Have your dog’s ears been cleaned before?

If not, please read this article as it is aimed at dog owners who need to find out more about cleaning their furry friends.

Dog’s ears that are not cleaned will lead to infections as well as expensive vet bills for treatment. More importantly, your dog could be in pain and with its health affected!

Must you clean your dog’s ears?

When we look at the anatomy of a dog’s ear canals they are long, bendy and wavy. Foreign objects are easy to get in but difficult to be removed because of the right-angled canals (5 to 10 cm in length). Thus, they are convenient for bacteria, parasites and yeast to grow and live in them.  Dogs with allergies, floppy, and furry ears are more susceptible to infections, too. Both floppy and furry ears collect moisture that provides a breeding ground for bacteria, parasites, and yeast.

How often Should ears be cleaned?

Factors that affect ear cleaning frequency:

  • Type of ears (floppy/ furry)
  • Environments exposed to (wet or dry)
  • Activities involved (swimming)
  • Skin allergies

Commonly speaking, you should clean its ears once a month.

On the other hand, dogs with floppy or furry ears should have their ears clean every two weeks. If your dog is always in a wet and humid environment (season change), you should check and clean its ears more regularly.  Dog owners should clean their dog’s ears weekly if it has skin allergies.

What are the main causes of a dog’s ear problems?

As discussed above, we know that bacteria, parasites, and yeast can contribute to ear infections. However, there are also other causes of ear problems.

Root causes of Ear Problems in Dogs:

  • Bacteria (otitis externa)
  • Ear Mites (otodectes cynotis)
  • External Objects (debris / grass seeds)

Symptoms of different tyoes of ear problems in dogs

Signs for ear infections.

Please visit a vet if your pooch has any of the following signs:

  • Swollen ears
  • Smelly ears
  • Discharge in ears
  • Excessive scratching
  • Redness
  • Scabs on inner ear flaps
  • Hair loss near ears

Ear infections in dogs can be cured with the right antibiotic given by a vet. When the infection is cured, you can go back to using normal ear cleaner for dogs.

What are the right tools for ear cleaning?

All you need for cleaning your dog’s ears is the right ear cleaning solution, cotton pads, and a towel.

Ear Cleaning Solution

Undoubtedly, ear cleaners can be homemade. However, mixing the wrong ratio of chemicals to water is dangerous to your pets as we know that their ears are sensitive. Some dogs with infections need different solutions compared to “normal” pooches. Besides, cleaning a dog’s ears is already a challenging task, especially for the first-timer; so, why don’t we just seek advice from the vet as to which cleaner is the best for its ears?

Non-ideal ingredients in ear cleaner

Preservatives – They can keep the product fresh but at the same time irritate dog skin, especially for dogs with skin issues.
Colorings – Their pure function is to make the product attractive. Both natural and artificial colors contained in the cleaner could cause allergic reactions to your dogs.
Drying Agents – Alcohol, menthol and chlorothymol are used to reduce moisture in ears. At the same time, they can lead to more problems other than skin irritation.
Fragrances – They could be naturally or synthetically derived chemicals, causing harm to your pup. Most companies do not list out the full ingredients in them so, we do not know if their fragrances will cause any harm to our dogs.

Cotton Pads

Cotton pads are used to clean and wipe out the ear cleaning solution in dog’s ears. Both cotton wools and balls are usable, too. However, cotton pads are “safer” than the other forms because they don’t split easily, especially when they are wet. Otherwise, some wool will be stuck to dog’s ears making the cleaning process longer.

Note: Make sure that the cotton is clean from contamination in the first place before using it for cleaning, instead of adding germs to your pooch’s ears.


Most people don’t like cleaning work; particularly it stains your hands.  However, the concern here is not about your hands getting dirty; it is about not carrying germs to your dogs during the cleaning process. To do so, you may wear a pair of gloves or properly clean your hands. Rubbing sanitizers into hands is not a good idea as they mainly contain alcohols that will cause skin sensitivity issues to your dogs.


A towel is needed when your dog shakes its head when the cleaner is still inside its ears. If you do not want a splash party, use the towel to cover ithe ears during the headshake.

Steps for cleaning dog’s ears.

  1. Find a spot in the house that your dog has a good memory or association with. Then, calm your dog down. Each dog is uniquely different. My dog, Kyra is always playful and doesn’t allow me to rub her belly unless she just woke up from a nap. So, the best cleaning time for Kyra is after her sleep.
  2. Then, smell your dog’s ears to make sure they are “normal”, without infections. If they do not smell terrible or have any of those ear infection signs we have discussed above, proceed with the cleaning steps.
  3. Gather all the tools needed within arm’s distance. This is to make sure you do not pause and disrupt the whole cleaning process.
  4. Pour some cleaner into one side of the ears until it has filled the ear canal. It might take a while for it to fill up due to its right-angled shape. 
  5. Gently massage the bottom of the ears for 30 seconds in a circulation motion. You will hear squelching noise and it is entirely normal.
  6. After that, be prepared for your dog to stand up and shake its ears. Use a towel to cover the ear that is filled with the cleaner. Shaking ensures the liquid is cleared out of the canal.
  7. Wipe the entrance of the ear canal until the cotton pads come back clean and dry.
  8. Repeat step 4 – 7 with the other ear.

Common ear cleaning mistakes to avoid

According to Sara Farmer, a DVM Veterinarian, the most common mistakes to be aware of when cleaning dog’s ears are:

  • Insufficient use of ear cleaner
  • Use of a cotton swab that pushes debris further into the ear canal
  • Disciplining your dog during the cleaning session
  • Delaying visits to the vet, even in doubt of ear infections.


Ear cleaning is not an easy task. If you are having trouble with it, you can take your pooch to a groomer or vet to see how proper cleaning is done. Observe and learn from the best! Always ask for help during the cleaning process, if you think you need it. Your friend or family member can lend you a hand calming your dog throughout the process. 

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