How to Clean Your Dog's Ears & How Often to Do It

Cleaning your dog's ears is an important part of their hygiene. It will also help your dog feel more comfortable, considering they can't exactly reach the insides of their ears easily. Dog ear canals are very deep, so when material gets stuck inside, it can be difficult for a dog's ear to expel the irritant without outside help. That's where you come in!

A portrait of a x-breed dog, rescued as a puppy.
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How to clean your dog's ears

Cleaning your dog's ears does not take any wildly expensive equipment. All you need is a good quality dog ear cleaning solution, and cotton balls. The cleaning solution should be a mild solution from a pet store. Do not use vinegar, alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, as they are too harsh and can further irritate your dog's ear canal. Do not use Q-Tips because (just like with people) if used with too much pressure, there is a risk of perforating the eardrum or causing trauma to the ear canal.

It is recommended that you clean your dog's ears after they've been recently groomed so that there is less chance of dirt and dust re-entering their ears from their pelts or heads. If you cannot give a full body wash, definitely be sure to clean around the ears before you clean within the ears. Make it a spa day for your dog and give them a good bath and an ear cleaning, so that they feel like a brand new pup!

Once you have cleaned the area around the ear, it is time to clean the inner ear. Be very gentle. You don't want to harm their ears which are already fragile. Do not put the tip of the bottle into the ear as you apply the solution. It is best to use a spoon to pour the solution slowly into the ear. Drip solution into the ear canal (enough to fill it, but not overflow the canal). Gently massage the base of the dog's ear for 10 to 30 seconds as the solution drips into the ear canal. You might hear a "squish" sounds as the debris inside the canal is broken up by the solution. This shouldn't hurt your dog, but if it does, stop and take them to the vet.

Cleaning dog ears
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Once you have finished massaging your dog's ears, step back and allow your dog to shake their head. This will bring the wax buildup from within to the surface of their ear canal. Hold their ear open and take your clean fresh cotton balls and gently wipe up and out of the canal. (If you have a smaller dog, you might have to use half a cotton ball, because a whole one might not fit.)

Once you have wiped away the residue, and your dog's ears are cleaned, make sure to give your good dog a treat (or several).

How often to clean your dog's ears

Regularly cleaning your dog's ears helps stave off ear infections and wax buildup, which can end up hurting your pup. If left unattended, your dog might be more susceptible to chronic ear infections and hearing loss.

Veterinarians recommend that dogs get their ears cleaned once a month, although depending on the breed you might need to clean them more. Be careful not to over-clean, as that can equally irritate dog ears.

Professional Dog Groomer cleaning ears to black Labrador retriever dog
credit: Nastasic/iStock/GettyImages

There are also some breeds that do not need to have their ears cleaned. However, as mentioned above, some breeds may need more frequent cleanings, especially dogs that swim or regularly get their ears wet. Once a month is a good average, but it's best to ask your veterinarian if your dog's breed requires more or less.

If you notice a scent or discharge from your dog's ears, clean them right away so it doesn't become an infection. If the ear is red, inflamed or painful, do not clean your dog's ears yourself. Instead, take them to the vet as soon as possible.