When caring for a domestic dog, each owner often has to perform specific hygiene procedures. In addition to bathing and paw washing, they include rarer oral and ear care activities, the relevance of which some dog owners so like to argue about. So whether it is possible to clean the ears yourself, when it is required and how to avoid mistakes – read on.

It is necessary to clean the dog’s ears?

Typically, the healthy ear of domestic cats and dogs is prone to self-cleaning, which can be achieved through the migration of the epithelium that lays the outer ear canal’s surface. Slowly moving from the eardrum to the outer part of the ear canal, it also carries dust particles, excess sulfur, hairs, and even yeastlike fungi along with accumulated bacteria.

Without any outside interference, there will be no malfunctions unless the animal’s owner is guilty of regular mechanical cleaning. This epithelium’s strength is low, so it is easily damaged by cotton sticks or tweezers with a piece of absorbent cotton wrapped around it.

little dog with big ears

Violation of the coating’s migration processes leads to inflammation, impaired ventilation of the ear canal, and increased temperature and humidity. All this creates the most favorable conditions for the development of bacterial or fungal ailments, in the treatment of which regular cleaning of the ears is a prerequisite for improving dog health.

A healthy dog can and should clean his ears in case of severe pollution: for example, after an active walk, when theclea pet was digging burrows, lying in puddles, or worn on piles of park leaves. In all these cases, external cleaning of the surface of the auricle is performed. The ear canal itself usually remains clean and pale pink, without requiring any additional care.

Important: Heavy discharge from ears with the unpleasant smell is a sign of infection, not insufficient cleaning. Using standard dog cosmetics will not solve the problem. Still, it is quite possible to aggravate the condition of the pet without medical care.

How often to do the procedure?

Daily ear cleaning is definitely not what your pet needs. A little sulfur or heavy exudate will not cause significant problems, but only if the ear canal’s surface does not look inflamed and irritated.

On average, the hearing organs are examined 1-3 times a week, based on their size and length. Standing dog ears are much better ventilated than massive suspension ears, so they do not require excessive attention.

Most dogs do not often get their ears dirty, which means that you can clean them 1-2 times a month. Usually, after intensive walks or swimming in water (moisture remains, along with existing dirt.

It can be easily removed with a cotton swab. Suppose the cotton pad stays almost clean in the course of cleaning. In that case, there is no point in rubbing the surface of the auricle heavily because it will dislike the animal and cause serious problems in the form of inflammation of the ear canal.

how to clean dog ears at home

Cleaning products and methods

The list of standard cleaning products for dog ear care usually includes special lotions, sprays, drops, and pharmacy products such as chlorhexidine, boric acid, saline, or hydrogen peroxide. Suppose there are no severe problems, and you just need to remove the dirt.

In that case, the main requirement for any selected composition is the lack of alcohol base, which dries out the ear’s surface and disrupts the natural cleaning processes in it.

Also, each product has its own peculiarities of use and not in all cases can be used in pure form, so before buying, it is necessary to study the instructions for them, comparing the possibility of use with the pet’s current state.


The popular antiseptic chlorhexidine is presented as a colorless or slightly yellowish liquid, with a somewhat noticeable “medical” flavor. For routine or therapeutic cleaning of ears, often, five percent of solutions are used only after consultation with a veterinarian.

Since the formula can cause a local allergic reaction, it is better to choose other cleansers to care for dogs prone to this condition.

Chlorhexidine is not compatible with soap and sodium lauryl sulfate, so when bathing a dog, you should be very careful. If the soap solution gets into the ear canal, immediately flush it with plenty of water and dry the dog’s ears.

Regular cleaning with concentrated chlorhexidine solution can dry the ear’s inner surface, with other wounds and cracks. It is possible to prevent this only by preliminary mixing of the pure solution with water in a ratio of 1:1.

The ready mixture is applied on a cotton pad, squeezed well, and then dirt is removed from the ear’s outer part with a light wiping of the surface.

dog with huge ears


Special lotions for cleaning dog ears are represented on the market by a variety of brands. Ask at your nearest store.

Using any of them will not cause any difficulties even for a beginner dog handler: all you need to do is bury the lotion in your pet’s ear, sticking to the dosage indicated on the package.

On average, no more than 6-10 drops are dripped in one ear, after which the base is gently massaged, thus gently distributing the composition over the whole inner surface.

This way, the chosen lotion can more effectively dissolve accumulated dirt and sulfur; however, we should not forget its negative impact on useful microflora. Optimal regular use of the preparations for standard cleaning purposes – no more than once a month.

how to clean dog ears with lotion

Hydrogen peroxide

This product is not suitable for regular cleaning of dog’s ears, especially if their surface is not red or mechanical damage requiring gentle cauterization. Using hydrogen peroxide on healthy tissues, you will achieve their drying, with the further occurrence of cracks and unpleasant itching, which is explained by a decrease in the activity of the natural microflora of the dog’s ear.

Also, getting into small wounds always causes a slight tingling sensation, which is sure to displease most dogs and make them avoid such contact later.


Ready-made pharmacy or self-cooked saline solution (1 tsp. salt per 1 liter of water) – a right cleaning agent suitable for regular cleaning of a pet’s ears is much better than the alcoholic composition described above. Before direct use, it is recommended to warm the liquid a little, and then with a pipette to bury it in the ear (drops 5-10).

After that, it is folded in half, slightly massaged, and let go of the animal, allowing the dirt from the ear, together with the remnants of saline. Once the pet stops shaking its head, the remnants of the product and the mud are removed with a cotton pad. Quilted cotton sticks and other objects that can hurt delicate tissues are best not used.

An alternative way to use heated saline to perform cleaning procedures is to apply it to the cotton pad and gently wipe the auricle’s visible part. This is a much more effective solution, especially since the process is no longer so unpleasant.

Did you know? According to the Guinness Book of Records, the record holder for the length of ears is still considered bloodhound Nigger. The dog’s right ear reached a length of 34.9 cm, and the left was slightly shorter – 34.2 cm.

Boric acid

Like chlorhexidine or hydrogen peroxide, boric acid is more suitable for dog ears’ therapeutic cleaning from accumulated pus exudate. Still, after mixing with water, many owners use it for infrequent preventive washing. For this purpose, a weak three-percent solution is used, obtained by dissolving 2 g of boric acid powder in 70 ml of hot boiled water.

The ready homogeneous composition is applied to a cotton pad and then rubbed in the dog’s ear’s inner cavity, preventing droplets from flowing deep into the ear lumen.

Baby Cream

Children’s cream is not the best way to perform the described purification procedure. It has a reduced antimicrobial effect and can cause even more contamination of the ear canals, especially when using fatty products. It is suitable for treating dog ears only in case of excessive dryness of the organ’s inner surface.

A small part of the compound is applied to your fingers and then rubbed into the skin with gentle massaging movements. Given the absence of burning and the ears’ pleasant stroking, most dogs will love this procedure.

cleaning dog ears with sticks

Cleaning spray

Dog ear cleaning sprays are often used to prevent various inflammatory processes. Based on the area’s size to be treated, one or two sprays are performed, after which the ears are gently rubbed. The excess amount of the substance is removed in a standard way – using a cotton swab.

