How Does Dog Ear Wash Work? Tool-Free, Swab-Free Solution.

How Does Dog Ear Wash Work? Tool-Free, Swab-Free Solution.

Dog ear wash – aka dog ear cleaner – is an essential part of a grooming routine. But before you reach for the Q-tips or raid your pantry, read this quick guide.

Scratch, scratch, scratch. Jingle jangle goes the collar. Have you noticed your dog scratching their ears more than normal? This is annoying to you as the pet parent but even more annoying for your dog!

Itchy dog ears are often caused by an abundance of ear wax. So if your dog is scratching a lot, peek inside their ears. If you see more than a small amount of ear wax, it’s time to bust out the dog ear wash!

Did You Know? Dog Ear Wash Can Help Prevent Ear Infections.

Keeping your dog’s ears clean is the #1 defense against dog ear infections and ear inflammation, which can cost hundreds of dollars at the vet to treat. And it’s the bane of every pet parent’s existence to try and hide ear infection pills inside dog treats and peanut butter. Just when you think they’ve swallowed it – psych! – they triumphantly spit it out onto the floor.

Not only does excess ear wax increase the risk of bacterial and fungal infections in the ear, but it can also be painful for dogs if the wax gets deeply impacted in the ear.

But don’t go crazy! A little bit of ear wax is essential for healthy dog ears, as it helps trap and clear out dirt, pollen, harmful bacteria and debris. If you’re overcleaning, you could irritate the ears and ironically make them more prone to infection.

What's normal for dog ear wax?

Normal dog ear wax is pale yellow to tan in color. Sometimes it can look brown if there’s dirt mixed in with the wax.

A small dog should not have more than 1/8 teaspoon of ear wax in their ears; 1/4 teaspoon for medium dogs; and 1/2 teaspoon for large dogs. Obviously, we don’t expect you to put your dog’s ear wax in measuring spoons (Eww), but this should give you a visual idea.

In addition to looking at your dog’s ears on a regular basis to see what’s normal for them (some dogs naturally have more ear wax than others), you should smell their ears too. Ear wax will have a slight odor, but if it ventures into the downright funky zone, you could have a bigger problem on your hands.

Beware of Dog Ear Infections

Excessive ear wax in dogs is often caused by allergies, ear infections, or parasites. Also, certain breeds like Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Bulldogs, Poodles, Beagles, Labradoodles, and Golden Retrievers are more prone to earwax buildup.

If your dog has a lot of ear wax, they may simply need a cleaning with a dog ear wash. However, any time you see excessive ear wax, it’s important to know all the signs of a dog ear infection.

This common ear ailment rarely clears on its own, and left untreated, it can lead to deafness, balance problems, facial paralysis and ear hematomas. Not to mention, ear infections are very painful for our pooches!

Also, don’t take a wait-and-see approach. Most ear infections are of the outer ear, which are relatively easy to treat. But if you let it go, the infection can spread to the middle and inner ears, which are notoriously more difficult (and more expensive) to treat.

Signs your dog's ears are infected

  • Head shaking
  • Ear scratching
  • Yeasty or pungent ear odor
  • Inside of the ear looks red (healthy ears are pink)
  • Ears are hot or swollen
  • Crusting or scabs in the ear
  • Not wanting to have their ears touched
  • Large amount of ear wax
  • Ear wax that looks like coffee grounds (sign of ear mites)

Can You Use Homemade Dog Ear Wash to Clean Dogs' Ears?

There are DIY solutions online for everything under the sun, including dog ear washes. But please proceed with caution before going this route and consult your vet. Some common ingredients in homemade dog ear wash recipes really have no business being in there. Here are ingredients to avoid:

  • Hydrogen peroxide: All of us from a certain generation remember the dread of mom busting out the brown bottle of hydrogen peroxide to tend to our skinned knees. The bubbling! The stinging! Well, imagine if the ouchie was in your ear! Dogs often break the skin in their ears from all the scratching. And if they have an ear infection, the ears can be red and inflamed, making the sting of peroxide that much worse! Plus, even if there are no open scratches in your dog’s ears, using hydrogen peroxide can irritate healthy ear tissue.
  • Alcohol: Just like peroxide, alcohol will sting and burn inflamed dog ears. And if the dog has a ruptured eardrum, you can damage the middle ear. Likewise, if you buy a dog ear cleaning solution, make sure it is alcohol free, as many commercial products that are not vet-approved contain this no-no ingredient.
  • Water: If you’re using straight-up water as a homemade dog ear wash, this can backfire in a big way. Oftentimes, excess wax and ear infections are caused by yeast. Well, guess what? Yeast loves water because it makes it grow, grow, grow. So save the water for their bowl and NOT their ears!

