How to clean dog ears: A step-by-step guide

30 November 2023 - 4 min read

The information in this article has been reviewed by Kirsten Ronngren DVM MRCVS on 30 November 2023 . Although it may provide helpful guidance, it should not be substituted for professional veterinary advice.

Dog getting ear clean

Dog owners know how annoying it can be keeping their pups’ ears clean, especially if they’re the kind of dogs that enjoy playing and exploring. It’s easy to overlook, but ear hygiene is an important part of dog care: ears are hotspots for moisture and microorganisms and it’s up to us, as owners, to make sure they don’t cause problems for our canine companions

Big or small, floppy or straight, caring for dogs’ ears doesn’t have to be a pain and in most cases you can clean them yourself at home. Get started with our step-by-step guide, including useful cleaning tips, and advice on when it might be necessary to see a vet. 

The essentials of ear cleaning for dogs

Ear cleaning is a part of good dog grooming. The process is not just about cleanliness: it's also an opportunity to check your dog for signs of infection, for ear mites, or even foreign material - problems which could cause discomfort down the line, and lead to a trip to the vet.

How to clean dogs’ ears at home

If you’re comfortable cleaning your dog’s ears yourself, you’ll need a few things first. A home dog ear cleaning kit is cheap and simple to assemble, and should include:

  • Cotton wool or cotton pads/rounds

  • A towel

  • A pair of disposable gloves

  • A dog-friendly ear cleaning solution

  • Dog treats (to keep your dog on-side during the cleaning!)

Dog ear cleaning solutions: It’s important that you purchase a dog-specific ear cleaning solution. You must not use ear cleaners meant for humans or other animals. Dog ear cleaners are available from your vet, as well as supermarkets, pet stores, and online. If you want to ensure you are using a safe and reputable product, it’s best to consult with your vet about the best options.

Cleaning your dog’s ears step-by-step

Once you’ve assembled your ear cleaning kit, it’s time to get down to business. Let’s go through the cleaning process step-by-step:

  1. Have a look at your dog’s ears to check their condition. If you notice redness or swelling, or your dog seems uncomfortable when you touch them, they might be infected and you must not proceed with the cleaning. Instead get in touch with your vet and find out if your dog needs medical treatment. 

  2. If everything looks good with your dog’s ears, you can clean them! Put on your gloves and assemble your cleaning tools, including ear cleaning solution. 

  3. Insert the nozzle of your cleaning solution bottle into your dog's ear (see image below), taking care to go no deeper than the entrance to their ear canal. You might need to hold your dog’s ear up to allow for insertion. Make sure you carefully read the instructions for how to apply your cleaning solution. 

    Dog ear cleaning

  4. Squeeze some of the cleaning solution into your dog’s ear. Gently rub the base of the ear to distribute the solution over any wax or debris. Make sure you use enough solution to dislodge all the dirt, grime, and wax in the ear. You can massage this in to break up debris for around 15-30 seconds per ear.

  5. Let your dog shake off excess cleaning solution, and then wipe their ear with cotton wool. Be careful not to push any loose dirt or debris into your dog’s ear when you wipe it. 

  6. Dry off any excess moisture with your towel and make sure your dog gets a treat for behaving during the clean!

    If your dog is particularly restless or won’t keep still during their ear cleaning, you might need to get a family member or friend to help keep them still.

How often should you clean your dog’s ears?

There’s no rule for how frequently you’ll need to clean your dog's ears, but you should check them regularly, and clean if there is a buildup of dirt or wax. Keep in mind, in healthy non-inflamed ears, cleaning TOO often can cause irritation and excessive dryness.

With that in mind, the need to clean dogs’ ears may depend on their breed, lifestyle, and general health. Breeds with particularly droopy ears (for example, Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds) are more prone to ear infections due to limited airflow in their ears, while dogs that love a good swim can benefit from cleaning after a swim to prevent infections​.

Professional ear cleaning for dogs

You don’t have to clean your dog’s ears yourself. Instead, you could get in touch with your vet and their team, or a professional grooming service. Most dog groomers will offer ear inspection and cleaning - and prices for that service will vary. 

Dog ear cleaning: When to see a vet

If your dog's ears are particularly sensitive or inflamed, they may have an infection, which can also be characterised by redness, discharge, or foul smell. Ear mites can also cause discomfort to dogs. 

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection or has ear mites, you should contact a vet before you clean them. Cleaning infected ears could cause your dog harm in particular if the eardrum is affected or damaged, so it's crucial to get advice from a vet and, if necessary, a treatment plan to clear up the infection. 

How much does dog ear cleaning cost?

You can purchase dog ear cleaning solutions, and the other tools you’ll need for the cleaning process, for around £5-10 from most retailers. If you choose to go to a dog groomer to get your dog’s ears cleaned you may end up paying more for the service. 

If your dog has an infection, you may need to pay for medical treatment, such as antibiotics, before you can clean their ears.

Ear cleaning for proactive care

Cleaning your dog's ears is a simple, at-home task that can proactively keep your pet healthy, preventing infections (and vet bills) down the line. Regular ear checks, based on your dog’s needs, are key and, whether you prefer to clean their ears yourself or go to a groomer, you’ll find an approach which suits you. 

While you’re thinking about grooming, don’t forget that the best way to protect your pet’s general health includes having a reliable pet insurance plan in place. ManyPets offers pet insurance for dogs - so you can care for your furry family members without added financial stress.

Lewis Martins
Communities marketer

Lewis has worked in pet health since 2017. Before joining ManyPets in 2021, he led content production at VetForum and PetsApp. Lewis has collaborated with some of the world’s biggest vet groups and suppliers to write educational articles for vets and pet parents. His Instagram feed is 60% dogs, 40% cats.