FYI: we may earn a commission for qualified purchases made through the links in our articles (learn more).
- A common homemade dog ear cleaner is made up of a combination of 2 parts of distilled water with 1 part of the white vinegar.
- To clean your dog’s ears, put a few drops into the ear canal and gently massage the area. Wipe off the loosened dirt.
- Do not insert a cotton swab into the dog’s ear because there is a high chance of rupturing the eardrum and causing serious damage.
Keeping your dog’s ears clean should be part of his normal grooming routine. Some breeds like cocker spaniels and other breeds with floppy ears do need more ear cleaning, but all dogs should have their ears cleaned. A homemade dog ear cleaner made of 2 parts of distilled water with 1 part of the white vinegar is a good option.
Dirty ears can cause painful ear infections. While they are an annoyance for humans, dog ear infections can leave your pup with permanent hearing loss. This is why I always make sure to be on top of my dogs’ grooming. Clean your dog’s ears regularly and your best friend should stay healthy for years to come.
Cleaning Your Pup’s Ears
Like all other types of dog grooming, you will need to get your dog used to have its ears cleaned. You can easily do it yourself like the majority of dog grooming. I make sure to make my dogs get used to being touched in the ears and paws starting from puppyhood as a form of socialization.
However, if your dog already has an ear infection, any cleaning you do will not help. You can not clear up chronic ear infections on your own. Be sure you start off by taking your dog to the vet to check for ear infections.
Once you know your dog is clear, you can start up your new ear cleaning routine. Pet parents should know how to clean dog ears—it is very simple so long as you follow some basic steps.
Making Your Own Solution
While there are ear cleaning solutions sold in stores, you can easily make your own homemade dog ear cleaner. You just need a small squeeze bottle for each of your dogs. Remember to label them since you don’t want to risk passing on any bacteria.
This solution is made up of household white vinegar and distilled water. Distilled water is a bit safer for use since it has few dissolved solids that can build up and cause irritation. All you need to do is combine 2 parts of distilled water with 1 part of the white vinegar.
Apple cider vinegar can be used, but check with your vet. Apple cider vinegar may have more dissolved solids, so always trust the experts when you are making homemade dog ear cleaner.
You may be tempted to try using isopropyl rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, or other substances. These are too likely to irritate your dog’s ears. They can burn and be far too harsh for your dog’s delicate ears.
Water on its own will not loosen any dirt very well. Adding the vinegar can help break it down without harming your dog’s ears.
Hearing is a very important sense for dogs. Their ears are sensitive and dogs are vulnerable to permanent hearing loss from ear infections. Just like humans, the structure of a dog’s ears is very complex .
The pinna is the exterior part of the dog’s ear that is made up primarily of cartilage. This can be either floppy or upright depending on the breed. This structure funnels sound into the ear canal. The dog’s ear canal is much longer in dogs than it is in humans.
The external ear is separated from the middle ear by the eardrum or tympanic membrane. This is the structure that allows both dogs and humans to hear airborne sounds. The middle ear also contains small bones that help transmit sound. There is a tube in the middle ear that connects to the mouth.
Finally, the inner ear has the nerves that connect to the brain to interpret sound. This whole delicate structure is what allows your pooch to hear the world around them.
When you are cleaning your dog’s ears, you need to be careful and only clean the exterior of the ear. Never insert anything like a cotton swab into the dog’s ear because you risk rupturing the eardrum and causing serious damage.
A normal ear is pink and may have some black discharge. Large amounts of discharge and redness can indicate an ear infection. Your dog may also scratch its ears or rub the ear on the ground to get relief. You may notice fur loss from the scratching or even bleeding if your pup scratches enough.
If you see any signs of an ear infection, you need to take your dog to the veterinarian immediately. Your vet will direct you how to treat ear infections in dogs. Trying to do it yourself at home can make it worse. Outer ear infections are easily treated, but the middle and inner ear can become severely infected and can need medication or even surgery to fix.
Catching infections early can help prevent serious side effects. Vet visits can be expensive, but the bill is much lower if problems are simple and easy to fix.
How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears
Cleaning your dog’s ears is relatively simple, but it can be messy. Even if your dog doesn’t mind having his ears cleaned, it can still be a messy process.
Make sure you cover any good clothing and pick an area that is easy to clean up. If your dog doesn’t like it or isn’t used to ear cleaning, you will need to train your dog to help. The first step is gathering your supplies.
You will need towels or rags. This is to help clean up any mess. Cotton balls can make it easier to wipe up the outer part of your dog’s ear, so feel free to use them.
