How Often, Why, and How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Filed in Dog Health by on August 22, 2021

how often to clean your dogs ears

Many dogs experience issues with their ears, and cleaning is an essential part of your pet’s routine care. Although it may seem like a simple task, there is a lot of confusion around how often you should clean your dog’s ears.

Likewise, accomplishing this task at home can be intimidating to new pet owners.

This vet-written article will discuss how often you should be cleaning your dog’s ears and why it is essential. I will also provide a step-by-step guide to make the task less stressful for you and your pet.

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is to provide general pet care information. This article should not serve as a substitute for seeking professional care.

If you have concerns about your pet’s health, always consult with your veterinarian to determine your dog’s individual needs.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

The frequency you will need to clean your dog’s ears will vary from dog to dog. Most dogs benefit from having their ears cleaned once a month.

Dogs with floppy ears often experience more ear issues and may need to have their ears cleaned more frequently.

Dogs who receive baths regularly or are avid swimmers may also need a little more attention paid to their ears. The moisture buildup from these activities can be a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.

Your dog may not need to have its ears cleaned after every bath or swim, but it is essential to dry the ears properly after any water activity.

Some dogs have naturally clean ears and may not need to have their ears cleaned as frequently. In fact, over-cleaning is a very common problem. Over-cleaning can irritate the ear canal. It is essential to find the right balance for your dog.

Pay close attention to any odor coming from your dog’s ears. Noticeable wax buildup or excessive scratching may be other indications that your dog’s ears need to be cleaned. Head-shaking is another common sign.

If you have questions, contact your veterinarian to determine what is appropriate for your dog.

Why is Purifying Your Pup’s Hearing Organs Important?

dog with ear infection

Just like humans, dogs develop waxy buildup in their ear canal and can suffer from ear infections.

Due to the ear canal structure, once debris gets into the ear, it can become trapped. Proper cleaning is necessary to remove this debris and excess wax from the ear.

Without proper cleaning, foreign debris and an excess of wax can lead to ear infections. Ear infections can cause pain and discomfort for your pet. If left untreated, ear infections can lead to permanent damage and even neurological symptoms.

Inflammation of the ears and recurring ear infections can be a symptom of a more systemic problem such as allergies. Closely monitoring your dog’s ears and keeping them clean is essential for your pet’s overall wellbeing.

If your dog continues to show signs of discomfort, schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have their ears thoroughly evaluated.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Dog owners often find the idea of cleaning their dog’s ears at home to be a bit intimidating. Luckily, it is not a complicated process. By following these easy steps, you’ll have your dog’s ears squeaky clean in no time.

  1. Assemble Your Supplies

It is crucial to get organized before you attempt this task. You should have several cotton balls, an ear cleaner recommended by your veterinarian, and a few treats to make the experience a little more pleasant.

The process can get a little messy, so it may be wise to do this in a bathroom or other area that is easy to clean up.

  1. Position Yourself and Your Pup

Sitting on the floor with your dog is usually the easiest position for owners. If you struggle to keep your pet still, position them between your legs with their head facing away from you.

For larger dogs, you may need an additional person to help you. If you don’t have an extra hand, position your dog between you and a wall. This can prevent them from getting away.

  1. Examine the Hearing Organ

Once you have properly positioned yourself, lift your dog’s ear flap. If your dog does not have floppy ears, gently grasp the top of the ear and pull upwards.

Check the ear for any foul odor or signs of inflammation. A mild yeast smell is typical for dirty ears but should not be overpowering.

If your dog’s ear appears abnormal or your dog seems particularly painful, do not attempt to clean their ears yourself. Schedule a visit with your veterinarian.

  1. Apply the Hearing Organ Cleaner

squeezing a ear cleaning solution for dog

If your dog’s ear appears normal, squeeze a few drops of the ear cleaning solution into the ear.

Avoid touching the tip of the cleaning solution bottle to your pet’s ear. This may contaminate the bottle and spread bacteria during future cleanings.

If you accidentally touch the bottle to your dog’s ear, thoroughly clean the tip before putting it away.

Some dogs dislike the sensation of the cleaning solution squirting in their ear. In this case, you can soak a cotton ball in the cleaning solution and place it in the ear.

Do not push the cotton ball any further than your finger can go and stop if your pet shows any sign of pain.

  1. Massage the Hearing Organ Canal

While holding the ear flap, use your other hand to massage the base of the ear for approximately 30 seconds. This massaging will help break up the material within the ear canal.

It is normal to hear a “squishing” or “whooshing” sound. This sound means you have used an appropriate amount of ear cleaner, and your massaging is doing its job.

Try to keep the cleaning solution inside your dog’s ear. Do not worry if a little bit of solution leaks out.

If using a cotton ball soaked in ear cleaner, you can still massage the ear canal with the cotton ball in the ear. You should be able to appreciate some squishing as the waxy debris is broken up, but it may not be as dramatic.

  1. Wipe Away the Debris

Maintaining your hold on the ear flap or base of the ear, use your other hand to remove the ear cleaning solution with a cotton ball.

You should notice some orange or brown debris coming out on your cotton ball. Be careful not to push your cotton ball too deep, as this can be painful for your dog. Focus on the upper portion of the ear canal and any debris along the ear flap.

  1. Shake it Out

After a few passes, new cotton balls should have less debris and start to come out clean. There will still be some cleaning solution left in the deeper parts of your dog’s ear canal.

The best way to get the remaining solution out is to release your dog’s head and let them shake it out.

  1. Treats

Ear cleaning is not a very fun activity for your pet. Always reward their good behavior with treats. When your pet learns that they get a delicious treat every time their ears are cleaned, ear cleaning can become a more pleasant experience.

Additional note: Q-tips should never be used to clean your dog’s ear canal. Q-tips can push debris deeper into the ear canal and cause trauma to the ear canal and eardrum. However, they can be used to clean the little ear folds on the outer portions of the ears.

For the more visually inclined reader, here’s a popular video on Youtube from a veterinarian on how to clean a dog’s ears:

Picking an Appropriate Hearing Organ Cleaner

Many ear cleaning products are available on the market, and picking the right one for your dog can be a daunting task. Some cleaners contain anti-bacterial or anti-fungal properties, while others are better at removing built-up wax.

There are certain ingredients to avoid when picking an ear cleaner. You should never use hydrogen peroxide to clean your dog’s ears. Rubbing alcohol should also be avoided. The alcohol can burn and cause significant irritation.

Talk to your veterinarian about what product is best for your pet. Your veterinarian can perform an exam to determine if any concerning factors are contributing to your dog’s ear issues.

They can then recommend a product to help you treat your dog’s ears and advise you on how often you should be using it.


Cleaning your dog’s ears is an essential part of pet care and being a responsible pet owner. Every dog is unique, and how often they will need their ears cleaned can vary.

Most dogs will need their ears cleaned about once a month, but some will require more frequent cleaning. Remember that cleaning your pet’s ears too often can create irritation and inflammation.

Consult with your veterinarian to determine an appropriate cleaning schedule for your dog and pick a suitable cleaner.

By following this step-by-step guide, cleaning your dog’s ears doesn’t have to be scary. Hopefully, this information will help clear up the confusion around ear cleaning and give you the tools you need to provide your pet with the best possible care.

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