How do I Know if My Dog’s Ears Need to be Cleaned?

Dog Hygiene: How to Clean Dog Ears

If you notice an abundance of ear wax in your dog’s ears, it is a good idea to clean them. But how to clean dog ears?

This is easily done with an ear cleaning solution and a cotton ball or cotton swabs by lifting the ear flap and wiping the ear with the solution.

There are a few signs it is time to clean your dog’s ears, and we have listed some of them below:

  • Ear Wax Buildup. If there is an excess of ear wax buildup on the outer ear, it may be a sign of otitis externa, or an outer ear infection. This can be a result of polyps, allergies, or ear mites.
  • Signs of Parasites. Ear mites are very common in dogs. Symptoms include violent head shaking, itchy ears, and excessive ear discharge. Ear mites can be treated with over-the-counter products or by a vet.
  • Pawing at the Ear. This is a general symptom of many different ear problems. If your dog is scratching excessively or violently at their ears, it could be a sign it is time to get out the ear cleanser.
  • Signs of Yeast Infection. Symptoms of a yeast infection include red or brown waxy discharge, a cheesy or moldy smell coming from the ears, and ear scratching. Antibiotics and antifungal medications are common treatments for this problem.

What Is the Brown Stuff In My Dog’s Ears?

Ear wax is generally a shade of brown. Light brown ear wax that does not smell or appear inflamed is normal and to be expected.

However, dark brown or black ear wax buildup is a sign of an ear infection (it can be a bacterial or yeast infection). If you notice dark brown or black ear wax in your dog’s ears, it is a good idea to see a vet for a diagnosis.

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What Are the Benefits of Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears?

Cleaning the dog’s ears is beneficial in several aspects – from improving the overall hygiene to preventing ear problems.

  • Improved Hearing. Cleaning your dog’s ears will remove the wax and debris that has built up over time. Ear wax forms in a dog’s ear canal and can create a smaller passage to the eardrum for sound to travel through, making it more difficult to hear. Removing the wax will make the passage larger and allow sound to more freely travel to the eardrum.
  • Preventing Infections. Certain bacteria can grow quickly in ear wax. Removing the wax regularly removes the wax they grow in and can help prevent infection.
  • Avoiding Obstructions. If a foreign object, such as a twig or other debris, becomes trapped in the ear hair or wax, it can cause irritation and inflammation. If it is not handled carefully, the obstruction can be forced further into the ear canal and cause damage to the inner ear.
  • Preventing Parasites: Ear mites thrive in the ear. They feed on the ear wax and oils produced inside the ear and, if left untreated, can pose a host of problems, including deafness and bacterial infection.
  • Managing Itchiness. The buildup of earwax can be itchy and uncomfortable. Ear wax buildup in the ear canal can trap bacteria that can cause an infection, among other things.

What Can I Use to Clean My Dog Ear at Home?

In order to explain how to clean dog ears, we need to go through several dog ear cleaners. The following products are safe, efficient, and of high quality. Plus, they are readily available on online retailers such as Amazon & Chewy.

PetLab Co. – Clear Ears Therapy Ear Cleaner for Dogs. This dog ear wash has been designed to safely and potently rinse and clean your dog’s ear canal. This helps with itchy ears and head shaking.

This solution promotes and supports healthy ear canals in your dog, giving the confidence that you can support your dog with occasionally itchy, blocked ear canals due to excessive wax, trapped moisture, and yeast. The ingredients in our ear drops for dogs are carefully selected to ensure your pup remains healthy and happy. 

Vets Preferred Ear Cleaner for Dogs. This safe and effective cleaner provides irritation relief in dogs with dirty or infected ears. It is formulated to be powerful against ear wax and only takes a few minutes to clean a dog’s ears effectively.

It uses isopropyl alcohol as an antiseptic to fight against bacteria growth inside the ear. It is made in the USA in a GMP-certified facility to provide the best quality and safety in an ear cleaning product.

Pet MD Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes Otic Cleanser for Dogs to Stop Ear Itching, and Infections. Featuring aloe vera and eucalyptus, this formula provides a great soothing effect while it cleans your dog’s ears. Each easy-to-use wipe contains no alcohol to provide a soothing and non-irritating treatment against earwax buildup.

This product helps to reduce odors and prevent infection without medication. It is made in the USA for the best quality and is safe for dogs older than 12 weeks.

