Dog owner cleaning dog ears

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Ear infections are one of the most common issues that dog owners seek guidance for from licensed veterinarians. In most cases, the first step in treating and preventing an ear condition in canines is a thorough ear cleaning process. As you read this guide, you will learn when and how to clean your dog's ears. 

Keep in mind different dogs have different requirements when it comes to keeping their ears clean and healthy. Some dogs require their ears to be cleaned more frequently than others. The frequency depends on the dog's breed, age, coat, and activity. 

Below, we’ll walk you through the steps involved in cleaning a dog’s ears, discuss ear-related health concerns, and more.

1. Gather Your Supplies And Position Your Dog

Always have the necessary supplies ready before you begin cleaning your dog’s ears. Luckily, cleaning your dog’s ears doesn’t require much. To prepare your station, you’ll need gauze or a cotton ball, a towel, and an effective dog ear-cleaning solution.

Of course, positioning your dog is another thing to keep in mind. This is an important step because you are working around your pet’s face and mouth, which can be particularly sensitive. Ultimately, you’ll want to make sure that you have good control of your dog’s head while you’re going through these steps.

The best position for cleaning dog ears is sitting on the floor in the corner of a room, limiting space for your dog to escape to. Your dog should be sitting in front of you with its back positioned between your legs. If you have a large breed dog, it should have one side against the wall while you clean its ear from the other side. Gently grasp the ear away from the head to open the canals. There are two canals, vertical and horizontal. 

2. Apply Ear-Cleaning Solution

Next, you’ll want to apply a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution. To do so, squeeze out some ear-cleaning solution into your dog's ear, completely filling up the ear canal. Don't worry if some of the solution spills out of the ear canal. 

Make sure you do not force the tip of the bottle into the ear canal. This can hurt your dog and may cause the tip to become infected. If the tip of the cleaning solution's bottle gets in contact with your dog's ears, sanitize it with a clean cotton ball dipped in alcohol. 

After applying the solution, continue holding your dog's ear, flap vertically, and gently massage the base of the ear in a circular motion. This motion helps the cleaning solution loosen debris from the ear canal. Keep holding the ear flap vertically as you clean the debris from the inner and upper parts of the dog's ears using a cotton ball. Do not go deeper than a knuckle while cleaning the ears.

3. Allow Dog To Shake Away Moisture

Once the cleaning solution is added, your dog will naturally want to shake its head, which actually helps the ear-cleaning process. When your dog shakes its head, it helps further loosen the debris. After your dog’s done shaking, clean the debris and the solution from your dog's outer ear once again using a cotton ball. 

4. Repeat Steps 2-3

After doing steps 2 and 3, you may still see a significant amount of debris in your dog's ears, so you’ll need to repeat these steps for the same ear. Then, repeat steps 2-3 for the other ear.

Remember to praise your dog after you have completed the whole procedure.

Why Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

It is essential to routinely clean your dog's ears to prevent debris from accumulating within the ear canals. Accumulation of debris or dirt can cause itchiness and ear infection. Cleaning your dog's ears regularly can help prevent infections and other ear-related issues.

When Do You Need To Clean Your Dog’s Ears?

How often you clean your dog's ears depends on several factors like their breed, age, coat, location, activity levels, etc. For example, Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels have thick hair around their ears, so these breeds are more likely to get affected with ear infections than a Spanish Sighthound. The long and hairy ears of some dog breeds create moisture in the ear, thus making an ideal location for the growth of bacteria and yeast. Similarly, dogs that swim very often should have their ears cleaned more frequently than those that don't. 

However, excessive cleaning is also harmful to the dog's ears. Over-cleaning can remove the appropriate amount of wax in the ear, thus making it prone to infection. Ultimately, pet parents should discuss ear cleaning with their dog’s veterinarian in order to determine the frequency and process that makes the most sense for their dog.

Signs your dog’s ears need to be cleaned

Signs Your Dog’s Ears Need A Cleaning

If you’re not sure when your dog needs an ear cleaning or may need a visit to the vet, check out our dog earwax color chart for a comparison of healthy and unhealthy wax. 