Read more about which dog diseases can be transmitted to humans

Washing dog ears at home: handy tools

The easiest way to remove accumulated dirt from your dog’s ears is with plain water, and a cotton swab wetted in it. However, this does not seem to be enough for many dogs, especially since the water has no bactericidal effect and cannot effectively remove pathogens. Among popular “home” solutions for this purpose, the following recipes of solutions are usually used:

  • Mixture of water and apple (or table) vinegar. Vinegar has always been considered a good disinfectant, but together with pathogens, it has the property of suppressing the useful natural microflora of a dog’s ears. For rare cleaning procedures, one table part of vinegar is combined with two parts of clean water, well shaken, and then applied to a cotton pad and wiped the ear’s inner space. It is recommended to wipe the ear once again dry with a clean and dry piece of absorbent cotton or tissue at the end of the procedure.
  • Infusion of green tea. Leaves or sachet is brewed in a kettle in a standard way “for drinking”, cooled down to room temperature, and used as a cleaning solution for wetting a cotton swab without adding sugar. The ready-made infusion has a light decontaminating and softening effect, which allows it to compete with pharmacy products.
  • Decoctions of herbs (mint, chamomile, succession). Prepare the following solution: 1 tbsp. of flowers or leaves of the selected medicinal plant pour a glass of water and a boil over a slow fire. As soon as the liquid boils, the container is removed from the stove, cooled down, and filtered to further moisten the cotton swab and treat the auricle’s inner surface.

Important: None of the above compositions should be poured into the ears of your pet. They can only be used to wipe the visible part of the auricle. If the animal needs more serious treatment, only a veterinarian can prescribe appropriate drugs.

How to clean dog ears at home: Basic rules

Dogs do not like any cleansing measures, so do not expect that the animal will be pleased about the attacks on its ears. For the whole process of cleaning to be as effective and calm as possible for the pet, it is essential to properly organize the examination, preparation, and execution of the procedure itself.

Examination and preparation of the animal

Examination of the dog before cleaning his ears is a prerequisite for the quality performance of all actions. It is okay if the animal does not have any stenchy secretions. Still, otherwise, a single cleaning with the above products will not be enough. You will have to go to the veterinarian for a more detailed diagnosis of the problem.

The presence of ticks, bacteria, and yeastlike fungi can be identified through an otoscopy and laboratory analysis of the ear canal contents, after which a plan of action will be drawn up.

how to prepare dog for ears cleaning

If a dog’s ears as a whole look good and no secretions are visible, then you can move on to the standard preparatory actions based on:

  1. Soothe the dog by stroking, gentle tone, and applying a treat. Half an hour before cleaning, it is recommended to stop all moving games, giving your pet time to calm down.
  2. Provide regular access to the ear canal of the animal. Coat growing on the sides of the ear canal is brushed or just smoothed with your fingers, and sticking out of the ear canal – cut or plucked (usually it is already dead hair, so the dog will not hurt).
  3. Preparation of all necessary devices and cleaning compounds. Everything you need should be within easy reach, perhaps even with the caps on vials open. So it will be easier to restrain the pulling out the dog and apply another portion of lotion to a cotton pad.
  4. Examination of the animal’s ear. Typically, all tissues inside the hearing organ should be pale pink, without swollen or red areas. Any inflammatory process will cause pain in the dog, and even with a light touch to the ears, he will squeal and try to bend his head. In this case, it is better not to touch the dog yet, at least until the next visit to the vet.

Did you know? Dog ears are responsible not only for the animal’s perception of sounds but also for its orientation in space. Thus, if this organ’s infections are triggered, the animals have problems with balance and coordination of movements, which have never happened before.

Cleaning sticks

Human cotton sticks are not the best tool for cleaning dog ears. One embarrassing movement of the head or careless treatment of the owner himself threatens the dog with injury to the eardrum and hearing loss.

However, most owners use them in hygienic measures, which is acceptable in quiet animals and the use of a child version of such sticks (have a promotion limiter).

