The 5 Best Dog Ear Cleaners (2021 Reviews)

When choosing the right cleaner, you’ll need to figure out what function you want it to serve. Do you want one that’s good for cleaning out ear wax? Or one that’s better for preventing bacterial or fungal infections?

There are many options on the market, so to help, we researched hundreds of cleaners and thousands of verified reviews to find the 5 best dog ear cleaners available now. Here’s our list:

Our Picks for the Best Dog Ear Cleaners

1. Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser

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PetListed Verdict:

The Virbac Epi-Otic ear cleaner removes excess wax and debris, dries the ear, and prevents microbial growth. The product works for routine cleaning and for sensitive ears, relieves chronic ear inflammation, and also has a low pH to work in tandem with other cleaners. It’s suitable for both dogs and cats.

Key Details:

  • Veterinarian recommended
  • Helps to prevent reoccurring infections
  • Good for dogs with allergies
  • Works for both cats and dogs, though dogs are preferred
  • Citrus smell

2. VetWELL Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner

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PetListed Verdict:

VetWell Cat and Dog Ear Cleaner is gentle enough for daily use, and is great for cleaning ears and relieving infections from yeast to mites. The solution rinses out build-up in your pet’s ear canal, including wax, fluid, dirt, and debris.

Key Details:

  • Cleans ears, and prevents ongoing infections
  • Non-stinging formula made with aloe vera
  • Odor free, though reviewers have actually noted that it has a pleasant scent
  • Works for both dogs and cats
  • Made in the USA

3. Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone

zymox otic dog ear cleaner

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PetListed Verdict:

The Zymox Otic ear treatment includes a proprietary blend of enzymes to help naturally clean and disinfect the ear canal as it’s rinsed. The product treats bacterial, fungal and yeast infections, relieves itching and inflammation, and can be used as a regular ear cleaner.

Key Details:

  • Vet recommended
  • Product is guaranteed Animal Cruelty-Free, and is never tested on animals
  • Enzyme blend with 1% hydrocortisone added for comfort
  • Many reviewers have claimed it prevented recurrent infections
  • Works after first dose
  • Suitable for both dogs and cats
  • Clears up existing infections

4. BotaniVet Natural Ear Cleaner

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PetListed Verdict:

The Botani Vet Natural Ear Cleaner is the top eco-friendly product on our list, and is made without GMOs, sulfates, alcohols, or unsafe chemicals. This cleaner is particularly suited for dogs with sensitive skin, and those prone to issues with detergents. The addition of silver also adds an extra natural defense against infection.

Key Details:

  • All natural, eco-friendly formula
  • Vet recommended, and vet dermatologist formulated for dogs with sensitive skin
  • Made in the USA
  • Contains organic oils that prevent bacteria and yeast growth, including coconut, olive, jojoba, and aloe vera
  • Berry scent made with a blent of citrus, lavendar, and mint oil

5. Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse for Dogs

nutrivet dog ear cleaner

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PetListed Verdict:

The Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse is the top affordable ear cleaner. It contains a simple, effective formula that treats wax and dirt buildup, and stops itching from issues such as eczema, fungal infections, and insect bites.

Key Details:

  • Cleanser that cleans and soothes ears
  • Stops itching from skin conditions including eczema, fungal infections, fleas, and contact dermatitis.
  • Affordably priced compared to other options
  • Veterinarian formulated
  • Suitable for dogs of all ages, including puppies
  • Made in the USA

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Buying Guide For The Best Dog Ear Cleaners

We want what’s best for our dogs, because they’re part of the family. That’s why we have to take extra care in choosing the best dog ear cleaner to use.

In this comprehensive guide, you’ll get all the information you need to make an informed decision on the best dog ear cleaner for you and your pup. You’ll get summaries on what customers have said about the top options, and when you shouldn’t use an ear cleaner at all. Here are some frequent questions that we’ll cover:

– What are dog ear cleaners?
– Can I use them to treat my dog for infections or other ear problems?
– How often should I use an ear cleaner?
– What are the best dog ear cleaners?
– Should I use a homemade dog ear cleaner?
– How do I use a dog ear cleaner without upsetting my dog?
– When should I see a vet?

What are dog ear cleaners?

Dog ear cleaners are solutions that have anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal, or anti-bacterial properties — sometimes all three. They’re most common as a liquid, but sometimes come in a foam or a prescription cream. Some are used to prevent or treat infections, while others are better at removing ear wax and debris.

When should dog ear cleaners be used?

It’s not recommended to use an ear cleaner too often unless your dog is prone to chronic dog ear infections or other ear problems. Cleaners can help prevent infections or a buildup of wax, but won’t do much if your dog already has an existing infection. Keeping your dog healthy and checking their ears regularly will help prevent ear problems and catch any issues early on.