What about vinegar as a DIY dog ear cleaning solution?

Vinegar is often promoted as a way to dissolve ear wax and help control pH and bacteria in the ear. But like alcohol, vinegar can sting dog ears if they are red and inflamed. Before you use vinegar in your dog’s ears, talk to your vet about whether this is a safe option for your dog and what the proper dilution for your pet should be. (Don’t go dumping straight vinegar into their ears!)

How Do Dog Ear Cleaning Solutions Work?

Dog ear cleaning solutions work by penetrating and softening the stubborn debris in the dog’s ears, so it’s easily removed when they shake their heads. Fortunately, you don’t have to train dogs to shake their heads. It’s something they naturally do when they get moisture in their ears, like a dog ear wash.

All you need is a dog ear cleaning solution and a soft cloth, cotton ball or piece of gauze to do it. No cotton swabs or tools required. Seriously, don’t stick Q-tips in your dog’s ears, people! It’s dangerous and just pushes the wax further into the ear canal.

Steps for Using Dog Ear Wash in Your Pet's Ears

  1. Hold the ear flap vertically. The goal is to straighten out and expose the L-shaped ear canal.
  2. Squeeze the dog ear cleaning solution into the ear, stopping when the ear canal is full. (Don’t stick the pointy tip of the applicator into the ear.)
  3. Massage the base of the ear for 30 seconds. This encourages the dog ear cleaning solution to penetrate and break up the oily wax and debris. Hearing a squishy sound is totally normal. That’s the dog ear wash moving in and out of the horizontal section of the dog’s ear canal.
  4. Stand back and let your dog shake, shake, shake. Note: don’t perform dog ear cleaning next to a priceless piece of art, as there may be debris flung around. Bathrooms are good choices.
  5. Wipe away any debris left from the ear with a soft cloth, cotton ball or piece of gauze.
  6. Repeat this process with the other ear, or if you’re a superstar, do both ears at once.

Tip: Keep ear cleaning positive by talking calmly to your dog throughout and giving a treat afterward. They may not love the experience the first few times, but if you stick with it and build a positive association, it’ll soon be smooth sailing. And to ensure that you don’t build a negative association, never use dog ear cleaning solutions formulated with alcohol or peroxide. We don’t want anything that can sting, burn or bubble up inside the dogs’ ears, especially if their ears are red and tender.

Say Hello to the Best Ear Cleaner for Dogs

Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner is the alpha of dog ear cleaning solutions because of how gentle and effective it is. That annoying ear scratching? Not on our watch ... it soothes and relieves itching instantly! And it powers through stubborn ear wax and debris like magic, making dog ear cleaning insanely easy.

Best of all, this premium dog ear wash is hypoallergenic with no stinging, bubbling or irritating ingredients. Oxyfresh Pet Ear Cleaner delivers a soothing ear cleaning experience every time and is an essential part of any pet grooming routine.

  • Easily Removes Wax & Debris: Gentle plant-based surfactants power through ear wax, dirt and debris like magic without leaving oily residue behind.
  • Immediate Itch Relief: Get your dog feeling AHH-mazing again with the veterinarian- and groomer-recommended dog ear cleaning solution that provides instant soothing relief.
  • Odor-Free Ears: Say goodbye to yeasty smelling ears. Formulated with proprietary odor-eliminating Oxygene®, nothing works better to freshen dog ears, fast.
  • Hypoallergenic Dog Ear Wash: Ultra-soothing formula with no burning alcohol, irritating parabens, bubbling peroxides, or fragrances/oils.
  • Made in the USA: Proudly made in the red, white & blue with only the highest-quality ingredients.

Remember: keeping your dog’s ears clean is the #1 defense against ear infections. So don’t wait ... get your paws on the best ear cleaner for dogs and free your pup from the drama of itchy, waxy ears.

Advanced Pet Ear Cleaner | Fast Ear Itch Relief | Removes Dirt & Pet Ear Wax

melissa gulbranson oxyfresh cmo

Meet the Author

Melissa Gulbranson is the Co-Chief Operating Officer & Chief Marketing Officer for Oxyfresh. A recipient of the Pet Age's "Women of Influence" Award, she’s passionate about educating pet parents in ways that really resonate with them. Melissa loves days on the lake and hiking with her fur kid, Parker, and husband, Doug. Parker (a total ham) can be spotted running laps through the office each morning, greeting every team member. You can find Parker near the treats, and Melissa on Linkedin.