dog has a vertical (up and down) and a lateral (sideways) component.  Basically, it is a “L” shaped structure that starts at the external opening, goes down a bit and then in a bit to the ear drum.  The external ear canal should now be full of cleaner.
Your dog will probably now shake his or her head!  If you can, get a cotton ball over the canal first.   If you do not get this step in before the shake, that is ok.
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3.  Massage the area right under the external opening of the ear canal.  This is the lateral component of the ear canal.  You can sort of feel the firm tube of the lateral component of the ear canal.
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4.  Gently wipe out the parts of the ear you can see – the external opening of the ear canal and the underside of the ear flap.
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2-4.  “Alternate scene”  If your dog seems super stressed over having a head full of liquid, soak a cotton ball in the ear cleaner and use that to wipe out the external opening of the ear canal and the underside of the ear flap without filling the ear canal with ear cleaner first.  Sometimes that is less stressful.
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5.  Wipe out the remainder of the cleaner with cotton balls.
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6.  Detailing – If you are very gentle with cotton swabs, you will not hurt your dog.  Use them to clean the crevices of the inner ear flap and canal opening that you can see.  You will not damage the ear drum if you go further into the canal with a cotton swab, but you may accidentally pack debris into the canal, so keep the tip of the swab where you can see it.
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7.  The residual cleaner in the canal will work out any debris you can not see, and if it is really bothering you, use a cotton ball to reach into the canal to clean it more thoroughly.  Make sure every cotton ball that goes into the canal comes out!
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8.  Repeat steps 1 – 7 with the other ear.
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9.  Finish with treats and play time for you and your dog so you both remember that ear cleaning can be (very) fun.
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3 thoughts on “How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears”

  1. To maintain healthy clean dry ears. I have been using white Vinegar. Pour in a squeeze bottle with a spout. When we get back from swimming, I keep the bottle on the porch. I open one ear, and fill with vinegar, let them do the big shake, then do the other ear. Let air dry, as vinegar leaves no residue when it drys.

    Best to always do after swimming, after a bath or after being in the rain. In humid areas, even if your dog never gets wet, do about once a week. In dry climates twice a month is good or more if needed.
    If the ears are red or inflamed, then go to the Vet to get prescription drops to heal the ears first, which can take about a month for the ears to heal, before you can start the vinegar regiment.

    Only use the white vinegar method on healthy ears, to maintain the ears to stay healthy.

    I have used this for 10 years. The vets are always amazed how a water dog with floppy ears can swim daily, live in a humid area, and have such healthy ears. Thanks to the vinegar. This proven old age method has been used by dog lovers for many decades, and for children ears too.

    Vinegar is natures naturally safe anti bacterial. Also great for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms, hard floors and spray on your wet dog to prevent doggy smell caused by the yeast that grows on the wet hair.

    My dog is washed once a month, but after she is rinsed off with fresh water after swimming daily in the salty sea, I spray her down on the porch with white vinegar, and that prevents doggy smell or the sour yeasty smell that grows on wet dog hair. Vinegar air dries with no residue. So with vinegar, she always smells clean all month till her monthly bath.

    And vinegar is safe to drink, or put on your salads. Its non toxic. And costs about $3 for a gallon which lasts a long time.

    Most useful tip, I wish I had been told sooner. So I thought I would share to help other dog lovers.

  2. I have a doodle and she get’s a lot of hair growing in her ears. This also needs to be removed to keep her ears dryer and also helps to eliminate moisture build up and bacteria. This is part of her ear cleaning.


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