HEALTH & CARE

Best Dog Ear Cleaner: Keep Your Pup’s Ears Clean and Healthy

Dog ear cleaning
John Walton
Written by John Walton

Maintaining your puppy’s ear health is easy when you have the best dog ear cleaner on hand. Ear cleaners are an indispensable part of your dog’s hygiene especially since the ear is a very sensitive organ that is also quite understood by many pet owners. When you have the right cleaning solution for your pet’s ears then you can really never go wrong. It will efficiently remove any wax, dirt, and debris inside your pet’s ears without the pain or irritation that may worsen any ear problem.

You will however, need to find just what would work best for your dog since not all types of dirt in your ear can be addressed by one general cleaning solution. A lot of dog ear problems start from a dirty ear canal and this is often due to lack of grooming knowledge regarding the ears or by the pet owner’s neglect.

When a dog’s ears are not cleaned regularly, the wax that they produce as well as the accumulated dust and dirt will start to build-up and even harden inside their ears.

This is what could often lead to an infection of the ear canals and it can also damage their ear drums if it gets too hard. Understanding the structure and the nature of a dog’s ears will help you know how to clean it and maintain it in between visits to the vet.

Dog ear structure

Perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of a pet dog is its ear. You can ask a lot of pet owners about how they clean their pet’s ears and most likely you will hear that they leave it to their vets.

The problem though is that the average pet only visits the pet clinic once or twice a year and their ears need regular cleaning for about once or twice a week. Although there are some who do not have this problem especially dogs that require regular grooming, other pets do not have this luxury especially when their owners only try to brush and bath them at home.

Canine ear

These owners are often afraid to clean their pet’s ears themselves because they think that they could damage their pet’s ear drums in the process. Aside from that, there is also the fear of pushing the ear wax deeper into the canal.

The solution to this problem is to know how a dog’s ear is really structured. First and foremost, you need to understand that a dog’s ear canal is located farther and downward the ears which will make it quite difficult to damage. Unlike human ears, your pet’s ears have an “L” shaped design, with the vertical canal having a somewhat diagonal angle.

Compared to the vertical canal, the diagonal is much longer so it would definitely be hard to reach unless you have an L-shaped tool. But if you would only be using regular cotton applicator or cotton balls, then it would almost be impossible to reach.

Dog ear cleaning

This does not mean however, that you can just shove anything inside your pet’s ears. Remember that if they have a buildup of earwax, pushing an applicator in will also push the wax deeper into the ear canal.

The best way would be to use an ear rinse or ear cleaning solution which your dog would be able to easily “shake” out of their ears. These solutions come with varying ingredients that will help soften the wax and remove any sticky or foreign item in their ears.

What you will then need is the right mix of ingredients which will help address any other problem that is inside the ear such as yeast or bacterial infection. Regular ear cleaning solutions do not contain anti-fungal, antibacterial, or anti-yeast components and it would be up to your veterinarian to prescribe the best product for your dog.

Possible problems with your dog’s ears

Although cleaning your pet’s ears is relatively easy, it should always be done with the advice of your veterinarian. A lot of things may already be happening inside their ears and applying the wrong cleaner can lead to worse problems and may even cost your dog’s hearing ability.

If you notice a lot of dark or reddish earwax on your pet’s ears, the best that you can do is to clean their outer ears and then bring them to the vet for check-up. This is an important step especially if your dog is scratching their ears a lot, have is tilting their head to one side, scratching their ears on walls, pawing them, or have become withdrawn and had lost their appetite.

These symptoms could mean that your dog has an infection and the only way to determine how it could be treated would be with a vet examination.

Checking dog ear

Here are some possible problems that your pet may have about their ears:

  • Allergy. One of the earliest signs of dog allergy is a foul smell on their ears as well as some secretions that look like pus. Your dog will also have a reddish inner ear and they will be scratching a lot. This type of problem will only be solved by dealing with the allergy itself. If not, it will be a recurring problem even when you clean their ears regularly.
  • Bacterial or yeast infection. This can be connected to an allergy but it can also be caused by the presence of an irritant such as a foreign decaying matter inside their ear canal. Diet could also play a role in an infection since excessive carbohydrates will change the pH levels of the skin and cause an overgrowth of bacteria and yeast. Trapped moisture is also one of the culprits for these types of infection.
  • Foreign matter. If you took your dog out for a walk in the woods or in a grassy area, chances are they will be getting awns or other particles inside their ears. If you don’t have their ears checked by the vet, it can irritate the ear linings or even create tears and wounds. This can cause the lining to produce excessive wax or sebum which leads more dirt to become trapped inside the ear.
  • Ear mites. Although this is more common in cats than in dogs, it can be a big problem if your dog has them. They feed on your pet’s blood once they get inside the ears and their presence is characterized by dark and crumbly matter in your pet’s ears.

