How to Clean Dog Ears and Treat an Ear Infection

Are Fido's ears getting gunky? Read on to learn how to clean your dogs ears and what to do if you suspect your dog has an ear infection.

How to Clean Dog Ears and Treat an Ear Infection

I look down a lot of ears. I just did the math, and it is upwards of 300 ears in an average week. While a few of these ears will be infected, many are just in need of some routine maintenance. This is a topic I discuss routinely with clients. This is what I have to say.

Why Should I Clean My Dog’s Ears

Benefits of ear cleaningEar cleaning helps remove waxy, cerunimous debris from the ear canals. This debris can serve as a nice hiding place for bacteria and yeast to accumulate. In addition, many ear cleaners restore the integrity of the ear canals, providing an effective barrier to halt microorganisms and creating a local environment that discourages infection. 

In addition, many ear cleaners contain drying agents that help remove moisture after grooming or swimming. Certain medicated formulas have antibiotic and anti-fungal medications included, as well as a steroid component to treat inflammation. They may even work synergistically with prescribed ear medications, helping the medication work more effectively in treating certain infections.

In short, ear cleaning can both help prevent the development of ear infections and can aid in the treatment of an active infection. But in order to help, you have to do it right. 


Douxo Micellar Solution is my favorite OTC ear cleaner for maintenance cleaning of ears to maintain healthy ear canals. It does not contain any antimicrobials to treat infections or steroids to manage inflammation. However, it does fortify the canals while cleaning to make the ears more resistant to infections.

How to Clean Your Dogs Ears
  1. Give it a Healthy Squeeze: Apply a generous amount of cleaner to your dog’s ear canal. Give it a big squirt. If your are unsure, squeeze some more. The goal is to completely fill the ear canal. A trick for small dogs and cats is to saturate a cotton ball and pop it in to the ear canal – just be sure not to use it. Then, when you massage the base of the ear, you can wring out the cleaner into the ear canal. 
  2. Give it a Massage: Squeeze and massage the base of the ear. This allows the cleaner to penetrate the debris and loosen it from the walls of the canal. It also feels good and may just get your furry friend to forgive you after squirting the cleaner down her ears. 
  3. Shake, Shake, Shake: Allow your pooch to shake her head. But before you do, it is best to duck and cover. Or run. As soon as you let go, it will be a cyclone of ear cleaner and ear crud. It’s part of the fun. 
  4. Wipe it Away: Use a cotton ball or gauze square to wipe away any loose debris. 
  5. Begin Again: Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. The ear canals are shaped like an “L” and there is quite a bit that you can’t see. Repeat until you do not get any debris back after shaking.
FAVORITE No Prescription Ear Medication 

Zymox is marketed as an enzymatic ear drop that can be used to treat bacterial and yeast infections. The added hydrocortisone provides itch and inflammation relief, especially in allergy-prone dogs. While I don’t believe that it is entirely effective in moderate and severe infections, I think it is a GREAT product for maintenance use in allergy-prone pooches.

Signs of an Ear Infection

Cleaning your dogs ears can be an important preventive grooming measure, but may also be an important step in the treatment of an ear infection. If your dog has an ear infection, cleaning alone won’t solve the problem. That’s why it is important to be on the look-out for the following signs of an infection:

  1. Head Shaking, Ear Scratching and Flap-A-Lapping 
  2. Dark Brown, Black, Yellow or Green Discharge
  3. A Stinky, Musty, Earthy, or Yeasty Odor
  4. Redness, Scabbing, Heat, or Swelling of the Ear Flap
  5. Yelping or Moaning When Ears Are Scratched 
What To Do If Your Dog Has An Ear Infection

If your dog has an ear infection, you need to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian for further evaluation. Your vet may recommend running an ear swab and microscopic evaluation. This allows them to determine what type of infection is present. They also may recommend a thorough ear cleaning in hospital. 

Your pooch will likely be prescribed medications in the form of an ear drop. Depending on the severity of the infection, oral medications may be recommended as well. Most treatments for ear infections involve daily administration of medication at home. 

There are a handful of medication options that eliminate the need for home treatment of ear infections. For example, in my clinic we offer Osurnia, which is an otic gel that is applied by your veterinarian to treat certain ear infections. It eliminates the need for your to treat the infection at home and is ideal for those with busy schedules or pets that are difficult to medicate. 

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