How to clean a dog’s ears


  • Most dogs don’t need their ears cleaned regularly, so unless you notice a problem it’s best to leave them alone.
  • However, if your dog suffers from very waxy/dirty ears or gets ear infections regularly, it may help to clean them from time to time.
  • Always speak to your vet before cleaning your dog’s ears to make sure they don’t need any medication beforehand.
  • For more information check out our article Ear Problems in Dogs.

What you’ll need to clean your dog’s ears

How to clean your dog’s ears

  1. Look inside your dog’s ears – if they look red, inflamed, seem painful, or smell pungent, contact your vet before cleaning them because they might have a problem (such as an ear infection or ear mites) that needs treatment before they can be cleaned.
  2. Put gloves on and get ready with your ear cleaner, cotton wool and some treats for your dog.
  3. Place the nozzle of the ear cleaner bottle into the entrance of your dog’s ear – see image below.
  4. Squeeze some liquid out of the bottle (one big squeeze is usually enough), put the bottle to one side and gently massage the base of the ear to loosen up any dirt and wax.
  5. Let your dog shake their head (watch out for flying liquid), then use cotton wool to wipe away any dirt from the entrance of their ear. Never use a cotton wool bud as you risk pushing dirt further into the ear, or popping the eardrum if you push it in too far.
  6. Reward your dog with a treat afterwards to make it a positive experience for them.
An illustration showing how to clean your dog's ears

How often should I clean my dog’s ears?

There is no need to clean your dog’s ears unless they are very dirty, waxy or your vet has asked you to. Many dogs go their whole life without needing their ears cleaned.

When to contact your vet

  • Always contact your vet before cleaning your dog’s ears, especially if you’ve noticed a problem –they might need some medication as well as, or instead of, being cleaned.
  • It’s also important to get in touch with your vet if they have asked you to clean your dog’s ears but your dog won’t let you.


Can I use olive oil to clean my dog’s ears?

Whilst there isn’t any harm in using olive oil, it’s a messy option and tends to be more difficult to apply than a dog-safe ear cleaner. You will need more equipment like syringes or an ear dropper, and the oil needs to be warmed to your dog’s body temperature (no hotter)!

My dog has been prescribed ear cleaner and drops – which way round do I apply them?

Clean your dog’s ears first, and then apply the medicated drops approximately 15 minutes later.

Can I use my cat’s ear cleaner on my dog?

No – dog ears are very sensitive so only ever use a dog-safe ear cleaner.

Will cleaning my dog’s ears get rid of ear mites?

Cleaning your dog’s ears will help to remove some ear mites, but they will need medication to get rid of them completely.

Published: March 2023

Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only. Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst.