The 5 Best Dog Ear Cleaners of 2019

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 do you want one that’s better for preventing infections with anti-bacterial and antifungal properties? To help your search, we reviewed hundreds of products and thousands of pet owner reviews to give you the top 10 best dog ear cleaners.

1. Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser

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PetListed Verdict:

The Virbac Epi-Otic ear cleaner remove 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 ear cleaners. It can be used for both cats and dogs.

Key Details:

  • Vet recommended
  • Helps to prevent reoccurring infection
  • Good for dogs with allergies
  • Works for both cats and dogs, though dog preferred in reviews
  • Citrus smell

2. VetWELL Dog and Cat Ear Cleaner

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PetListed Verdict:

The 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 product 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 cats and dogs
  • Made in the USA

3. Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone

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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 its 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
  • Works 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 well suited for dogs with sensitive skin, and those prone to have 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. Vet Solutions Ear Cleansing Solution

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PetListed Verdict:

The Vet Solutions Ear Cleanser is an effective, simple cleaner than can be used daily on your pup. The formula helps deodorize, clean, and dry the ear canal, while also preventing further microbial growth.

Key Details:

  • Prevents against microbial growth inside the ear canal
  • Can be used daily on your dog or cat
  • Some reviewers with picky dogs have recommended pouring the cleaner on a cotton ball and swabbing it inside the dog’s ear

Buying Guide For The Best Dog Ear Cleaners

We want what’s best for our dogs, because they’re of course part of the family. That’s why we have to take care before choosing the best dog ear cleaner to use. Dog ears are sensitive. And there are a few different reasons to clean a dog’s ears.

For that reason you may have a lot of questions about the best dog ear cleaners:

– 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?

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 ear cleaners, when you shouldn’t use an ear cleaner at all and more.

What are dog ear cleaners?

Dog ear cleaners are a solution that usually contain anti-inflammatory, anti-fungal or anti-bacterial properties. Sometimes all three. They are most common as a liquid, but some cleaner solutions are a foam consistency or a prescription cream. Some are used to prevent or treat infections and other ear problems. Some are better at removing ear wax and debris.

When should dog ear cleaners be used?

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

Taylor Moritz, a vet tech says, “I like dog ear cleaners! Some dogs just have dirty ears and cleaning them out every once and 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 dog ear cleaners can irritate their ear canal, which could lead to infection. So use ear cleaners about once a month, but not too much more than that.
If your dog already has an ear problem or you want to watch out for the signs, in the next section we’ll go over the most common ailments dogs face with their ear health. You’ll know how to spot symptoms and treatment options, including whether an ear cleaner is beneficial or not.

What are the most common types of ear problems in dogs? Can I use a dog ear cleaner to treat them?

Two well-known ear problems are bacterial infections and yeast infections. Chances are, you know someone whose dog has suffered with one of these infections. For dogs with chronic cases of these infections, dog ear cleaners can help prevent the problem.
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
  • a 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. That way, strains of 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 infection.

Yeast Infection

Almost always, there’s an underlying cause to yeast infections: allergies. The two types of allergies you should consider are airborne allergies and food allergies. We’ll go over their symptoms and treatments next. Allergies lead to excess oil on the skin. And excess oil makes the eardrum a great place for yeast to multiply.

Symptoms according to WebMD 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 tend to smell a lot stronger. And they can appear all over the skin, not just in the ears. If it does spread, the skin will have the same crusty, scabby or reddened appearance as you will notice in the ear. When you touch it, it will feel like a waxy residue.

A vet can diagnose a yeast infection by looking in the ear or taking a sample from the middle ear. For middle ear infections, treat it orally. For outer ear infections, it can 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! How to clean dog 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 sensitive allergies can tell you, they 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 allergies during allergy season. That could mean keeping your dog inside in the summer. If this is the case, make sure to keep your dog’s wellbeing up by playing with him or her a little every day.