Taylor Moritz, a vet tech says, “I like dog ear cleaners! Some dogs just have dirty ears and cleaning them out every once in a while will make them feel better. Dog ear cleaners don’t work for actual dog ear infections though or on ears that are really dirty.”

How often you use them depends on your dog’s breed. According to Veterinary Centers of America, overuse of ear cleaners can irritate a dog’s ear canal, which could itself lead to an infection. So use ear cleaners about once a month, but not much more than that.

What are the most common types of ear problems in dogs?

Two well-known ear problems in dogs are bacterial infections and yeast infections. Chances are, you know someone whose dog has suffered with one of these ailments. For dogs with chronic cases, dog ear cleaners can actually help prevent them.

Other than yeast and bacterial infections, PetMD highlights four other ear problems you should be aware of. We’ll go over those briefly as well.

Bacterial Infection

By far the most common ear ailment in dogs is a bacterial dog ear infection. Symptoms include:

  • Tilting the head towards the affected ear
  • Leaning to the side
  • Shaking the head
  • Reluctance to chew
  • Lack of balance
  • Diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • Swinging their head
  • Unequal sized pupils
  • Temporary deafness
  • Inflamed or redness in one or both ears
  • Unusual discharge (usually brown like ear wax)
  • Grey bulging eardrum

The best way to diagnose a bacterial infection is for a vet to extract a liquid sample from the eardrum membrane so bacteria can be identified. Other tests, like a urine sample, can see if the infection has spread to other areas of the body.

Bacterial infections can be treated with oral antibiotics or shampoo containing chlorhexidine or bleach. However, shampoo and bleach should NOT be applied to the ear. They can cause further irritation and even damage.

Can you use an ear cleaner for bacterial infections? Yes! For reoccurring dog ear infections, use a cleaner for prevention. Oral antibiotics tend to be best for treating existing infections. However, don’t use a cleaner too often or it can result in irritation and possible infection.

Yeast Infection

There’s almost always an underlying cause to yeast infections: allergies. The two types of allergies you should consider are airborne allergies and food allergies. Both lead to excess oil on the skin, making the eardrum a great place for yeast to multiply.

Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • A foul smell
  • Dark brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Crusted ear flap
  • Trouble balancing
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Unusual eye movements

The best way to tell a yeast infection from a bacterial infection is to get a vet’s opinion. However, you can usually tell from the smell; yeast infections are much stronger than bacterial infections.

Yeast infections can also appear all over the skin, not just in the ears. If the infection spreads, the affected skin will have the same crusty, scabby, or reddened appearance as you’ll notice in the ear.

A vet can diagnose a yeast infection by looking in the ear or taking a sample from the middle ear. Middle ears should be treated orally, while outer ear infections should be treated with a prescription cream. In chronic cases, special cleaners and ear drying solutions may be prescribed.

Can you use an ear cleaner for yeast infections?

Yes, you can! Cleaning a dog’s ears with a yeast infection is similar to a bacterial infection. Ear cleaners can help prevent it, but oral antibiotics are best for deep dog ear infections. Ask a vet for one they’d recommend.

Airborne Allergies

Like people, dogs can be troubled by airborne allergens such as pollen or dust. They often occur seasonally, but as anyone with allergies can tell you, can be troublesome year round. Allergies in dogs are unfortunately quite common, but vary in severity.

Symptoms include:

  • Itchiness or scratching
  • Coughing, wheezing or sneezing
  • Runny discharge in the nose or eyes
  • Ear infections
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

A vet can administer allergy medications in some cases, but you may also want to limit your dog’s exposure to allergens during certain seasons. For example, keeping your dog inside in the spring or summer.

Can you use an ear cleaner for allergies?

Yes! Cleaners for sensitive dogs can provide relief and remove debris like pollen from the ear canal.

Food Allergies

With the long list of ingredients on dog food labels, it can be hard to pick out what exactly your dog is allergic to. Some of the most common allergens include beef, chicken, eggs, and dairy.

Plans designed to pinpoint a food allergen can also be difficult. One option is to try switching to a “novel protein” like deer, kangaroo, or some types of fish, or abandon a grain-free diet. Before making a drastic change in your dog’s diet, consult your vet and make sure you shift over gradually. Another way to help is to buy specific dog foods for allergies.

Mites

Dogs who live with cats are more susceptible to mites. Dogs with ear mites are also more likely to get bacterial and yeast infections.

Symptoms of mites include:

  • Scratching around the ears and head
  • Head shaking
  • Dark and waxy ear discharge that resembles coffee grounds
  • Foul smell from the ear

According to PetMD, a vet can easily identify mites under a microscope. You can try to recognize them at home by taking a chunk of debris and spreading it on a dark background. Live mites look like white moving specks, about the size of a pinhead.

Can you use an ear cleaner for mites?

