Dog Ear Cleaning Guide

Written by: Lindsay Giguiere



Time to read 4 min

Your dog’s ears. Some may be floppy; some may stick straight up. No matter what kind of ears your furry friend has, keeping them clean is essential for the health and wellness of your pet.

Even if you regularly visit a groomer, understanding how to clean your dog's ears, the appropriate frequency, and recognizing signs of potential issues are essential responsibilities for any pet owner. 

Each breed differs in susceptibility to ear infections and hairiness of the ear canals, making it essential to tailor your ear care routine accordingly. By being proactive and attentive to your furry friend's ear health, you can ensure they lead a happy and comfortable life free from unnecessary discomfort and ailments.

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Picture a Cocker Spaniel, a Labrador Retriever, and a Basset Hound. Their floppy, furry ears that hang down, referred to as “drop ears”, don’t get a lot of air flowing through them. This creates a perfect breeding ground for infections. Now imagine a Poodle, known to have hairy ear canals,  and there’s even less access for air to get in there.

When to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

The answer depends on if you have your dog’s ears regularly cleaned by a groomer or your vet. If you do, simple maintenance is all you need, assuming there aren’t any issues. If you groom your dog yourself, it should be part of that routine.

If your dog is prone to infections, you may need to check on those ears weekly to prevent issues developing. The schedule should be based on the breed, type of ears, and if you notice any signs there could be an infection.

When you’re loving your dog, glance at the ears to see if cleaning is necessary. Look for dirt and other particles that can be wiped off - use specially-formulated wipes to avoid irritation. There’s a difference between dirty ears and those that need medical attention. 

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Signs Your Dog May Have an Ear Infection

  • One or both ears have a stinky odor
  • There is excessive ear wax or brown gunk
  • Your dog is shaking its head 
  • Your dog is scratching its ears
  • The ears are noticeably red
  • The ears are tender to the touch

At this point, your dog may need antibiotics or prescription ear drops so a visit to the vet is a good idea. If you notice a trend, talk to your doctor about how to decrease the infections and what you can do at home. If your dog’s ear infection goes untreated, it can lead to permanent damage, including hearing loss. 

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

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There are several methods, some that are super easy and quick, and others that require more cleaning tools. Again, your dog ear cleaning routine is going to be specific to your dog’s ears. Talk to your vet about the steps you need to take for your pet to have the healthiest possible ears, and equip yourself with the right kit to make it ear grooming easy for you and stress-free for your beloved floof.


Everyone should have baby wipes in the house, even if you don’t have a baby. These are gentle and do a nice job of cleaning up areas of your dog, including the ears. 

You can also purchase dog ear cleaner wipes, which may provide a more specific solution if needed. For example, wax build-up versus just dirt and grime. Finger wipes are an ultra-convenient way to access the entrance to the ear canal (never pushing inside of course), and can really access all that grime while keeping your hands clean.

Make sure you’re not using sanitizing wipes, which we’ve all hoarded during the pandemic. These are not to be used to clean any part of your pet. Would you clean your baby’s face or bum with these? NEVER. 

Take a wipe, lift the ear flap, if necessary, and with a bit of pressure, wipe around the outside and around the ear canal to remove dirt and debris. There are lots of hiding spots so get a good look and find those spots. Keep your dog comfortable with a treat so it doesn’t move around and give your dog breaks if needed. While ear cleaning may not be a favorite activity for your dog, you don’t want it hiding every time it sees the wipes. 

When it’s time to clean my dog’s teeth, one of them runs away when the toothbrush comes out, while the other smiles and can’t wait. Just like kids, each dog’s different within the same household. 

Just like it’s satisfying to see the amount of dirt you cleaned off your floor, it’s pretty satisfying to see the wipe after you’re done cleaning. Am I the only one?

Never insert anything into your dog’s ears like a Q-Tip as you can push the dirt in further, leading to infections and even trauma to the inner ear

Ear Drops

Your vet will guide you to the healthiest ear cleaner if needed. There’s a method to the madness when inserting drops into your dog’s ears.

Get your pooch comfortable. Gain access to the ear canal. Put in the drops as instructed and cover your dog’s ears with the ear flap. Gently massage the flap so the drops get properly distributed throughout the canal. You will hear a squishy sound coming from the ear. Let your dog shake its head and be aware of some wet dirt coming your way

Wipe off any excess liquid or dirt with a wipe or clean towel.

Hair Today, Gone Tomorrow

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If your dog has super hairy ear canals, you can ask your groomer to trim the area or have your vet show you how to remove it yourself.

This may be a bit much for one day so you may want to spread the activities out over two days. The area can be red and sensitive after removing the hair and a cleaning product may further irritate the ear.

Regular upkeep is vital for maintaining overall health, be it for our beloved canines or ourselves. By diligently cleaning your dog's ears, you can effectively fend off harmful infections and even prevent potential hearing damage. Embracing a proactive approach helps avoid the need for extensive treatments.

Our furry companions entrust their well-being to us, and in return, we must prioritize their health. Shower your pet with affection and treats after every grooming session, ensuring it becomes a positive and enjoyable experience for them. Remember, tending to your dog's ears, brushing their coat, and cleaning those adorable canine chompers are all integral parts of responsible pet parenting, contributing to their lasting happiness and well-being.