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The essentials

  • Floppy-eared dogs are more likely to get ear infections — The flap traps moisture inside the ear, creating the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive.
  • You can minimize your dog’s risk and discomfort — Regular at-home cleanings and drying their ears after playtime in the water will help minimize the risk of infections or discomfort.
  • Know the signs and see your vet — Dark discharge, redness and swelling, foul odor or pus, hearing loss, and balance issues are all signs you should have your pup seen by your vet.

Whether this is your first floppy-eared pup or your 20th, you may wonder why your pup constantly develops ear infections. We’re here to tell you you’re not alone. Floppy-eared pups are more prone to ear infections because their ears hold more moisture and block out light – all things that make bacteria and yeast organisms happy. Plus, floppy ears tend to have poorer circulation. Read on for helpful tips and tricks to keep your dog’s ears squeaky clean and keep infections at bay.

Why clean dog ears are important

  • Prevent and treat infections. For medication to effectively treat an infection, the ear canal has to be clean enough for the liquid to get deep into the inner ear canal. Infections can be caused and exacerbated by various culprits, including allergies, yeast, and ear mites — which cleaning the ear will minimize. 
  • Remove excess moisture. Floppy ears act as a gate to leftover moisture from your dog’s bath or weekend swimming excursion, keeping it in long after the rest of your dog’s coat has dried. That moisture makes your dog’s ears an ideal environment for yeast and other bacteria to grow.
  • Comfort is key. We’ve all been there —  excess gunk in your ears is, at the very least, uncomfortable. At the most, it’s downright painful. The same is true for your dog. By practicing good doggy ear hygiene, you ensure they’re feeling good and healthy.
  • Removal of debris. Floppy dog ears are masters at trapping in all sorts of gunk. From earwax and weeds to grass seeds and ticks, cleaning a dog’s ears is the only way to make sure they’re not holding onto any little hitchhikers that can cause a bigger problem down the line. If you suspect you may need to go the route of flushing your dog’s ears, we recommend you check with your vet first. If they suspect the root cause is a parasite or foreign body, flushing cleaner into the ear can only drive these deeper into the ear canal. Flushing can also exacerbate the condition if the eardrum has ruptured. A trip to your vet can help you identify the best course of action and avoid any unintended consequences.

How to clean your dog’s floppy ears

Ear infections can cause significant pain and swelling, so even if your pup doesn’t currently have an infection, they won’t likely be thrilled at the prospect of you cleaning their ear. They may associate handling of that ear with pain; even without pain, the feeling of liquid in the ear can be unnerving. Luckily, whether you’re cleaning the ear for maintenance or to fight an infection, the process is relatively simple and can be done at home.  To minimize your dog’s stress and pain while you do the necessary evil, follow these steps: 

Get the supplies 

Many supplies — cotton swabs, towels, and treats — can be found at your local grocery store or around the house. The exception is ear cleaning solution, which can be purchased online, at your local pet supply store, or from your veterinarian. You may also need prescription drops, which a veterinarian can prescribe for a diagnosed ear infection.

Setup to minimize mess 

Set up in a space where your dog can’t run away, and have a towel handy in case your dog shakes their head and sends ear cleaner and gunk flying. We recommend wearing clothes you can get dirty as well, just in case. Some pet parents prefer to do this outside to avoid getting ear gunk or flushing product all over their furniture during the unavoidable ‘shake off’ that will occur. 

Apply ear cleaner 

Gently squirt ear cleaner just inside the flap to your dog’s ear and at the entrance of their ear canal. Some websites will tell you to pluck your dog’s ear hairs before cleaning, but due to the sensitive technique needed, we don’t recommend it. If you feel like your dog has a lot of excess ear hair, mention it to your vet the next time you visit, and they’ll be able to gauge if your pup would benefit from plucking.