VetWELL Ear Cleaner Controlling Ear Infections and Odor for Dogs. This vet-formulated ear wash was made to gently clean, deodorize, and acidify your pet’s ears. It eliminates the buildup of wax, fluid, dirt, and debris to stop itching and head shaking associated with dirty ears.

Relieving ear infections by targeting the growth of bacteria, this formula helps to reduce the likelihood of infection with a light scent of cucumber or vanilla. It is made in the USA in a federally regulated facility to maintain the highest standard of quality control.

Burt’s Bees for Dogs Natural Ear Cleaner with Peppermint and Witch Hazel. By removing excess moisture in the ear, this product helps to treat, clean, and soothe a dog’s ears. It is made with witch hazel to remove excess buildup and peppermint oil to soothe irritation.

It is easy to use with a bottle that doubles as an applicator that can be used up to twice per week. It is pH balanced to be suitable for dogs of all ages. This veterinarian-recommended formula is free of fragrances, sulfates, and colorants to provide a safe treatment for a dog’s ears.

Prymal Pets Professional Dog Ear Cleaning Swabs. The sturdy bamboo stick on this cotton swab ensures a good application and removal of excess wax. The large cotton tips are made not to go into the ear too far, thus avoiding the possibility of harming your dog’s ears.

The handle is six inches long, which means you can grasp it easier and reach into harder-to-reach places for a more thorough clean. These swabs come dry, so they can be used to apply ointments and medicines to an infected ear.

Vet’s Best Ear Cleansing Finger Wipes for Dogs. These finger wipes are single-use and effective in removing dirt and dissolving earwax buildup. Regular use of these wipes can soothe irritated ears and deodorize infected ears. Made with natural ingredients like aloe vera and witch hazel, this formula contains no parabens or synthetic ingredients.

It is safe enough for regular use as needed until visible ear wax has been removed. The easy-to-use formula is soaked into a finger wipe that removes dirt and wax when used on the dog’s ears during grooming.

EcoEars Dog Ear Cleaner Natural Multi-Action Formula for Bad Discharge & Smell. Used for bad odors, dirt, and gunk that are built up in a dog’s ears over time, this treatment is effective within 7-10 days. This formula contains no pharmaceuticals, synthetic chemicals, or steroids and is great for sensitive ears.

It helps to break down ear wax over time and return a dog’s ears to their natural, clean, and dry state. When included in weekly dog groomings, this is an effective preventive measure against ear infections.

How to Clean Dog Ears?

Dog Hygiene: How to Clean Dog Ears

Wondering how to clean dog ears? Below we have listed a step-by-step process for cleaning your dog’s ears:

  • Clean Regularly. This will help your dog become used to having its ears cleaned, and they are more likely to be more cooperative.
  • Gather your Supplies. You will need an ear cleaning solution, an applicator, a towel, cotton balls or Q-tips, and dog treats.
  • Clean the Area. Cleaning around the ear and under the dog’s ear flap is the best place to start to prevent dirt or infection from spreading from the outer ear to the inner ear. This can be done with a cotton ball and hydrogen peroxide for a safe antibacterial effect.
  • Apply the Cleaning Solution. Use the tip of the bottle to place drops of the solution into the ear. Follow the directions on the package to ensure the best results.
  • Massage the Ear. Massage the base of the ear after the solution has been applied to loosen hardened and excessive earwax.
  • Wipe Clean with a Dry Towel. Use a clean and dry towel to wipe the solution off of the dog’s ear. Make sure all of the solution and debris are removed before finishing. Be sure to remove the gunk from all part of the ear to ensure thorough protection from ear problems.

Remember to avoid over-cleaning the ears as some ear wax is normal and healthy, and removing it can cause harm to the ear.

How Often Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears?

Generally speaking, once a month should suffice.

Dogs with larger ears and dogs who spend a lot of time in the water or are prone to ear infections can have their ears cleaned more frequently. Once every 2-3 weeks should work for most dogs.

Dog breeds with floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, require more attention than dog breeds with smaller ears.

What Happens if You Don’t Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

There are a number of things that can happen if you do not clean your dog’s ears regularly.

A dirty ear attracts parasites and bacteria that can cause deafness and illness. Your dog will also likely be very uncomfortable if its ears are not maintained properly. This can lead to lethargy, loss of appetite, and irritability.