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7 of the best ear cleaners for dogs in 2023

Updated November 29, 2023

Learn more about some of the best vet-approved dog ear cleaners on the market today.

The essentials

  • We reviewed every product for safety and effectiveness — No one wants to waste money on a product that doesn’t do its job. The dog ear cleaners on our list are proven “solutions” to your pet’s problems.
  • Cleaning your dog’s ears at home should be part of your routine — Your dog’s breed and individual health conditions can help you determine how often you should clean your dog’s ears at home.
  • Never clean your dog’s ears if they appear to be infected, unless under your vet’s direction — Ear infections are best left to the veterinarian for treatment, especially if your dog is also showing signs of a ruptured eardrum.

Your dog’s ears are so powerful they can hear sounds humans can’t . But of course, nothing beats the sound your voice makes when you tell them how much you love them. So when it comes to keeping your furry friends happy and healthy, proper ear grooming is important. Dog ear cleaners help keep your pet’s hearing in tip-top shape by preventing ear wax build-up, itchy ears, and ear infections.

There are many ear-cleaning solutions available, but you want to find the best one for your pet. Our team assembled a comprehensive guide by reviewing popular pet ear cleaners on the market. We specifically focused on four criteria – safety, effectiveness, application, and quality.

Cost at a glance

Cost-effectiveness is important for many pet parents. After all, you want to leave some of their doggie allowance for toys and treats. Here’s a look at how these ear cleaners compare against one another when looking at the price per ounce.

Ear cleaners according to price per ounce, from lowest to highest

Product Price* Amount Price per ounce
PetLab Co. Clean Ears Therapy Ear Cleaner $19.95 4 oz $4.99
Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution $11.41 8 oz $1.43
Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash & Dry Combo Pack $11.45 8 oz $1.43
VetWell Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner $12.49 8 oz $1.56
Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced $17.69 8 oz $2.21
Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment $21.99 1.25 oz $17.59
Dechra TrizULTRA Plus Keto Flush $19.22 4 oz $4.81

*Price on Amazon or Chewy at the time of our review

Ear cleaners we loved

Our top pick

Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner is one of the best vet-approved dog ear cleaners on the market. The pH is neutralized, so pet parents don’t have to worry about it irritating a dog’s skin or interfering with medication for ear infections. The solution doesn’t contain alcohol, so it’s gentle and typically works on dogs with sensitive ears, which makes it a great choice for daily use.

Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner uses glycotechnology, which the brand makes in-house. Epi-Otic says their glycotechnology can stop microorganisms like yeast and bacteria from populating, or break them up if they do. The brand says it can help with chronic otitis externa or inflammation in your dog’s ear canal. This formula boasts a fresh, pleasant scent versus a lingering medicinal odor. It costs around $20 for an 8-ounce bottle.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Dwight Alleyne loves recommending this ear cleaner for dogs with sensitive ears because it’s alcohol-free. He says it’s ideal for daily cleaning and likely to remove debris effectively. The formula doesn’t appear to include any moisturizing agents like aloe vera, so it may not provide ideal relief for pups with dry or very irritated ears.

Best-smelling dog ear cleaner

Pet parents rave about VetWell Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner, saying that the sweet fragrance is the icing on the cake (or at least it smells like it is).  This cucumber-melon-scented cleaner is easy to use and effectively removes debris.

VetWell Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner includes safe ingredients like aloe vera and lactic acid. It does contain some alcohol, a drying agent that can be too harsh for sensitive ears. However, alcohol can help control microorganisms and break up waxy material in the canal.

This cleaner is available on Amazon as an 8-ounce bottle for around $15-$20.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Alleyne says this product is perfect for dogs with smelly ears. He cautions that alcohol is an active ingredient. It may not be best for dogs with severe infections that have caused sores. Despite the alcohol, he’s confident in recommending the solution for most dogs. “It can help dry up moisture in the ear, which is important in preventing the recurrence of infection,” Dr. Alleyne says.

Best for after swimming

Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash & Dry Combo effectively cleans and dries a dog’s ear post-swim, helping to prevent irritation and infection. This product contains natural ingredients, including chamomile, aloe vera, clove oil, and tea tree oil. Though the ingredients are safe, the tea tree oil may irritate your pet’s ear if they have sores. Tea tree oil can also be toxic to pets in high concentrations, so it’s important to never apply or administer it to your pet on your own.

The two-step process makes application — and drying — a cinch. It’s perfect for pet parents who are on the move, just like their water-loving dogs. The product comes in a 4 fl. bottle that’s sold on Amazon for under $20.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Alleyne recommends this product because he loves that the formula includes gentle and natural ingredients like aloe and chamomile. But, he cautions that some pups may find the tea tree oil irritating, so pet parents should check for any reactions.

