For dogs that have a lot of ear infections, it may be helpful to clean the ears at home. If you have a floppy-eared dog, especially one that loves water, you’ve probably experienced swollen or infected ears. Dogs with pointy ears can also get bacterial, yeast, or ear mite infections.
The first step with an ear infection is to get a veterinary exam to determine the cause of the infection and get the right medication. But ear cleaning will be part of the preventive care and treatment plan for dogs that are prone to recurring ear infections.
What can I use to clean my dog’s ears at home?
You don’t need much to clean your dog’s ears:
- A safe ear cleaning solution for dogs
- Cotton balls
- Optional: some gauze and/or cotton tipped applicators
- Optional: premade dog ear wipes
The ear cleaning solution is the most important item. These cleaners are safe even if your dog has a ruptured eardrum and contain a drying agent so your dog’s ears dry quickly once you’re done with cleaning. You can buy an ear cleaner at your vet’s office or at any pet supply store.
In a pinch, equal parts water and white or apple cider vinegar may work, but this is not the best option for long-term care. Unlike an ear cleaning solution, this mixture does not dry out as quickly. Persistent moisture in your dog’s ears can encourage further infections because bacteria thrive in a warm, moist environment.
Cotton balls and gauze are perfect for cleaning ears. Cotton-tipped applicators can be used to remove debris from the nooks and crannies of your ear, but only use them in areas where you can see. Reaching too deep could accidentally rupture your dog’s eardrum.
How to clean dog ears
- Apply an ear cleaning solution to a cotton ball.
- Place the soaked cotton ball in your dog’s ear and squeeze it. Most dogs tolerate this better than spraying the cleaner directly in the ear.
- Gently clean the ear with cotton or gauze, using a new piece each time, until it is clean again. Note: If your dog’s ear begins to bleed, stop cleaning. The tissue is too sensitive.
- Use a cotton-tipped applicator to gently remove debris from the nooks and crannies of the ear that you can easily see. Do not put your hand deep into the ear as you may accidentally rupture the eardrum.
- Repeat with the other ear.
Follow your vet’s instructions on how often to clean the ears. In many cases, cleaning will be a couple of times a week while treating an infection, and then weekly or biweekly for long-term care, but this protocol can vary.