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6 of the best dog ear cleaners in 2021

Keep your pup’s ears free from infection and irritation with our 6 favorite dog ear cleaners

Updated March 19, 2021

Created By

Lauren Cocking ,
Blurry pose of a young veterinarian woman doing ear control to a dog. Focus on dog's ear.

The best dog ear cleaners

Best dog ear cleaner reviews

What we love: Created specifically for regular maintenance cleaning, Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser is a must-have for pet parents. We love that it’s gentle enough for regular cleansings and cat-friendly too, ideal for multi-pet households. Even if your pet has sensitive skin or chronic ear issues, this ear cleanser won’t be irritating.

What customers say: This ear cleanser has a 95% approval rating on Chewy and customers regularly praise the non-greasy formula, effective drying agent, and pleasant smell. Several top reviewers state that they highly recommend this product.

Active ingredients: Salicylic acid 0.2%, disodium edta, docusate sodium, pcmx, A monosaccharide complex (L-Rhamnose, D-Galactose, D-Mannose), and FD&C Blue #1.

What we love: Our vet’s pick for seeing off flare-ups, Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone is great for decreasing pain and inflammation for pups with allergies. It’s also effective for pups with chronic ear infections. However, it’s a medication not a cleanser, so use sparingly. We don’t recommend it for regular maintenance ear cleanings.

What customers say: Customers note that this medication works great for yeast infections, although you may have to use more than you expect when applying directly into the ear canal. Other users also love how fast and effective this product works to eliminate other problems like irritation, adding that you should purchase the larger size. Plus, it has an impressive 98% approval rating on Chewy.

Ingredients: Zymox otic with 1% hydrocortisone, benzyl alcohol, dextrose, glucose oxidase, glycerin, hydrocortisone, hydroxypropyl cellulose, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, potassium iodide, propylene glycol, and purified water.

What we love: Our only two-in-one cleaner, the Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash + Dry Combo Pack for Dogs is an excellent two-step product for dog owners that helps soothe itching and control foul odors. We love that it’s made from natural ingredients in the USA and doesn’t include drying alcohol, as well as the fact that it can help cut down the time needed between ear cleanings. Just be careful to use this ear wash sparingly and store away from pets, as tea tree oil (one of the ingredients) can be toxic for dogs in high concentrations.

What customers say: 95% of customers recommend the Vet’s Best Ear Relief pack on Chewy, adding that it provided fast relief for their pups. Some even noted that it was one of the few products that had worked for their pooch, although added that it does have a particularly strong smell.

Ingredients in the wash: Witch hazel, chamomile, yucca, clove oil, tea tree oil, and echinacea.
Ingredients in the dry: Witch hazel, calendula, chamomile, aloe vera, clove oil, tea tree oil, and echinacea.

What we love: This carefully formulated product comes complete with aloe vera and several vitamins designed to clean, soothe, and dry your dog’s ears. We love that VetWELL Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner is suitable for preventing infections, as well as eliminating build-up of wax and debris. It’s also made in the USA which is a major plus and comes in two scents: cucumber melon and sweet pea vanilla.

What customers say: Customers rave about this VetWELL ear cleaner, noting that it smells fantastic, is easy to use and gives fast results. They especially liked how it worked to reduce itching and clear out excess ear gunk in just one use.

Ingredients: Deionized water, propylene glycol, aloe vera gel, SD alcohol 40, lactic acid, glycerin, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, salicylic acid, vitamins A, C, E & F, fragrance, benzoic acid, and benzyl alcohol.

What we love: Our only all-natural and organic pick, the BotaniVet Natural Ear Cleanser is free of harsh chemicals that can be drying and irritating to pups with sensitive skin. We really love that this product is non-toxic and suited to both dogs and cats with sensitive ears. It’s also made in the USA and contains silver, which can help prevent infection.

What customers say: Users on Amazon love the gentle formula of BotaniVet, noting that it’s suitable for puppies and smells good to boot. They especially appreciate the use of natural ingredients which help to reduce irritation, although note that this product isn’t strong enough to resolve existing infections.

Ingredients: Water, organic saponified coconut (Coco nucifera), olive (Olea europaea fruit), jojoba (Simmondsia seed) oils, essential oil blend with citrus oils, rosemary (Rosmarnius officinalis) extract, organic aloe vera (Aloe barbadensis leaf), and silver.

What we love: Suitable for both dogs and cats, Vetoquinol Ear Cleansing Solution is strong enough to deal with redness, irritation, and infections while not having an overpowering chemical scent. We love that it’s potent without being too harsh, although dogs with sensitive skin might not tolerate it as well.

What customers say: Several users note how good Vet Solutions is at cleaning dark gunk from their pup’s ears, adding that it’s also good for dogs with allergies. While some find it to be mild, others say it was a bit strong for their pup, so perhaps keep that in mind if you plan to use it regularly.

Ingredients: Deionized water, propylene glycol, aloe vera gel, lactic acid, glycerin, dioctyl sodium sulfosuccinate, salicylic acid, fragrance, benzoic acid, and benzyl alcohol.

Why do dogs need their ears cleaned?

Have you noticed a strange smell coming from your pup’s ears? Or perhaps they seem to be itching more than normal? Both of these signs could mean they need their ears cleaned.

In fact, 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 yeast infections or allergies.