If a pet spins vigorously, tries to run away, or, on the contrary, is aggressive, you will have to find another tool to clean the ears (for example, a regular cotton pad twisted into a tube and soaked in the selected disinfectant solution).

dog ears cleaning stiks

Peculiarities of cleaning the ears of a puppy and an adult dog

By and large, the ear cleaning procedure for adult dogs and small puppies follows the same scenario, with the only difference that small pets are less diligent and will have to spend more energy to fix them in the owner’s hands. Otherwise, the pet’s hearing care process will consist of the following sequential steps:

  1. The fixation of the dog between his legs. The easiest way is to gently clamp the dog between your knees, giving him a comfortable body position. Small dogs and puppies can be wrapped in a towel, not allowing them to make unnecessary movements.
  2. Preparation of the necessary bandages, cotton pads, and cleaning fluid. The easiest way is to drop 5-6 drops of the selected lotion into the dog’s ear canal and massage the ear, distributing it throughout the inner space. An alternative solution would be a bandage wrapped around the index finger and soaked in the same selected composition. After a good wringing of fluid, it will only be left to gently wipe the inside of the dog’s ear with your finger.
    Final wiping of the ear with the fullest possible removal of all remaining liquid and particles of dirt. A dry cotton swab can be used for this purpose, after which the dog can already be released.

While cleaning the puppies’ ears at home, it will be more convenient to use special baby cotton swabs and lotion to remove dirt and disinfect the surface. Given the smaller size of the ears, the risk of excessively deep injection will be reduced only if the little pet is not going to get out and run away.

It is advisable to ask another family member or friend to hold your pet securely and the owner, in the meantime, gently clean. Sticks that are contaminated during the process should be changed until they are spotless.

Important: You should not use cotton buds (even if they have been cleaned in the other ear) or sharpened instruments with wrapped absorbent cotton on them. Spokes, scissors, or nails will not hold absorbent cotton or bandages, so there is a high chance to seriously injure your pet during the cleaning process.

This is why there are all chances to seriously injure your pet. Pets are isolated from unsuitable cleaning compounds for regular disinfecting of the ear canals:

  • any detergents, including shower gels and liquid soaps from the owners;
  • alcohol and acetone;
  • a concentrated solution of boric acid, not previously diluted in water;
  • a solution of citric acid and any essential oils.

Any of these substances can lead to the chemical burn of the inner ear’s skin, not to mention the probability of damage to the eardrum.

cute little puppy

In addition to the correct selection of the most suitable cleaning compositions, other rules of safe procedure execution should be taken into account before the beginning of hygienic manipulations:

  • breeds with a very narrow ear canal (e.g., shar-pei or pugs) can not perform a deep cleaning on their own. This should be done only by a veterinarian.
  • all instruments and materials used in the process must be well disinfected, including the hands of the host;
  • if the animal whines, pulls out, or starts to shake his head badly, it may be that the reason is not the sulfur cap. It is better not to disturb him, but seeing the veterinarian immediately
  • all manipulations should be carried out as carefully as possible, without sharp movements and trying to predict the animal’s potential actions.
dog ear cleaning mistakes

Suppose a dog has been accidentally injured during cleaning. The signs of hearing or coordination disorders persist for longer than 24 hours. In that case, a visit to the veterinary clinic will also be obligatory. You should not be afraid of the vet’s judgment, especially since every day, the delay threatens your pet with the possibility of significant deterioration of health.

How to teach a dog to clean his ears

If the dog is trained for superficial cleaning of his ears, this procedure will not be accompanied by any difficulties. The sooner you start brushing your puppy’s ears, the sooner he’ll get used to the process and won’t run away or be aggressive as an adult unless he sees cotton buds and cleaning tools.

It’s essential to do the following regularly during training:

  • creating a pleasant atmosphere by always cheering and soothing the baby with a gentle tone and a favorite treat (if the baby desperately tries to escape, it is better to let him go and wait for a more appropriate time for the hygiene procedures);
  • in the initial stages of training, you can simply call the animals to you, touching the head and ears slightly, but without taking any decisive action (long ears gradually lift and massage, accustoming the animal to new sensations);
  • with each contact, try to hold your hand on the puppy’s head for a little longer by gently looking inside the ears;
  • once the animal stops twitching from touching your hand, you can try to clean the outer ear canal, moving a little further each time

Adult pets are also accustomed to the procedure in the same way, but it will take them more time to adapt. The owner’s main task is to show the dog that the process is not as terrible as it seems, and the patience of the pet will undoubtedly be rewarded with a treat and praise.