Yes! Ear cleaners with anti-parasitic properties, and that are designed to clear out debris, can help. They should be used in tandem with a mite killing medication. There are over-the-counter mite treatments that work in around a dozen doses, or those that work with one dose that are prescribed by a veterinarian.

Trapped Objects

This is the least common ear ailment and usually consists of small objects like airborne debris, pieces of cotton swabs (don’t use these), dead insects, leftover topical ear medication, etc. It can also be caused by over bathing or flushing of the ear.

Can you use an ear cleaner for trapped objects?

Sometimes. However, some ears are too dirty, or the object too large, to be removed this way. Another heads up: cleaning ears can push objects further in if you use a cotton ball or swab. Instead, use gauze and don’t push too far in.

What about homemade dog ear cleaners?

As we become more aware of the adverse effects of pesticides, bleach, pollution and other harmful chemicals in our homes and environments, natural remedies have become more common. For this reason, you may be wondering if homemade dog ear cleaners are safe to use in your dog’s ears.

Before trying to make a homemade dog ear cleaner, consult your vet. They can tell you what’s safe and not safe to use in your dog’s sensitive ears. Some homemade cleaner ingredients, like vinegar, are disinfectants and anti-fungal. But, they also can sting when applied to your dog’s ears. If your pup has a painful experience during their first time getting an ear flushed, it may make them more fearful in the future.

Other homemade dog ear cleaners like hydrogen peroxide and alcohol are not recommended. They are too harsh and irritating for the ear.

There also aren’t a lot of scientific studies yet on homemade dog ear cleaners. If you’re unsure, buy a pre-made solution like the ones listed above. In the future, hopefully there will be more concrete evidence in favor of using homemade dog ear cleaners.

How to apply a dog ear cleaner

Cleaning a dog’s ears will be the same procedure, regardless of whether you’re treating a yeast infection, excess ear wax, or are preventing future bacterial infections. Some dogs may even come to enjoy an ear cleaning once you find the right solution. Be as gentle and patient as possible.

Step by Step Process

Step One: Kneel on the floor next to your dog.

Step Two: Hold their ear up and tilt their head so the solution won’t spill. Pour in the solution. Make sure not to touch the nozzle to the ear — if you do, clean it with alcohol after use.

Step Three: Let the cleaner sit in the ear for 10-20 seconds. Continue to hold the ear flap up and massage below the ear opening. It’s okay if some drips. Talk to your dog in a soothing voice.

Step Four: Use clean gauze to wipe away the debris inside the ear. Don’t dig in too deep.

Step Five: Allow your dog to shake his or her head to remove the remainder. Having a towel handy can shield you from any cleaner being shaken off

Step Six: Again, wipe debris outward. Don’t go in very far. We recommend using gauze instead of cotton balls to avoid debris getting stuck in the ear. Never use Q-tips or anything that will enter the ear.

Step Seven: Give them a treat.

Step Eight: Repeat with the other ear.

Here’s a helpful video that shows these steps:

Before you clean, build trust

Before you use a cleaner, think about the trust you have with your dog as a bank account. Every time you do something to earn trust, like playing with them, or boosting their confidence with trick time, you’re putting money in the account. Every time you do something undesirable, like taking them to the vet or cleaning their ears, you’re taking money out. Keep trust high by investing more into the account than you remove.

One trick is to give treats in places that your dog considers a “bad area”. For example, in the bathroom where they take baths or have their ears cleaned out.

What if my dog won’t let me apply the cleaning solution?

If at any point during the cleaning process your dog acts like they’re in pain, stop immediately and ask your vet for a different recommendation.

Some dogs have sensitive ears or don’t like their ears touched. If it’s not the solution, but the procedure that bothers them, get them used to their ears being touched through positive associations. Touch your dog’s ear for a few seconds and immediately give them a treat. Repeat several times. They’ll realize that when they let you touch their ear, good things happen.

Establishing an ear routine

It’s our responsibility as pet parents to watch out for our dog’s health and well-being. They can’t tell us how we’re feeling, so we have to be detectives. If they’re used to the routine of having their ears checked, applying a cleaning solution won’t be as much of a struggle. It should be a positive experience associated with cookies and praise.

Puppies should have their ears handled from a young age, but even if you rescued an older dog, they can learn new tricks (contrary to popular belief)! Keep check-up sessions as short as possible at first. If your dog is unsure about the process, make sure they understand everything’s okay and have a choice to leave the situation. They’ll feel much more comfortable if they feel like they have the option to walk away.

Jessica Bennett is a freelance copywriter, bestselling author of the book Connect with Animals and an entrepreneur. She has a BA of English from Colorado State University and 20+ years of experience with animals. She’s a shelter and animal sanctuary volunteer, and grew up training animals on a hobby farm. She lives in Northern Colorado with her husband Peter, cat Eleanor and rescue dog Midnight.