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Published: Jan 16, 2024 4 min read

If your dog’s ears look dirty or smell weird, it might be time for a cleanup. Although it can be done by a professional groomer, cleaning dog ears is something dog owners can do by themselves to maintain their dog’s health and prevent ear infections.

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Things to do before cleaning your dog’s ears

Prepare the space

Before introducing your dog into the equation, prepare the space where you’re going to be cleaning your dog’s ears. This should be a space where your dog can be comfortable and you have easy access to your tools, including cotton balls and an ear wash solution. Don’t use cotton swabs or q-tips, as these can damage the dog’s ears.

Be sure to have comfortable clothing and towels ready, as this can be a messy process, especially if your dog is not used to it.

Groom your dog if needed

If your dog has hair on its floppy ears, you should remove the hair around the ear canal and ear flap before cleaning their ears. This can be anything from a full haircut from a dog grooming professional to just plucking a few hairs from the ear canal, depending on your dog’s needs and how hairy it is.

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Steps to clean your dog’s ears

Step 1: Restrain your dog

To clean a dog’s ears, you need it to be calm. You know your dog’s disposition, so you know better than anyone how much you’re going to need to restrain them in order to clean their ears. For small dogs, an arm wrapped around them can be enough to restrain them comfortably. For larger dogs, you can lean on them while they are lying down to restrain them, making sure you have access to the base of the ear at all times.

Step 2: Apply the ear wash solution

Hold the ear flap while squirting the ear cleaner into your dog’s inner ear. Be sure not to have the tip of the bottle or applicator touch the inner ear as it could damage the eardrum and cause discomfort for your pet. Be generous with the ear cleaning solution, using enough to fill the ear canal completely.

Step 3: Massage and clean the ear

Hold the ear flap and massage the ear for around half a minute. This allows the ear wash to clean the ear wax and other debris inside the dog’s ear canal. Use the cotton balls to remove any leftover buildup from inside of the ear flap and upper canal of the ear.

Step 4: Release and reward your dog

Letting your dog shake will help release the debris inside the dog’s ear flap and outer ear even more. Let it shake and clean the ear again afterwards. Finally, reward your pet with a treat and repeat the procedure with the other ear.

Even if you follow all the instructions above and clean your dog’s ears regularly, it might still develop an ear infection. Fortunately, some of the best pet insurance companies offer coverage for ear infection treatments.

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How to clean dog ears FAQs

How can you tell when your dog’s ears need cleaning?

According to the American Kennel Club, overcleaning your dog’s ears can lead to infection and irritation. A dog’s healthy ears should be pink, odorless and clean. Familiarize yourself with how your dog’s healthy ears look so you can notice a change when you check them periodically.

What can I use to clean my dog’s ears at home?

Research the best ear wash solutions for your dog’s breed, size and age, and only use ear wash solutions specifically designed for dogs. You should not use hydrogen peroxide or vinegar as an ear cleanser.

How can I get rid of my dog's ear infection without going to the vet?

If you fear your dog has an ear infection or another type of ear ailment, it is important to have it looked at by a professional to discard other potentially more harmful diseases. Cleaning its ears is an important part of your dog’s healthy lifestyle and can help prevent dog ear infections, but should not replace a visit to the vet.