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How to clean your dog's ears

Updated on September 20, 2008

Learn how to properly take care of your dog's ears

Does your dog have good listening ears? Or is he having a hard time listening to you? Is your dog a "selective listener" meaning he listens only to what he likes to?

Before polishing your dog training skills grab a good ear cleaning solution. Chances are your dog may need a good ear cleaning that will magically allow your dog to obey to you promptly.

We all would wish there was such a simple solution to make our dogs obey to all our commands and make professional obedience trainers get out of business! However in the meanwhile, while this magic potion is under construction, we can start off by getting rid of dust, wax and general debris by learning how to properly clean a dog's ears.

Dogs come in different colors, shapes and sizes, so dogs come as well with different sets of ears. There are dogs with floppy ears that get moisture trapped and may be over all pretty challenging to deal with, while on the other hand, there are dogs with erect ears which are aired much more but may attract all sort of flies. However, regardless of shape and size, all dogs share the same L shaped ear canal that traps dirt, bacteria and debris requiring routine cleanings.

There are many guidelines to follow when cleaning a dog's ears. The first step is to equip yourself with some essential items. Of course you will need a good ear cleaning solution.

Your can find a variety of different ear cleaners in a pet store, but I would recommend having your vet suggest one that best meets your dog's ear needs. Or you can make your own, should your dog already have a minor ear problem, by following the instructions in the homemade dog ear cleaner recipe found below.

The next step is gaining some knowledge, learning a bit about a dog's ear anatomy, so to know how deep you can go. As mentioned above, dogs have an L shaped ear canal, meaning that the ear canal has a vertical descent and at one point the canal will take a 90 degree angle. This is the point you do not want to go further. As a basic rule of thumb you may go as deep as your finger allows you to go before reaching the horizontal 90 degree angle.

Back to the equipment this is what you basically will need:

A good ear cleaner

Soft cloth or pads

Ear drying powder

This should be done at least once a week, especially for those floppy eared dog breeds.


1)If your dog is floppy eared pull up the pinna and gently squirt the product of your choice in your dog's ear canal. Do not go too deep with the point of the bottle. It would be considerate should you have a solution that requires refrigeration, to allow the solution to be at warm temperature. Nobody likes a cold liquid squirted directly into their ears!

2) Once the solution is in the ears, use the dog's own ear to massage for up to a minute allowing the product to penetrate and spread around. You should hear a squishy noise as you massage the product around.

3) Your dog at this point will want to shake his head to get rid of the excess liquid. You may allow him to do so at this point.

4) Use the soft cloth or cleaning pad to remove the wax, debris or other found in the ear.Never use q-tips or swabs as they may easily perforate the ear drum!

5)Allow ears to air a bit allowing them to dry. If your dog is floppy eared keep the ear flaps back for a little bit and then apply the ear drying powder. This powder will take away any remaining moisture that is so well known to attract bacteria and yeast.


When our clients at the vet hospital were struggling with their dog's annoying ear problems we told them to try this recipe. It works by breaking down the wax and making the ear inhabitable to those harmful bacteria.

You will need:

Apple cider vinegar


An ear dropper

Cotton balls or pads

Mix equal amounts of water and 2 apple cider vinegar. This mixture should be applied inside the ear until the the exceeding amount flows out. Let the mixture stay in ear for about 5 minutes. Allow the dog to shake head to remove excess amount. Then carefully wipe out with a cotton ball. Repeat for about 10 days. If ears appear red and hot it is best to have your dog seen by vet as your pet may need antibiotics.

Once ears are nice and clean take a look at your findings and learn as you go. Should the ear be filled with a dark substance resembling coffee grains take your dog to the vet as this may be a sign of ear mites. You can try at home to smother these mites by putting a few drops of olive oil in the affected ears, but more effective treatments may be necessary.

If the ear has a strong odor or you notice the presence of pus this may be a sign of a bacterial or yeast infection. Both need a veterinarian's attention. Always have your dog seen should he exhibit any of the following symptoms suggesting ear trouble:

*Head shaking

*Head kept tilted

*Rubbing ears

*Sensitivity to touch

*Head scratching

*Hot, red, inflamed ears

*Odor from ears

*Scratches on ears

*Swollen ears

*Discharge from ears

*Loss of balance, uncoordinated

*Ulcers that do not heal

*Loss of hearing

*Presence of flies

There are really a lot of benefits in cleaning your dog's ears. According to VPI insurance ear problems are the second most seen ailments in a veterinary practice. By cleaning routinely your dog's ears you may be able to prevent ear infections, yeast infections, ear mites, and most of all, you will be able to remove irritating debris. Should you have a puppy get it used to having it's ears cleaned at a tender age, this will make ear cleaning a breeze once older. Ensure your vet inspects the ears carefully during a wellness exam. Learn what a normal ear smells and looks like: this little bit of knowledge will hopefully help your dog have healthy, clean ears and who knows maybe even better listening skills!

Floppy ears need more careful cleaning


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    • profile image

      Jeremy Z 

      11 years ago

      This is the 2nd site ive checked about my dog's aural hematoma. this 1st site said pretty blatantly," Either let it heal itself or get an operation." this site has attempts to make it so money is not the problem by suggesting proper alternatives you can try well as learning more about the K-9 your concerned about in the first place. So from pets everywhere keep it up!

    • mistyhorizon2003 profile image

      Cindy Lawson 

      13 years ago from Guernsey (Channel Islands)

      Great Hub and excellent advice as always, Well done.


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