Our pick for regular maintenance

Vetoquinol is a favorite and trusted brand in the veterinary industry, and animal hospitals countrywide use it. Their ear-cleansing solution contains safe ingredients that reduce inflammation. It also includes aloe vera, which moisturizes dry ears. It does have some alcohol, though — something to keep in mind if your dog naturally has dry ears.

Long-time users say this product helps them keep their dog’s ears clean. Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution comes in 4 oz, 8 oz, 16 oz, or gallon bottles, so the price varies.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Alleyne says this product has the right mix of ingredients, moisturizing agents, and drying agents to clean ears effectively. But, he cautions that the alcohol may cause issues in dogs with severely irritated ears.

Best for allergies

April showers bring seasonal allergies, so be ready to spring into action before the irritation develops into an ear infection. Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone makes scratching season much more pleasant for pups, so they enjoy their outdoor adventures with you. This solution can also help cut down on ear infections.

Zymox uses hydrocortisone to reduce agitation and inflammation from allergies. It also takes an antimicrobial approach to treating ear infections with enzymes. This product should be effective if pet owners notice the irritation early but likely won’t help with full-blown ear infections.

Each bottle has 1.25 oz of solution. Additionally, it’s available in a 4 oz. or 8 oz. bottle. This product is more expensive than others we’ve reviewed, but it’s non-toxic and safe to use on cats. We should note that it’s meant to treat mild ear infections, not to cure severe infections or to be used as part of your dog’s routine grooming maintenance.

What our vet thinks

Dr. Alleyne recommends Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone for pups showing early or mild signs of an ear infection. He says it can provide early relief and slow down the progression of the infection. Dr. Alleyne also notes that hydrocortisone may temporarily relieve inflamed ears. He points out that the product is marketed as an ear treatment, not a cleaner. It may not be the best for cleaning excessive debris, nor is it good for dogs with severe infections.

Best alcohol-free formula for daily use

This alcohol-free cleaner by PetLab Co. is safe for daily use. Salicylic acid and ketoconazole are the active ingredients that help to dry out the excessive moisture in your pet’s ears, without being as harsh as alcohol. This product also includes moisturizing agents. The instructions say it works as intended so long as you apply it to your dog’s ears twice daily as part of their regular maintenance. It’s not intended to treat or cure ear infections.

PetLab Co. ear cleaner is available in a 4 or 8 fl oz. bottle. The price varies depending on size, but plan to spend around $20 for a small bottle or $35 for a large one.

What our vet thinks  

While the ingredients are safe for daily use when there isn’t a problem, they may irritate or even pose a danger to unhealthy ears.  Dr. Irish warns that she wouldn’t use this product on dogs who have a ruptured eardrum or ear infection.

Best for dogs with chronic ear infections

Despite “keto” in the name, your dog doesn’t have to cut carbs for this product. Dechra TrizULTRA Plus Keto Flush utilizes ketoconazole, an antifungal medication, as an active ingredient that safely cleans your dog’s ears to prevent infections. It’s also safe to use this product alongside antibiotic medications if an infection has already occurred.

This product is best for dogs with chronic ear infections, especially if the underlying cause hasn’t been diagnosed. It’s fragrance-free and doesn’t contain alcohol, which makes it a gentler formula than some on the market.

At around $20 for a 4 oz. bottle, the price is about what we’d expect to pay for a dog ear cleaner on Amazon.

What our vet thinks 

Dr. Irish recommends Dectra TrizULTRA Plus because it’s been approved by veterinarians on staff at the company. Plus, the solution is free from alcohol and toxic ingredients.

Our research process

Choosing the best ear-cleaning product for your dog isn’t an easy task. We’ve done some of the hard work for you by considering the quality, price, ingredients, and effectiveness of every product on our list.

Why you should trust our reviews

A veterinarian helped us formulate this list — Dr. Dwight Alleyne reviewed every product on our list, ranked his favorites, and was candid about what he liked and disliked about the ear cleaners.  Dr. Irish also contributed her feedback, which was largely founded on the safety and effectiveness of the ingredients, as well as whether the manufacturer has a veterinarian on staff. Companies that consult a vet while formulating their products are more likely to take safety and effectiveness seriously.

How we picked the best dog ear cleaners

Our team searched high and low online for the most popular dog ear cleaning products on marketplaces like Amazon and Chewy. We looked for tried and true pet ear cleaners and some more unique natural ones to give you a range of good choices. The ear cleaners on our list contain little to no amounts of alcohol since this ingredient can be irritating to some doggie ears. If a product does use alcohol, we specify it in the review.

We checked each ingredient list to ensure these products were safe, with our vet’s approval. We asked our experts to evaluate whether the product effectively cleaned a dog’s ear and prevented infections. We also considered cost-effectiveness, such as how many ounces you’ll receive in a bottle and at what price range.

What else should pet parents consider?

