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Cleaning your dog’s ears should be part of your regular grooming routine. Neglected ears can become irritated or infected and cause your dog a lot of pain or itching.
There are lots of great ear cleaners out there, but our top pick is Zymox Ear Cleanser Solution. It’s gentle enough for frequent use, with antimicrobial enzymes that help maintain clean, healthy ears.
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Best Dog Ear Cleaner
Best Overall – Zymox Ear Cleanser Solution
Our best overall pick is Zymox Ear Cleanser Solution because it’s gentle enough to use frequently but strong enough to help prevent ear infections when used regularly. This non-toxic and non-irritating formula is meant for dogs with healthy ears, and the patented antimicrobial LP3 Enzyme System helps keep them that way.
Most other dog ear cleaners either contain stronger ingredients to treat an underlying infection or use simpler ingredients that don’t tackle yeast or bacteria that can trigger ear infections. That makes this the best ear cleaner for regular use to help prevent infections before they have a chance to start.
This effective ear cleaning solution is veterinarian recommended and free of harsh detergents. It’s also cruelty-free and made in the USA. Additionally, this company and product have been around for more than 20 years, which should be proof that it’s a reliable product.
Best for Dogs with Chronic Ear Infections – Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment w/Hydrocortisone
If your dog is prone to recurrent ear infections, regular ear cleaner may not be strong enough. That’s where Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment w/Hydrocortisone comes in. While it may not replace an antibiotic or anti-yeast medication from the veterinarian, this ear treatment contains antimicrobial properties that may help clear up mild ear infections or prevent future infections.
With 1% hydrocortisone, this ear cleaner can help reduce inflammation and redness associated with ear infections, which is another reason it’s an excellent choice for dogs who are prone to them.
This no-sting formula is soothing for dogs who are used to struggling with itchy or painful ears due to chronic infections.
Best Budget Option – TropiClean OxyMed Ear Cleaner for Pets
If your dog isn’t overly prone to ear infections, you don’t need to spend a fortune on ear cleaner. You can get the job done quite well with TropiClean OxyMed Ear Cleaner for Pets, a gentle, odor-reducing ear cleaner.
Made in the USA, this product removes ear wax and debris and helps eliminate odor. It has light peaches and cream scent and doesn’t contain any dyes or parabens. Alcohol is one of the top ingredients, so you don’t want to use this one more than a couple of times per month, or you may irritate your dog’s ear canals.
Best Dog Ear Wipes – Project Paws Dogs Ear Wipes
There are many ear wipes on the market at a similar price point and with comparable reviews. What sets Project Paws Dogs Ear Wipes is that they donate a portion of their proceeds to help feed shelter dogs. Each purchase of these ear wipes provides 7 meals to dogs in shelters.
These soothing ear wipes contain aloe and eucalyptus along with alcohol-free astringents to clean your dog’s ears without drying them out too much. They’re also made in the USA in federally regulated manufacturing facilities, so you can be assured that they’re safe for your pup.
Best All-Natural Dog Ear Cleaner – Burt’s Bees Ear Cleaner
If you prefer to purchase items with all-natural ingredients, you’ll love Burt’s Bees Ear Cleaner. Witch hazel and peppermint oil work alongside a few other natural ingredients to clean your dog’s ears and soothe irritation.
This veterinarian recommended formula is free of sulfates, colorants, fragrances, and harsh chemicals. It does have alcohol as the second ingredient, though, so try not to use this ear cleaner more than a couple of times a month, or you’ll risk irritating your dog’s ears.
What to Consider When Buying Dog Ear Cleaner
Type of Cleaner (Wipes Vs. Liquid)
There are two different types of ear cleaner: wipes and liquid. Each has benefits and drawbacks.
Wipes are more convenient and less messy than liquid ear cleaner. However, you can only use wipes to clean the part of your dog’s ear that you can see. Dogs’ ear canals are deeper than you might expect, so wipes miss a lot. Some dogs HATE having their ears messed with though, so wipes are a fast, convenient option for less cooperative dogs.
Liquid can be messy and should be used with cotton balls or gauze for the best results. However, since you apply liquid ear cleaner directly, you can clean more of the ear canal than you can with wipes, so most people prefer liquids over wipes.
You might be surprised at the number and type of ingredients found in some ear cleaners. Certain ingredients may have beneficial effects or cause problems. Do you prefer ear cleaners that only include natural ingredients? They exist, but they may not clean as well as other cleaners.
Alcohol is a common ingredient in many dog ear cleaners. If your dog swims a lot or gets frequent baths, alcohol-based cleaners can help dry out your dog’s ears after a bath or swim to help prevent a moisture-caused ear infection. However, alcohol is really drying and can cause irritation if it’s used too often.
Some ear cleaners include dyes or fragrances. Is that really necessary? While they might not hurt your dog, you may want to look for other ingredients to go into your dog’s ears.
Aside from having different ingredients, each ear cleaner’s formula may have a different purpose. Some ear cleaners are only meant to remove ear wax and other debris. Others might help dry out your dog’s ears after a swim or a bath. Yet others might include antimicrobial properties to help prevent or treat ear infections. You need to think carefully about what you want your dog’s ear cleaner to do before choosing the one that’s best for your pup.