Here are some more signs that indicate that your dog's ears need a cleaning: 

  • Persistent head shaking
  • Yeast smell coming from the ear
  • Ear looks red or inflamed
  • Swollen ear
  • Frequently scratching/pawing the ear
  • Yellow/brown/red discharge

Inflammation and earaches can be a symptom of an ear infection, ear mites, and allergies. In this case, it is essential that you consult a veterinarian and do not clean your dog's ears by yourself. Ear infections have to be taken seriously and be treated on time. If not, it may damage the eardrums or lead to permanent hearing loss.

Cleaning Dog Ears: Frequently Asked Questions

What can I use to clean my dog’s ears at home?

There are many off-the-shelf cleaning solutions available in the market to clean your dog's ears. However, we only recommend using the ear cleaning solutions that are approved by your vet. 

How often should I clean my dog’s ears?

As mentioned in this guide, how frequently you should clean your dog's ears depends on your dog's breed, age, activity levels, and other factors. Some dogs require ear cleaning every two weeks while some need a single ear cleaning a month. Other dogs require even less ear cleaning. 

For example, dog breeds that have long ears with thick hair around them are more prone to ear infections than dogs with short ears. Similarly, dogs that go out more often, swim a lot, or bathe often need their ears cleaned more often.

Your vet will consider all of these factors and help you determine how often you should clean your dog's ears.

How do you get brown gunk out of a dog’s ear?

If you notice any brown gunk or any other kind of discharge coming out of your dog's ears, clean the outer ear using a cotton ball. However, before you begin cleaning your ear's canals, you should know that brown/blackish earwax can be a symptom of an ear infection or another medical problem. So make sure to have your pet checked out before you start cleaning their ears.

Owner cleaning dog ears

Final Notes

Bookmark this guide if you ever need a refresher on how to clean dog ears. But make sure to ask your vet the following before you begin the task:

  • How often to clean your dog's ears
  • What ear cleaning solution to use
  • Symptoms of dirty ears, ear infections, ear mites, and allergies

Whether you want to know how frequently you should clean your dog's ears or you want to ask about a particular symptom you noticed in your dog's ears, Dutch can help. Dutch can connect you with licensed veterinarians to provide you with valuable resources for proper pet care. 

From anxiety to allergies and more dog-related issues, you can give your canine partner the care they deserve from the comfort of home.



  1. “Examining and Medicating the Ears of a Dog.” Veterinary Teaching Hospital, 4 Jan. 2022,

  2. Burke, Anna. “How to Clean a Dog's Ears.” American Kennel Club, American Kennel Club, 25 June 2021,

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Dutch?

Dutch is an online veterinary pet telehealth service, created by pet parents and board-certified veterinary specialists. We use a science-backed approach to provide pets relief for their everyday physical and behavioral health issues. Dutch connects you with licensed veterinarians over video chat and messaging to help you get care for your dog or cat quickly wherever you are — without the stress or expense of a vet visit. We also partner with pharmacies who can deliver prescription medication (in applicable states only) and over-the-counter treatments directly to your door. Dutch isn’t a veterinary practice or pharmacy, but a company that helps facilitate these services for pet parents to make veterinary care more accessible to all.

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When booking a video call with a vet, you'll be asked a few questions about your pet’s health issue. Depending on the issue, you may also be asked to fill out a longer questionnaire about their symptoms and share photographs of them so our veterinarians can better understand what’s going on. You’ll then pick an appointment time that works best for you.

During your video call, one of our licensed veterinarians will talk to you about the symptoms your pet is experiencing, ask you questions, review your pet’s medical history if you’ve provided it, and answer any questions you have. The vet will ask to see your pet and their environment. And they may ask you to perform some simple checks on them if needed.

After your video call, the vet will send you a message with a custom treatment plan to help your pet feel better, including a link to buy any recommended prescription or over-the-counter medications. Place your order and we’ll ship it free.

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