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Updated April 10, 2023
Your dog’s ears are so powerful they can hear sounds humans can’t . Of course, nothing beats the one your voice makes when you tell them how much you love them. Dog ear cleaners help keep your pet’s hearing in tip-top shape and prevent ear wax build-up, itching, 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 and testing popular ear cleaners on the market. We looked at five criteria: safety, effectiveness, application, quantity, and packaging.
Vets have long considered Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner one of the best 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. It’s also great for daily use on your pet’s ears. Epi-Otic has improved the product’s smell. It now boasts a fresh, pleasant scent versus a lingering medicinal odor.
If you’re looking for another alcohol-free option, Petlab Co’s Clear Ears Therapy Ear Cleaner is an additional choice. Dr. Erica Irish states that the ingredients are safe to be used in your pup’s ears. However, it’s still important to check with your vet first to make sure the eardrum is intact before putting any kind of medicine in it.
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.
The VetWell Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner is wildly popular among doggie caregivers who rave that it’s easy to use and effectively removes debris. The sweet fragrance is the icing on the cake (at least it smells like it is).
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.
If your dog loves to make a splash, you’ll need to plan on more regular cleanings. Always clean a pet’s ears after they’ve been in the water, whether they took a swim or a bath. Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash & Dry Combo typically does the trick.
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.
Vetoquinol is a favorite and trusted brand in the veterinary industry, and animal hospitals countrywide use it. Its ear-cleansing solution contains ingredients that reduce inflammation. Our product expert wasn’t the only one that liked the smell — her dogs loved it, too.
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.
April showers bring allergies. Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone makes sniffles and scratching season much more pleasant for pups, so they enjoy their outdoor adventures with you. This solution can also help cut down on infections.
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.
Our team searched high and low online for the most popular ear-cleaning products on marketplaces like Amazon and Chewy. We looked for tried and true ear cleaners and some natural ones to give you a range of good choices. We looked for ear cleaners with little to no amounts of alcohol since this ingredient can be irritating to some doggie ears.
Our veterinarian helped us narrow our list. Then, we ordered the ear cleaners and sent them to our product reviewer, Sara Ondrako. After reviewing, she revealed her top pick, the product that ranked best in our criteria.
Cost-effectiveness is important for many pet parents. Here’s a look at how these ear cleaners compare against one another when looking at the price per ounce.
|Product||Price*||Amount||Price per ounce|
|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|
*Price on Amazon or Chewy at the time of our review
With so many choices of ear cleaners, it was important to establish standards. We worked with our product expert and veterinarian to determine the most important criteria to review these products against.
Dogs need an ear cleaner to safely and properly clean wax and debris from their ears, but which type is best for your dog: liquids or wipes? 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.
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.
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 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. Using ear cleaners with antiparasitic properties can help you remove mites and keep your pup comfortable. Your dog will need to visit the vet for mite-killing medication in addition to regular ear cleanings.
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 miniature poodles.
👉 Regular ear cleanings can help prevent ear infections. However, ear cleaners don’t treat active ear infections in dogs.
If you suspect your pup has an ear infection, these are some of the key symptoms to look out for:
👉 If your dog has these symptoms, take them to the vet for a diagnosis before attempting to clean their 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 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 alongside your dog — You want your dog to feel comfortable and relaxed, so try and do the ear cleaning in some place where they feel at ease. Just don’t clean their ears on your favorite couch or chair because ear cleaning solution might get on it when your dog shakes their head.
Tilt your dog’s head and lift their ear flap — 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 the cleaner as instructed on the bottle or package.
Massage the base of the ear opening — The solution will likely need to sit for around 20 seconds while you keep your dog still. Massage the base of your dog’s ear opening to help the solution work its magic. Distract your pooch with treats or peanut butter to keep them calm and still.
Wipe away any visible debris — If debris is present, wipe it away with a clean cloth or cotton pad. Be gentle, and don’t go too deep into your pup’s ear.
Let your pup shake away the excess — You might want a towel on hand for this step in case the cleaner goes everywhere.
Reward Fido with a treat — Give your dog their favorite treat for behaving well during the ear cleaning.
Repeat on the other side.
👉 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.
First of all, it’s normal for your dog to be reluctant about ear cleanings, so don’t panic. Here are some ways to build trust and get your dog willing and able to have their ears cleaned at home — without the fuss!
Touch their ears more — Your dog might hate ear cleanings because 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 pad — During the cleaning itself, your dog might be shocked by the liquid cleaner entering their ear canal. One way to get around that is by saturating a cotton pad with the liquid solution and gently setting it at their ear opening. Don’t push it in —instead, let it sit and massage the area so the liquid drips into the ear canal. Then, remove the cotton pad and gently wipe away any visible gunk.
Use peanut butter and treats — If all else fails, try to keep your dog distracted while you clean their ears. It might help to have a family member or friend distract Fido while you focus on cleaning. Peanut butter is a great treat (and distractor). We recommend dabbing a spoonful of peanut butter on a Lickimat to keep them in one place while you clean their ears.
👉 If your dog seems to be in pain during home cleanings, take them to the vet or groomer for professional ear cleanings instead.
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Cotton balls, gauze, and a vet-approved cleaning solution are all good choices for cleaning your pup’s ears . Never use Q-tips, hydrogen peroxide, white vinegar, or apple cider vinegar.
A liquid ear cleaning solution or ear wipes are safe options for cleaning your pet’s ears. Your vet can let you know if a product is OK to use.
Even a small amount of alcohol can be irritating, especially for pups that have chronic infections or sensitive ears. But it’s not necessarily a deal-breaker — talk to your vet and monitor your dog when using products with alcohol. Your vet will probably tell you to avoid these cleaning products if your pup has severely infected or irritated ears.
It depends on your dog’s needs. Some pups prone to allergies or conditions like ear infections may need more regular ear cleanings, perhaps once per week. Every other week may work well for other animals. Always clean your pet’s ears after they’ve been in the water, including baths. Check your pet’s ears regularly for signs of debris, discharge, and redness, and call the vet if you’re concerned.
Our vets and experts tested Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner and found it’s the best overall choice for cleaning your dog’s ears because it’s effective, easy to apply, and made with safe ingredients.
In addition to the three qualities mentioned above: effectiveness, safety, and application ease, a large quantity and leak-proof packaging help, too.