Easy to Use
Always read the instructions before using any ear cleaner. Since most dogs don’t especially enjoy having their ears cleaned, look for a formula that’s easy to use. Dental wipes are obviously the simplest, although you can’t reach as far. Applying a steady stream of liquid to the ear canal is easier than trying to count out 2-4 drops. Think about what your dog will tolerate or sit still for before selecting an ear cleaner.
Frequently Asked Questions
How do I clean my dog’s ears?
Cleaning your dog’s ears is easier than you might expect. Here are the basic steps to follow:
- Gather all your supplies, including treats. You might want to do this in the bathroom or outside if you’re using a liquid ear cleaner since your dog will fling it everywhere by shaking their head!
- Look inside your dog’s ears first. If they are light pink and don’t have an odor, they may not need to be cleaned. If they are dark red, inflamed, or have a dark discharge, your dog may have an ear infection and should see the veterinarian. Don’t clean your dog’s ears if they look infected – your vet may need to take a sample to determine whether the cause of the infection is bacteria, yeast, or mites.
- Pick up your dog’s ear flap and use an ear cleaning wipe in the parts of your dog’s ear that you can see, or
- Apply liquid ear cleaner directly into your dog’s ear canal.
- Gently massage the base of your dog’s ear to squish around the ear cleaner and loosen up debris.
- Allow your dog to shake their head a few times. You might want to cover your dog’s head or your face to protect yourself from ear cleaner and debris being flung from your dog’s head.
- Use a cotton ball or gauze pad (but NOT a cotton swab) to wipe out the inside of your dog’s ear. Only go one knuckle deep into the ear canal.
- Reward your dog with a treat, then repeat with the other ear.
How often should I clean my dog’s ears?
Dog ears that stand up and have short fur are less prone to ear infections and might only need their ears cleaned once every month or two. Pairing ear cleaning with nail trimming is often a great schedule (since most dogs need their nails trimmed about once a month).
Dogs with drop ears, that have hair in their ears, like to swim a lot, get frequent baths, or are otherwise prone to chronic ear infections might need ear cleaning more frequently than once a month.
For these dogs, once a week (and after every bath or swim) is usually a good place to start. If your dog’s ears don’t get dirty that quickly, you can scale back. If they’re still having frequent ear infections, you can bump it up to two or three times per week.
Why do my dog’s ears stink?
If your dog’s ears stink, they likely have an ear infection. Other symptoms of an ear infection include redness, discharge, pain, or itching. Discharge is often brown but maybe gritty (like coffee grounds) or even bloody. If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, you should take them to the veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment. Regular ear cleaner generally won’t treat an ear infection; you typically need medication from your vet.
Why do dogs need their ears cleaned?
All dogs have yeast and bacteria in their ears at low levels. Failing to keep your dog’s ears clean can cause the yeast or bacteria to get out of control and cause a painful ear infection. Chronic ear infections can even lead to deafness. Even if they don’t get infected, a buildup of ear wax can cause problems in and of itself.
What are the common ear problems in dogs?
You often hear about dogs getting “ear infections,” but that’s sort of a catch-all term representing many different ear problems that dogs can deal with. Here are some of the most common ear problems in dogs:
- Allergies. Both environmental and food allergies can trigger ear problems in dogs. If your dog has other symptoms, such as licking their feet or digestive issues, it may be worth having your dog tested for allergies.
- Bacterial infections. Bacteria, especially streptococcus, live in your dog’s ear, usually in a healthy balance. Sometimes, these bacteria get out of control and trigger an infection. Antibiotic ear drops from your vet should knock out a bacterial ear infection.
- Yeast infections. Yeast, a type of fungus, also lives in your dog’s ears. When yeast gets out of control, it can be trickier to treat than bacteria. Your vet can prescribe an antifungal medication to help treat a yeast infection. Regularly aerating your dog’s ears with an ear cleaner that has antimicrobial properties may help prevent future yeast ear infections.
- Ear mite infestations. While ear mites are more common in cats, they can occur in dogs, too. Ear mites are insect parasites (similar to fleas and ticks) that feed on your dog’s ear wax. Some flea and tick medications also kill mites, but you should talk to your vet if you suspect your dog has an ear mite infestation. Unlike fleas and ticks, ear mites are too small to see with the naked eye, which is why you should always take your dog to the vet for a diagnosis if you suspect any time of ear infection.
- Foreign body obstruction. Small items like plant debris, insects, or pebbles can find their way into your dog’s ear and cause problems. Ear cleaning helps you notice and remove foreign bodies. If something appears to be lodged in your dog’s ear, don’t attempt to pull it out yourself – you could injure your dog. If debris doesn’t come out easily with a regular ear cleaning, it’s time for a trip to the vet to have the object safely removed.
Who should buy a dog ear cleaner?
Just about every dog owner should buy ear cleaner. Unless you have a dog with ears that stand up (and get good airflow) that you take to the groomer at least once a month, you should probably buy ear cleaner and start cleaning your dog’s ears on a regular basis. Ear cleaning is usually included when you take your dog to a groomer, so regular groomer visits may be enough.
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Last update on 2020-08-15 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API