The animal should not feel anxious, so all manipulations are performed only with a festive mood, without nerves and shouts.

What to do if the dog bites and breaks out

Unfortunately, despite many owners’ efforts, some dogs can never learn to clean their ears, and some even show aggression. To prevent the pet from starting to bite, it is safer for the owner to use a muzzle or a wide tourniquet or folded in several gauze layers, which do not forcefully bind the mouth.

The muzzle is tied from above, crossing the ends of the fabric under the mouth and tying them together just below the ears. If the dog is large, it is more convenient to fix it between your legs, first sitting on a chair so that the animal was just between the knees. One person is unlikely to cope with an aggressive and bursting out pet, so already in the initial stages, you should approach the dog together, but trying not to scare him.

It is normal if both people know and trust the animal, at least a little calm when gently treating themselves.

As for people, a fair hearing is crucial for the dog, so it will not be possible to do without regular cleaning of the ear shells from accumulated dirt. However, you should start the procedure only if it is filthy, trying to treat ears no more than once in 1-2 months.

To determine the most appropriate time for this will help weekly examination of the ears and change the dog’s behavior: if the pet began to pay more attention to his head – it means that the owner should pay attention to the ears.

Questions and Answers

  1. How treat dog ear infection?

    First of all, the ear canal should be thoroughly cleaned of wax and dirt. Remove foreign bodies and insects that got into the ear, as well as the resulting pus crusts. This procedure should be performed carefully, trying not to cause unnecessary pain to the animal. Then, to prescribe the medicine, go to the veterinarian.

  2. Why dog ear smell bad?

    Smelly dog ears are caused by bacteria and yeast that has fermented inside the canal.

  3. What do dog ear positions mean?

    If the animal's ears are lowered and pulled back, it means submission or willingness to be stroked. But if the ears are pressed against the body and the teeth are exposed, the dog may feel dangerous or ready to go into 'protection mode'.

  4. Where is dog's ear canal?

    The shape of the auricle itself depends on the breed of dog or cat. Outside ear canal – takes the place between the eardrum and up to the ear. The diameter of the ear canal is usually from 5 to 10mm – this is due to the breed, age of the animal.

  5. Are dog ear infections contagious?

    For people, canine ear infection is usually not a threat. Some types of fungus that live in the ear of a sick animal can be dangerous.

  6. Are dog ear infections painful?

    Dogs with ear infections are uncomfortable. If the ears are constantly itching, the dog will scratch them often, and this can lead to wounds and painful feeling.

  7. Are dog ear drops safe for humans?

    The structure of a dog's ear canal is fundamentally different from that of a human. In addition, the animal has a completely different perception of medication, so the ear drops for dogs have a different chemical formula. As a result, the use of these drops to treat human infection will not lead to the result, and in some cases, may even harm.

  8. Can dog ear mites bite humans?

    Ear mites usually live on animals and move only from animal to animal. There is a risk of infection for humans, but it is very small.

  9. Can dog ear mites live in carpet?

    Yes, the mites feel great in the nap of the carpet. They can hide there for a long time and infect a healthy animal, so you should vacuum the carpet regularly and use a washing vacuum cleaner at least once a week.

  10. Can dog ear infection spread to humans?

    Dog ear infections are not contagious to humans. What can not be said about parasites and fungi! If your dog is found to have parasites, take immediate measures and protect other animals in the house.

Tags: dog, dog health, dog care, dog ears

How To Clean Dog Ears At Home: 12 Worthwhile Ideas

Article by Kate Thompson – she has always been admired and inspired by dogs and is happy to share her experience.

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