How to Clean Dog Ears

Dog Ear Cleaning

A very important part of keeping your dog healthy and preventing problems involves cleaning and checking their ears regularly. Ideally you should inspect your dog’s ears once a week for signs of wax build-up, overgrown hairs, infections, parasites or other problems.

Dogs with floppy or droopy ears are generally more susceptible to ear problems than those with pointy or erect ears. Those that also have long hair growing in or around the ear canal are especially susceptible to ear problems.. These two circumstances can individually or jointly create a situation in which there is a lack of adequate fresh air circulation in and around the ear, creating a warm, damp environment where bacteria thrive.

Hairy Floppy Dog EarsBig Dog Ears
Smooth Floppy EarsHairy Floppy EarsReally Big Floppy EarsErect Dog Ears

The majority of pet owners are unaware of the fact that dogs can actually grow large amounts of hair inside the ear canal, and that ear hair grows at roughly the same rate as the rest of the hair on their bodies. This is one reason that a lot of dog owners never bother to check their dog ears until the dog is shaking its head or scratching at its ears which is usually the sign that there is already an ear health problem that requires veterinary medical attention.

Dog ear hairDirty Dog Ears
Hair Growing from Ear CanalAnothe Example of Dog Ear Canal Hair

Combine an overgrowth of hair, lack of ventilation with wax accumulation and dogs are likely to develop a condition known as “ear canker”; a serious infection noted for the fowl, pungent odor and dark-colored discharge the commonly come from the ears of dogs affected with this condition. When this happens your only remedy it to seek veterinary attention where your pet will have it’s ears cleaned and flushed and will receive a prescription of strong antibiotics. This of course willl comes at a price that is many times more expensive than if the owner would have simply been doing weekly ear check ups.

There is also the risk for us as owners to exacerbate or create ear problems through improper grooming or washing procedures such as getting water inside the ear canal, or failing to dry out a dogs ears after allowing it to swim or play in water. One such problem is "Otitis Externa" which arises from water becoming trapped in the ear canal, creating an environment where bacteria and fungus thrive. Symptoms include painful ear sensitivity, swelling, redness and shaking or scratching at the affected ear. Again dogs with floppy ears are more susceptible since their ears naturally limit circulation and trap moisture.

The majority if not all of these conditions can either be eliminated or treated prior to them becoming a serious health concern by regularly checking or cleaning your dogs ears.


Common Symptoms of an Ear Problem are:

  • Odor

  • Scratching at the Ears

  • Rubbing the side of the head along stationary objects

  • Shaking the head or constantly tilting it to one side

  • Fluid discharge in the ears

  • Behavioral such as depression or irritability

  • Redness of the ear flap or ear canal

  • Swelling of the ear flap or ear canal

  • Shaking of the head or tilting it to one side

  • Painful to the touchThe Mouth, Gums and Nose will be Dry

Let’s move on to the structure of a dogs ear, to assist you in cleaning one.


Dog Ear Anatomy

As a pet owner and not a professional there is a limit to what you can safely accomplish cleaning your dogs ears at home. Knowing your limits means knowing where in the ear to stop cleaning at home and seek professional assistance.

As you look at your dogs ear the first part that you will see is called the external ear, this is the part that actually protrudes off the side of the head, or flops over depending on the breed, also known as the “Ear Flap”. The external ear also includes the fleshy, angular protrusion the makes up the entrance to the ear canal.

From the entrance to the ear a dogs ear canal descends vertically before abruptly making a 90-degree horizontal turn leading to the tympanic membrane (ear drum). Past that is the middle ear along with 3 small bones that are used to amplify incoming sound vibrations, lasty there is a small membrane called the “oval window” which is also used to amplify sounds heading toward the inner ear.

Structurally speaking dogs and humans have the same basic structures as far as ears are concerned with the exception that our ear canals are essentially straight while a dogs ear canal makes a sharp 90-degree turn a little ways in heading for the middle ear. You want to limit your home cleaning efforts to the external ear and the ear canal prior to the 90-degree bend.
Ear Cleaning Procedures

If nothing out of the ordinary is found you should sterilize any tools you intend on using for the cleaning process by quickly immersing them in rubbing alcohol and allowing them to air dry.


Before cleaning your pets ears insure that you have the following tools:

  • Hemostat (used for plucking ear hairs)

  • Tweezers (also can be used for plucking ear hairs)

  • Medicated ear powder (Keeps ears dry and clean, prevent bacteria growth and can also be used for plucking hairs for the ear).

  • Ear cleaning solution (used to break up wax, and cleanse the ears)
    Blunt Tipped Scissors

  • Electric Clippers (not a necessity but nice to have)

  • Cotton balls

  • Q-tips

  • Rubbing Alcohol

  • Wash Cloth


Dog Ear Cleaning & Deodorizing Steps

  1. We have provided the basic steps to clean and deodorize you dogs ears, Below you will find basic ear cleaning and deodorizing steps for dogs. We suggest that as an owner you check your pets ears at least once a week.

  2. Inspect them closely for any potential problems prior to actually digging in with Q-tips and Cotton Balls. You are looking for redness, swelling, fresh or dried blood in or around the ear, hypersensitivity to pain, tenderness, foul odors accompanied by fluid sitting in or draining from the ear or anything else that appears out of the ordinary. If you find a potential problem, forgo the cleaning and seek veterinary attention as you may aggravate the condition by attempting to clean the ears.

  3. Gently lift the dogs ear flap to expose the inside portion of the ear. Using electric clippers gently trim away the hairs staying one half inch away from the edges of the ear flap to form a nice clean V shape with the pointy portion of the V pointing towards the tip of the dogs ear. (if you do not have clippers you can still accomplish this with scissors it’s just a little more time consuming).


*If this is your dogs first experience with clippers, you may find it necessary to do some training to desensitize them to the clippers prior to use.*


  1. Once you have the clean “V” gently use the scissors or clippers to trim a half circle around the lower portion of the external ear.
  2. Gently sprinkle medicated ear powder around and slightly inside the entrance of the ear. The medicated powder will absorb moisture and dry ear wax and hairs, providing better traction to pluck the hairs. Using your thumb and index finger pluck away any fuzzy hairs that are left growing around or inside the ear canal, always pull in the directions of hair growth and only pluck small amounts of hair at one time.
  3. Use Hemostats or Tweezers to gently pluck any remaining hairs inside the ear canal that your were unable to grasp using your thumb and forefinger. Never use the Hemostats or Tweezers to probe more than one-half inch into the ear canal opening for medium to large dogs and never more than one-quarter inch for small dogs, basically you stop at the point the ear canal makes it’s 90-degree turn leading toward the ear drum. You must ensure that you utilize extreme caution so as not to disturb or damage the ear drum. Ensure that you clean the hemostats or tweezers after removing hair and wax and continue removing hair until done.
  4. Apply Ear cleaning solution (as per manufactures instructions), typically one or two drops per ear then gently massage the base of the ear for 1 minute to break up and loosen any wax build-up Use a cotton ball to swab and clean the ear canal with an outward motion towardthe ear flap.
  5. Carefully use Q-tips to clean the folded portions of the outer ear and any portions that you are unable to clean using cotton balls. Once more use a cotton ball to swab and clean the ear with an outward motion toward the ear flap ensuring that you have removed all ear cleaner and powder from the ears.

Do not use water to clean your dogs ears, and if your are ever uncertain as to how to properly perform hair removal or ear cleaning don’t, Seek a professional Groomer or Veterinarian to do the job for you without putting your pet at risk.

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