Some ear cleaners are best for dogs with recurring ear infections or allergies, while others are great maintenance cleaners for all dogs. Follow your vet’s advice about how often your dog needs their ears cleaned and avoid home remedies as many of them can irritate or damage your dog’s ears. You’ll also need to consider whether a liquid cleaner or wipe is a better idea for your dog.

Liquid dog ear cleaners vs. dog ear wipes

Liquid cleaning solutions are great for getting into the delicate nooks and crannies of your dog’s ears. They’re ideal for dogs with debris or ear wax build-up. They tend to be fairly easy to use but also messy. You may need other materials, such as cotton balls, to help apply liquid solutions.

Wipes are best for pet parents who don’t want the mess of a liquid ear cleaner or the fuss of using cotton balls. However, you can’t reach the ear canal and they’re not the most eco-friendly option either since each wipe is disposable.

When do dogs need their ears cleaned?

Have you noticed a strange smell coming from your pup’s ears? Perhaps your dog seems to be scratching their ears more than usual. Both of these signs could mean that your dog needs their ears cleaned.

👉 Regular ear cleanings can help prevent ear infections. However, ear cleaners don’t usually treat active ear infections in dogs.

There are two main reasons why dogs might need their ears cleaned: to prevent possible bacterial infections and wax build-up or to treat ongoing issues, such as allergies. Your pup may need their ears cleaned because they’ve just been swimming or because their breed is more prone to auditory issues. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common reasons why dogs need their ears cleaned:

  • Allergies. Seasonal allergies and airborne allergens, like pollen and dust, can cause debris build-up and irritation in a dog’s ears. While you should try to keep your pup away from these irritants, ear cleaners help rid debris build-up and soothe your pooch’s ears. Allergies may also cause recurring yeast infections.
  • Infections. While bacterial and yeast infections are generally treated with oral antibiotics or topical ointments, using an antibacterial or antifungal ear cleaner can help prevent them from recurring. However, ear cleaners won’t treat existing infections. Take Fido to the vet if you suspect an ear infection.
  • Ear mites. More common in dogs that cohabit with cats, ear mites can cause ear itchiness, dark discharge, and a foul smell. They may make it easier for dogs to develop yeast and bacterial infections. If your dog already has ear mites, they will need to visit the vet for mite-killing medication before you can do regular ear cleanings at home.
  • Breed health issues. If your dog has hairy or floppy ears, they may be more prone to ear issues. These breeds include Old English sheepdogs, Cavalier King Charles spaniels, cocker spaniels, and poodles.

How to clean your dog’s ears at home

Cleaning your dog’s ears is easy to do at home, although it will take time and practice to get your pooch comfortable with the process. You might want to distract your dog with some peanut butter or other long-lasting tasty treat while you do the dirty work, especially if your pup tends to squirm. Here are a couple of other ways to help them become comfortable with the process:

  • Touch their ears more. Your dog might hate ear cleanings because they’re not used to having their sensitive ears touched. Before you even attempt to clean their ears, start by touching their ears and rewarding them with treats.
  • Use a saturated cotton pad. Squeezing liquid drops into your dog’s ear canal can startle them. Instead, you can either use a wipe or saturate a cotton pad with the liquid solution and gently set it at their ear opening. Let it sit as you massage the area so that the liquid drips into the ear canal. Then, remove the cotton pad and gently wipe away any visible gunk.

👉If you suspect that your dog may have an ear infection or a ruptured eardrum, don’t try to clean your dog’s ears at home. You should take them to the vet immediately so that they can receive the medical care they need and reduce the risk of becoming deaf.

The bottom line on dog ear cleaners

Incorporating ear cleanings as a part of your dog’s regular grooming routine can help prevent irritation and infections. However, you should always take your dog to the vet if they’re showing signs of an ear infection or ruptured eardrum. At-home cleaners can damage your dog’s ears if there are open sores or punctures, so they should only be used for preventative care or cases of mild irritation.

Frequently asked questions

What is the best thing to clean a dog’s ear with?

A liquid ear-cleaning solution or ear wipes that are specifically made for dogs are safe options for cleaning your pet’s ears. Your vet can let you know if a product is OK to use. Never use ear drops made for humans, since they can contain potentially harmful ingredients.

What is the best dog ear cleaner recommended by vets?

Our vets and experts tested Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner and found it to be the best overall choice for cleaning your dog’s ears because it’s effective, easy to apply, and made with safe ingredients.

How do I clean the gunk out of my dog’s ears?

Cotton balls, gauze, and a vet-approved cleaning solution are all good choices for cleaning your pup’s ears. Never use Q-tips, undiluted hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.

How often should you clean your dog’s ears?

It depends on your dog’s needs. Some pups prone to allergies or conditions like ear infections may need more regular ear cleanings, such as once per week. Every other week may work well for other pets. Always clean your dog’s ears after they’ve been in the water, including after baths. Check your pet’s ears regularly for signs of debris, discharge, and redness, and call the vet if you’re concerned.