As you can see, cleaning your dog’s ears can be an easy task but you still have to know underlying problems to provide them with the right ear rinse or cleaner. What could have worked for your neighbor’s or your co-worker’s ears may not simply be the best for your own. Always ask for your veterinarian’s advice before buying any ear cleaning solution.

Ask your vet

It will not only save you money, it will also save you a lot of trips to the vet in the future.

Process of cleaning a dog’s ear

The process of cleaning your pet’s ear on your own is relatively simple once you have the right cleaning solution. You don’t actually have to be an expert to do this as the steps are easy to learn.

  • Have your dog in a sitting position. It is important to prepare your dog carefully by calming them down before the procedure. Soothe and reassure your dog or even give them treats so they won’t struggle a lot when you pour the cleaning rinse or solution inside their ears. A sitting position is more preferable due to the vertical structure of their ears.
  • Pour about 10 drops of the cleaner in their ears. Pull the flaps of your dog’s ears upward to straighten the ear canal and pour the ear cleaner in. It would help if you can warm the solution first either by putting them in a warm water bath or by holding them in your hands for a few minutes. The amount that you would have to pour will depend on the kind of product that you have but the best recommendation is approximately 10 drops. We measure it by drops since cleaning solutions are often sold with a dropper as their container. One way to know if you have put enough is when you see the liquid on a certain level just below the entrance to their ears.
  • Massage the area below the ears. This process will help break down and loosen any ear wax that may have built up inside the vertical ear canal and the circular massage will help the liquid to penetrate towards the horizontal canal. Continue to do this for about two to three minutes for the liquid to fully saturate the ear waxes. You will know that the cleaning fluid has gotten into the horizontal ear canal is when you hear a smacking sound while you are massaging.
  • Release your dog so they could shake off the solution. After the two or three minutes have passed, you should then allow them to shake their ears to discharge the fluid, ear wax and dirt accompanying them. It may be a good idea to do this outside in the yard as your pet can send the dirt matter flying into your walls or furniture if you do it inside your home. Make sure that you are also a good distance away from them as quickly as you release them.
  • Wipe off any remaining wax or dirt in their outer ear. When your dog had successfully ejected the cleaning solution in their ears, it will now be your turn to wipe off any remaining dirt on their ears. Use some cleaning cloth, gauze squares, or cotton wool to remove any of the dirt that sticks to their outer ears or fur.
    You can use a Q-tip if you see any remaining earwax on the fold of the ear canal but take care not to clean any area that you cannot see. Use an upward movement to clean your pet’s inner ear. Make sure that you also wipe their ears thoroughly dry especially if they have drooping ears.
  • Apply some dog ointment or ear powder. This will depend if your dog is suffering from any infection or allergy; ointments are usually for bacterial and fungal infections while powders are mainly used to remove any excess moisture. Dog powder is important since bacteria and yeast thrive on warm and moist areas.

Recommended ear cleaning solutions

If you are wondering which products are good for your dog, here is some which have worked very well for various dog owners.

  • Virbac Epi-Otic ear cleaner – This is one of the best ear rinses in the market due to their alcohol-free composition. It has a low pH level which is good if your pet is suffering from any infection. It contains salicylic acid which helps loosen hard ear wax and dirt. The acidic nature of this cleaner helps prevent the growth of bacterial and fungal infections.
  • Zymox Ear Cleaner with bio-active enzymes – This is a highly recommendable cleaner if you want a cleaner, an antibiotic and antifungal ear treatment in one. It contains natural ingredients which help to fight bacterial and yeast growth.
  • Beaphar ear drops for cats and dogs – This is ideal for pet owners who have both cats and dogs in their home. It is used for rinsing out ear wax and dirt on pet’s ears as well as inhibiting the growth of ear mites if your pets have them. It contains pyrethrum which is a natural killer of these mites.
  • Johnson’s ear drops for cats and dogs – This ear cleaner has a very gentle formula which makes them ideal for pets with allergic or sensitive skin. It contains an anti-ear mite ingredient aside from ear cleansing properties.
  • Denes ear cleaner for cats and dogs – If you are into products which have natural ingredients then Denes is for you. It contains a natural formula for breaking down ear wax and it also helps soothe irritated ear lining. It has aromatherapy benefits for your dog to help soothe and calm him down.
  • OmegaPet dog ear cleaner – This product contains an all-natural set of ingredients which will do all the tasks of cleaning, moisturizing, and drying your dog’s ears. It does not contain alcohol or any other toxic chemicals. You can use this directly on your pet’s ears or put them on wipes to apply.
  • Nutri-Vet ear cleanse liquid for dogs – This product contains aloe vera which is an effective anti-bacterial and anti-fungal substance. It has a gentle formula which makes it recommendable for sensitive pets as well.
  • Top Performance ProEar medicated dog and cat ear cleaner – ProEar is highly recommended for pets that have a serious case of wax buildup. It has salicylic acid which effectively breaks down any hardened wax and it also has eucalyptus oil that has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Spring pet ear cleaner for dogs and cats – This is a unique combination of aloe vera, lactic acid, salicylic acid, and vitamins to provide a gentle but effective way to care for your pet’s ears. It cleans, moisturizes, acidifies, dries and kills ear mites all in one product.
  • EcoEars dog ear cleaner – If your pet has a serious ear infection, this product will help control its growth using natural ingredients such as rosemary extract, tea tree oil, and mullein. It targets bacteria, fungi, yeast, mites, and other ear irritations.
  • Bubbas Extra strength dog ear cleaner solution – This is a sting-free ear cleaner that has been formulated by a pharmacist to address ear cleaning, drying, healing, moisturizing, and acidifying a dog’s ears. It contains oat extract, aloe vera, tea tree oil, and vitamin E that helps the ears to heal naturally.