Make sure the cleaner gets deep into the ear canal

Once you’ve squirted the cleaner into your pup’s ear, put down the ear flap to help prevent any cleaner from dripping out. You’ll then massage your dog’s ear for 20 seconds. You should hear a squishing sound as you do so. This will get the cleaner deep inside the ear for maximum effectiveness!

Expect a shake or two. 

Have your towel ready as a shield. Most pups do a good head shake following this step since the liquid feels strange. Don’t worry — you massaged the cleaner deep enough so a little shaking won’t mess up your hard work. 

Wipe it down

Now’s the time to use a cotton ball or piece of gauze to wipe around your dog’s outer ear, removing any gunk that the cleaner dislodged. Make sure that you don’t use Q-tips or stick your finger deep inside your dog’s ear, as that can push debris further down or damage the eardrum.  If you see a lot of discharge, there is more than one potential culprit, so it’s a good idea to see your vet. 

Make it positive 

We already talked about how cleaning your dog’s ear can be uncomfortable and/or painful for them, meaning the more you do it, the more likely they are to try and avoid it. This can be by running away, hiding, or even showing some defensive behavior like growling or threatening to bite. To help your dog see that this experience isn’t all bad, give them a treat they like afterward. 

“A small spoonful of peanut butter and someone assisting may alleviate the bad part of the experience for many dogs. They are more interested in licking the peanut butter than someone bothering their ears.” – Dr. Bruce Armstrong

Be sure to select a peanut butter that is xylitol-free.

Tips for caring for floppy ears

Being proactive about your pup’s floppy ears is the best way to help prevent infection down the line. This is especially important if your dog has allergies or has already shown to be prone to recurring ear issues.

  • Regular ear cleaning.  Some dogs need it weekly, some need it monthly. We recommend asking your vet what they’d recommend since some dogs benefit from more frequent cleaning, while that may only irritate the outer ear for others. 
  • Know the signs. Familiarize yourself with the signs of an ear infection. These can include redness, a foul smell coming from the ear, and excessive head shaking and scratching. The development of scabs, dark discharge, hearing loss, and change in balance are all signs that indicate it’s time to pay your vet a visit. 
  • Keep the ear dry. If Fido can’t help but hurl himself into the creek every time you take that hike, no need to spoil his fun. Your job is to make sure that their ears get dried out as much as possible after the fact. If that means packing a bag of cotton balls on your next outing, so be it. You won’t be sorry. You may want to bring your dog’s ear cleaner as well to use after a swim sesh, as some ear flushing products are great at displacing the water and providing a more acidic environment after getting water in the ears. 


While floppy-eared dogs are more prone to ear infections, the good news is that with proactive care and awareness, you can minimize your trips to the vet and your pup’s discomfort. Asking your vet what they’d recommend in terms of maintenance for your individual pup will go a long way in setting you up for success — you’ll know what cleaner to use and where to get it, as well as how often to use it to clean your dog’s ears. They’ll also be able to walk you through the steps of cleaning your dog’s ears and answer any questions. This preparation makes it easy to maintain your dog’s ears at home. With a little management, your dog will hear you call their name for years to come.

Frequently asked questions

How do you air out a dog’s floppy ears?

The easiest way to air out your dog’s floppy ears is by folding them back and allowing the air to circulate through for about 5 minutes. 

Are dogs with floppy ears more friendly?

Floppy ears don’t guarantee a dog is more friendly than their pointy-eared counterpart. Your dog’s temperament is mainly determined by life experiences (only about 9% is related to breed).  However, there is often a perception that these dogs are friendlier, as floppy ears are a trait that developed due to the “domestication syndrome” in dogs and other mammals.

How can dogs with floppy ears hear so well?

Floppy-eared dogs actually can’t hear as well as those with erect ears. This is because the flap blocks the ear canal.  In addition to this, many floppy-eared dogs have more hair within their ear, affecting the flow of sound waves. 

Why do dogs with floppy ears get infections?

Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections because the flap blocks airflow to the inner ear, trapping moisture and dirt in a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.