Your pup may even need their ears cleaned because they’ve just been swimming, or simply because their breed is more prone to auditory issues. Here are some of the most common reasons dogs need their ears cleaned.

  • Allergies. Seasonal allergies and airborne allergens, like pollen and dust can cause debris build-up and irritation in the ears. While you should aim to keep your pup away from these irritants, ear cleaners are also ideal to help rid the debris build-up and soothe your pooch’s ears. Allergies can also be the cause of yeast infections.
  • Bacterial and yeast 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 do much to help existing infections.
  • Ear mites. More common in dogs that cohabit with cats, mites can cause ear itchiness, dark discharge, and a foul smell. They may make it easier for dogs to develop yeast and bacterial infections. Using ear cleaners with antiparasitic properties can help you eliminate mites and keep your pup comfortable, although you should combine with a mite-killing medication after consulting with your vet.
  • Dog breeds. If your dog has hairy or floppy ears, they may be more prone to ear issues, including infections. These include: Old English sheepdogs, King Charles spaniels, cocker spaniels, and miniature poodles.

👉 Regular ear cleanings can also help prevent ear infections. However, using an ear cleaner if your dog has an active infection won’t be much help. 

Symptoms of ear infection

If you suspect your pup has an ear infection, these are some of the key symptoms to look out for.

  • Ear itchiness
  • Head tilting or seeming off-balance
  • Foul odor coming from the ear canal (for yeast infections)
  • Excessive ear wax or strangely-colored discharge
  • Redness inside the ear
  • Loss of hair inside the ear

👉 If your dog has these symptoms, take them to the vet for a diagnosis before attempting to clean their ears at home. 

Different types of dog ear cleaners

Ear cleaners for dogs come in different forms: liquid and wipes. Both of these types of ear cleaners are effective and useful in their own way, but you’ll want to pick the one that’s right for your pup and their needs.

  • Liquid. Liquid ear cleaners are just that — liquid cleaning solutions that are great for getting into all the delicate nooks and crannies of your pet’s ears. Ideal for dog’s that have a lot of debris and ear wax build-up, liquid ear cleaners tend to be fairly easy to use but quite messy. You may also need to use other materials, such as cotton balls, to help apply liquid solutions.
  • Wipes. Wipes are best for pet parents who don’t want the mess of a liquid ear cleaner or the fuss of also using cotton balls. However, you can’t clean right down into the ear canal with an ear cleaning wipe. They’re not the most eco-friendly option either, as each wipe is disposable.

👉 Never put solid objects deep into your dog’s ear canal and don’t use Q-tips or cotton swabs to remove debris and wax build-up. These can damage your pup’s inner ear.

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.

  • Prepare your products. Whether you’ve chosen a liquid cleaner and cotton balls or a wet wipe, have your products close at hand and open, ready to use. It’s also a good idea to have a towel, clean cloth, and treats nearby.
  • Kneel down alongside your dog. You want your dog to feel comfortable and relaxed, so try and do the ear cleaning somewhere they feel at ease. But make sure you don’t mind ear cleaning solution going everywhere when they inevitably shake their head later on.
  • Tilt their head and lift up their ear flap. You need to make sure the liquid cleaning solution (if applicable) won’t trickle out when you apply it, so your pup will need their head to one side.
  • Apply the solution. Use as instructed on the bottle, although err on the side of generosity.
  • Massage the base of the ear opening. The solution will likely need to sit for around 20 seconds. Keeping your dog still and massaging the base of their ear opening will help the solution work its magic. Distracting your pooch with treats or peanut butter can be useful for keeping them calm and still.
  • Wipe away any visible debris. If debris is present, now’s the time to wipe it away with a clean cloth. Be gentle and don’t go too deep into your pup’s ear.
  • Let them shake away the excess. You might want a towel on hand for this step.
  • Reward them with a treat. This is the time to give them a treat for behaving during the ear cleaning. Peanut butter is a great option.
  • Repeat on the other side. 

👉 Most dogs will need their ears cleaned once a month for preventative purposes. Dogs with active infections or ongoing ear issues may need more regular cleanings. 

But my dog hates when I clean their ears!

First of all, it’s totally normal for your dog to be reluctant to ear cleanings, so don’t panic. Here are some ways you can build trust and get them ready, willing, and able to have their ears cleaned at home without all the fuss.

  • Touch their ears more. One of the reasons your dog hates ear cleanings might be that they’re not used to having their sensitive ears touched. So, before you even attempt to clean their ears at home, start by touching their ears and rewarding them with treats. That way, when it comes to cleaning, they won’t be taken by surprise.
  • Use a saturated cotton ball. During the cleaning itself, it might be the shock of the liquid that causes them to act out. One way to get around that is by saturating a cotton ball with the liquid solution and gently sitting it at their ear opening. Don’t push it in; instead, let it sit and massage the area so the liquid drips down into their ear canal. Then, remove the cotton ball and gently wipe away any visible gunk.
  • Use peanut butter and treats. If all else fails, keep them distracted while you clean their ears. Peanut butter is a great way to do this. We recommend swiping a spoonful of peanut butter on the bathroom wall to keep them in one place while you clean their ears.

👉 If your dog seems to be in pain when you try to clean their ears, take them to the vet for professional ear cleanings instead.