Finding the best ear cleaning product for your dog should always be done with regards to your pet’s veterinarian.

Bubbas Extra Strength Dog Ear Cleaner Solution

There could be underlying problems which can be irritated or made worse by certain ingredients in the product that you use.

For example, salicylic acid is not really recommendable for dogs with open wounds on their ears as it can hurt them a lot and even traumatize your dog. This is also true for those that have alcohol as one of their ingredients although these would work well for those with hardened earwax without ear infections.

Zymox Ear Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes

There are a wide range of ear cleaning products that are being sold in the market and all of them are effective but for certain types or situations only. An allergic dog will do well with gentle formulas whereas dogs with more serious earwax problem would need a stronger solution.

Remember that a dirty ear is the breeding ground of almost any type of ear-related problem. Make sure to clean them regularly at least once a week or bring them to the vet or grooming clinic for a thorough cleaning. With the proper knowledge of your dog’s ears and with the right ear cleaning solution, you will be able to clean their ears successfully.

About the author
John Walton
John Walton

John Walton lives in Somerville, MA, with his two dogs, two sons, and very understanding mate. He is a Certified Pet Dog Trainer, a member of the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, a mentor trainer for the Animal Behavior College, an AKC Certified CGC Evaluator, and the Training Director for the New England Dog Training Club.

  • Daniella Roberts

    Our dogs need regular ear cleaning and vet visits to ensure their health. I’ve used the Virbac Epi-Optic and it’s an excellent product that’s also affordable. I also use the smell test in examining my dog’s ears.

    • That’s a very practical point of view, Daniella. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  • Natalie Barton

    Our dog doesn’t have exceedingly dirty ears, but this post is informative nonetheless. I never knew that there was so much to cleaning my dog’s ears! I will definitely ask our vet about this the next time we come in for a check up and have their professional opinion on our dogs. This post is pretty good to note and not to mention in-depth.

    • I appreciate your comment, Natalie! Thank you.

  • Grace Hill

    Best thing to do it… let your vet teach you how to poke around your pooch’s ears, and try to keep the cleaner at room temperature. Trust me, your dog is already very uncomfortable because of the ear problem and some cold solution to his ears won’t help. Keep it warm in some way and try to distract your pooch via treats or something. Any other tips you can share?

    • Ann Shea

      Grace, you are smart to realize having the solution room temp or slightly above is best. Try applying the ear cleaning solution to a large cotton ball or cosmetic cotton pad. This will avoid the sudden shock of fluid, which is not a natural feeling. Massaging the base of the ear actually feels good and your dog will eventually come to love the treatment! Glad to see EcoEars mentioned. We get a lot of grateful customers, like this one: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tKQ0XqSrL00

  • Ann Shea

    Thanks for the mention of EcoEars! It works (I work with Vet Organics who makes it, but am also happy user of it for cleaning my Golden Retriever’s ears and PREVENTING infections–which is always better than treating them).

  • You’re very welcome, Ann. Prevention is far better than cure and we all want the best for our fur babies.

    • Ann Shea

      Agreed, John, for dogs and their 2-legged companions alike. Em, now about that new fitness regime I was embarking on…LOL… :)

  • You better take care of yourself as well. A healthy fur baby should have a healthy pet parent as well.

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