Do not use cotton swabs anywhere you can’t see. It is very easy to accidentally puncture your dog’s eardrum. You will also need your ear cleaning solution.
If your dog is anxious, you may want to have some calming treats nearby. High-value treats are also a great way to reward your dog and help to associate ear cleaning with something good. A special treat that your dog doesn’t get often can help soothe your pooch and make them willing to sit still.
You may also need to retrain your dog if your pooch really won’t sit still. Putting your dog on a table gives your more leverage. Stand on the opposite side of the ear you are cleaning and place one arm over the dog’s shoulders.
The other arm goes under the dog’s neck and is also used to push back the ear flap to expose the ear canal for cleaning. This is best for dogs that dislike the drops but don’t fight very much.
If your dog really fights cleaning or medication, then you will need to use a stronger restraint. Place your pooch on their side and place one arm over the neck and grasp the elbow of the leg that is against the table. Always grab near the elbow, never further down.
Use your arm to keep the dog from lifting his head and use your other hand to lift the ear flap and apply the solution. This is also the best way to give your dog any ear medications.
It may seem mean to hold your dog down, but if they jerk while you are placing something in the ear the dog could be injured. Restraining your pooch makes sure she isn’t hurt.
Once you have your dog restrained, you can place the homemade dog ear cleaner in the ear. Make sure you have the ear flap up to help straighten out the ear canal and help the solution get deeper.
Place a few drops on the inside of the pinna and then a few drops into the ear canal. Your pup will likely shake at this point, but this helps to loosen any grime. This is messy, so remember to be prepared for this.
Next, rub the base of the ear to help the homemade dog ear cleaner break up any discharge. Your pup will likely love this part. If your dog seems to be in pain, this may mean your pooch has an ear infection and needs antibiotics.
Next, use some cotton balls or a rag to clean the inside of the ear flap. Be gentle and get up as much as you can. You can use more solutions if the grime is stubborn. You can also use a cotton ball to clean up the part of the ear canal you can see. Cotton swabs can be used on the ear flap to get into stubborn areas, but do not insert the cotton swab.
Repeat for the other ear and then you can shower your buddy in treats and cuddles to help associate ear cleaning with positive experiences.
Make sure you clean up the area and the solution bottle. The tip needs to be sanitized so you don’t get bacterial growth on the bottle. If you use a contaminated bottle, it can introduce bad bacteria to your pup’s ears and cause an ear infection.
You should also take the time to make sure your dog’s ears are healthy. Look for any signs of infection like redness and excessive discharge. If your pup seems to be in pain, you will need to call the vet. You should also keep an eye out for foreign objects like plant matter. Dogs can pick up debris that migrates into their ears during playtime. Bits of plants can cause infections or discomfort. Things like some types of grass seed can also cause injury and pain since these seeds can burrow into your pooch’s body. Always check your dog after time in the long grass.
If your dog has long hair around his or her ears, you may want to pluck it. Airflow into the ears can help prevent ear infections. Breeds with floppy ears like basset hounds are more prone to ear infections since they may not have enough airflow.
How often you need to clean your pup’s ears depends on your dog. A good baseline is to clean monthly. If you notice lots of grime, you may need to switch to every 2 weeks. If you aren’t getting much, you may be able to clean every two months. Work with your vet to help decide how often you need to clean. If your dog is prone to frequent ear infections, your vet may advise cleaning more often.
Pets that play outside of the yard or a wireless dog fence may need cleaning more often. If this area includes long grass, be sure to check your pup’s ears for debris and insects after every play session.
Plant matter like burrs and seeds can migrate into the ear and cause pain and infections. If you see your dog shaking his head after time outside, check his ears and be ready to take him to the vet. Since dog ears have a 90-degree bend in them, it is very easy for debris to get stuck inside the ear canal and cause problems for your pooch.
What Homemade Solution Can I Use to Clean My Dog’s Ears?
You can mix one part of white vinegar with two parts of distilled water to make a gentle homemade dog ear cleaner. Do not use isopropyl alcohol or hydrogen peroxide. These will burn and distress your dog. If you wouldn’t use it on yourself, don’t use it on your dog.
How Do You Make Homemade Ear Cleaner?
Making the solution is very easy. Gather up one squeeze bottle with a narrow tip for each of your dogs. Something that has a lid for the nozzle is best to help keep it clean in between uses. Then fill each bottle with a solution made of one part white vinegar and two parts distilled water. Since you only need a few drops for each cleaning, even a small bottle of dog ear cleaning solution will last for a long time.