Can you use an ear cleaner for allergies?

Yes! Cleaners for sensitive dogs can provide some relief and can 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 a food allergy. PetMD says the most common food allergies are beef, chicken, eggs and dairy. Protocols designed to pinpoint a food allergen can be difficult. You can first try switching to novel protein foods like deer, kangaroo or some types of fish, or get off a grain-free diet. Before making a drastic change in your dog’s diet, consult with a vet and make sure the shift gradually.

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 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 medications that work in around a dozen doses or ones that work in one dose that you have to get from a veterinarian.

Trapped Object

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. You don’t want to get shampoo in your dog’s ear.

Can you use an ear cleaner for trapped objects?

Sometimes. However, some ears are too dirty or the object is too large to be removed this way. Cleaning the ears can push objects further in if you use a cotton ball or swab. Instead, use gauze and don’t push it 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 everything from the common cold to household cleaners. 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 homemade dog ear cleaners, consult a vet. They can tell you what’s safe and what’s not safe to use in your dog’s sensitive ears. Some homemade dog ear cleaners, like vinegar, are disinfectants and anti-fungal. But, they also can sting when applied if your dog has open sores in his ear. If your dog has a painful experience his or her first time getting his ear flushed, it might make them more fearful in the future of getting their ears cleaned.

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

There aren’t a lot of scientific studies yet on homemade dog ear cleaners. If you’re unsure, buying a premade solution like the ones listed above. A vet can offer recommendations. In the future, hopefully there will be more concrete evidence in favor of using homemade dog ear cleaners.

How to apply dog ear cleaners

Before you use a dog ear cleaner, think about the trust you have with your dog as a bank account. Every time you do something to earn more trust with your dog like give him choices, play with him or boost his confidence with trick time, you’re putting money in the account. Every time you do something undesirable to your dog like take him to the vet, clean out his ears or give him a bath, you are taking money out of the account. Keep trust high by investing more to the account than you take out.

That can mean making positive experiences happen in the place you clean his ears. If you clean his ears in the bathroom and only bad things happen there, that particular account is low. Play games or give treats in that area. If you can, it helps to have two people present for anything like ear cleaning. One person can provide comfort, while the other person applies the solution.

How to clean dog ears with a yeast infection, bacterial infection prevention, for ear wax removal or for any reason will have the same procedure. Some dogs even come to really enjoy an ear cleaning once you find the right solution and they know what to expect. Be gentle and as patient as possible.

The process for administering a dog ear cleaner

Step One – Position yourself kneeling on the floor next to your dog.

Step Two – Hold the ear up and tilt the head so the solution won’t spill much. 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 sit in the ear for 30 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 rest.

Step Six – Again, wipe debris outward. Don’t go in very far. Use gauze instead of cotton balls and Q-tips to avoid cotton debris getting stuck in the ear.

Step Seven – Give them a treat.

Step Eight – Repeat with the other ear.

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 cleaning solution 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 this several times. They’ll realize that when they let you touch their ear, good things happen. Don’t force them.

Make ear cleaning easier by establishing a routine

It’s our responsibility as pet parents to keep an eye out for our dog’s health and wellbeing. They can’t tell us how we’re feeling, so we have to be detectives. Learning to take your dog’s pulse and being able to handle different parts of your dog’s body can help when problems occur. If they’re used to the routine of having their ears checked, applying an ear 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 dogs, they can learn new tricks (contrary to popular belief)! Keep checkup sessions as short as possible at first. If your dog is unsure about the process, make sure they understand that everything’s okay and they have a choice to leave the situation. They’ll feel much more comfortable if they know they have the option to walk away.

Not only does it make ear cleaning easier, it will help you be proactive about catching a problem. We like to think we’re in tune with our dogs. But if we don’t take the time to actively check in with them, we may not be doing as good of a job as we think. Infections and disease are much easier to treat if they’re caught early.

Jessica Bennett
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.