dog ear cleaning

Dog ear cleaning in 4 easy steps

Before we talk about the appropriate dog ear cleaning steps, let’s take a closer look at what this organ really is. It consists of 3 parts (as for human ears): the outer ear (the part that will have to be cleaned), the middle ear separated from the outer part by the eardrum and the inner ear.

The dog’s ear canal has a special L-shape, and secretes a product called earwax. This earwax (commonly called wax) is a fatty substance used to protect the ear canal from external agents such dirt, particles, insects and other nuisances … but accumulated in large quantities, it can become annoying for dogs. Unlike ours, the dog’s earwax is not yellow, it is brownish in color. When its color is yellow for example it means that the dog has an ear infection.

Dog ear cleaning material checklist

To clean a dog’s ear, you will need an ear cleaner recommended by your veterinary. There are several products available in the market and they have advantages and varying features: in a single dose, pleasant fragrance, calming, drying agent … the primary purpose of these ear cleansers is to dissolve and limit the frequent reappearance of earwax. I personally like the Avena Sativa product, it works really well with my fragile English bulldog.

avena sativa dog ear cleaner

You will also need cotton or non-woven compresses to wipe off excess product coming out of the duct and recover the dissolved cerumen. Do not use water or any other products not suitable for cleaning dog ears as they are not being intended for this purpose and their use could lead to otitis. It is also strongly advised not to use cotton swabs. Due to the peculiar shape of the dog’s ear canal, their use could push impurities deep into the ear, and cause injury.


Prepare your equipment and install yourself in a comfortable place where you can move, and in a place where you can clean (away from fabrics and sofas). Depending on its size, you can leave your dog on the floor or on the contrary set it up at a higher level, on a table for example which would allow you to stand up while your are doing your dog ear cleaning job.

You will have to figure out how to hold your dog and prevent it from shaking its ears. Here’s a trick, hold the pinna with one hand, stretching it slightly upwards. This action will allow the duct to be slightly “unstuck” and thus allow the product to flow as far as possible but will also discourage your dog from wanting to shake his head.

Dog ear cleaning in 4 easy steps

1: Raise the flag of his ear

With one hand, hold the pinna of the ear vertically to clearly see the entrance to your dog’s external ear canal. Pour a large amount of cleaning liquid into it by squeezing the bottle as if you were filling a whole glass.

2: Gently massage the base of the ear

Do not hesitate to “press”, between your thumb and forefinger, the base of your dog’s cartilage duct by making a massage movement. This is to spread the product well throughout and down the duct. It will also cause the secretions to unhook from the wall of the ear. If you do this right you should hear a “squeaking” sound.

3: Dry the ear canal

Put your index finger covered with a soft absorbent tissue (a compress or a make-up disc can also be used) in your companion’s conduit to wipe off the excess liquid present. Use circular movements to collect the dirt and repeat these gestures several times until the tissue comes out clean.

4: Let your dog shake his head

Let the dog shake his head and ears to bring the deepest dirt to the surface. Attention, it is advisable to practice cleaning your dog’s ears outside to avoid any projections on the walls or your furniture.

dog ear irritation

Practices to avoid

♦ Do not clean your dog’s ears excessively: once a week or every other week should be enough.

♦ Do not use a cotton swab: this risk packing the impurities at the bottom of the duct

♦ Do not pour baby oil into the tube: it can cause ear infections.

♦ Do not use alcohol or dry clean the ear as it irritates the skin.

♦ Do not instill liquid without knowing if the eardrum is intact: if in doubt, consult your veterinarian.

dog ear infection
Dog ear cleaning frequency

As with many hygienic treatments, there is no hard and fast rule. The frequency is to be adapted according to each animal. An average of every 15 days is generally recommended for dogs without ear problems.

If the ears produce a lot of earwax and the entrance to the ear canal looks greasy, dirty, more frequent cleaning will be necessary.

In the event that the dog presents pathologies of the ear (parasitic otitis, fungal, …) more frequent cleaning will be prescribed by the veterinarian.

The ear cleaner will be adapted to each situation: when the ears are very red and painful, we will prefer to use a product with a calming agent like calendula for example, we will stay away from products that are too astringents.

Dogs with drooping ears may also need more frequent ear cleaning. The duct being “closed” by the pavilion of the falling ear, it does not ventilate well and the ear may tend to macerate. It will therefore be necessary to check these fragile ears even more often.

How to maintain your dog’s ears?

In addition to cleaning the ears, on the inside, it is also important to maintain the outside of the ear and the entrance of the ear canal.

For dogs with drooping ears and whose coat is long or medium-long and dense, such as cocker spaniel for example, it is possible to mow the inside of the ear. This measure will limit the penetration of foreign bodies such as spikelets.

In dogs with drooping ears but whose hair is less dense, this is the case of bichons, poodles, shih tzu … the ear canal is usually quite hairy. It is advisable to depilate the entrance so that it can ventilate and breathe properly. This will also prevent the earwax from remaining trapped in the hair and will make it easier to clean the inner area of the ear.

dog ear examination

Are my dog’s ears healthy?

When something seems abnormal in your pet’s ears, you should consult your veterinarian. Signs that may appear are earwax of abnormal color, yellowish or black, a liquid secretion which would tend to flow outside the ear, a strong odor and your dog constantly scratching its ear.

These signals must be taken seriously and motivate an appointment with a veterinarian. If your dog show such symptoms, do not hesitate to get your dog’s ears examined as soon as possible!