The best dog ear cleaners

Dog Health

Sensitive or smelly ears are often signs of inflammation or infection. If your dog suddenly starts flinching when you touch its ears, it may be time to make an appointment with your vet.

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The best ear cleaner for dogs

Proper grooming is an essential aspect of pet ownership if you want to keep your furry companion happy and healthy. This includes often overlooked procedures like clipping their nails and cleaning their ears.

If your dog has been shying away when you rub their ears, it might be a telltale sign there is something wrong. They may be tender from an infection or have some mild inflammation. Dog ear cleaners can help.

This guide covers everything you need to know about cleansing solutions before making a purchase. If you would rather skip right to the chase, you can check out our top recommendation, Virbac Epi-Optic Advanced. It’s a mild formula well suited for routine ear maintenance.

What to know about cleaning dog ears

Why dogs need their ears cleaned

Canines are prone to infection if there is a build-up of dirt and bacteria on their bodies. This is especially true in areas like the ears and between the toes. These dark, tight spaces create the perfect environment for bacteria to grow. Breeds with large, floppy ears are especially susceptible. Cleaning their ears regularly can help prevent infection, inflammation and, potentially, hearing impairment.

Common canine ear issues

A dog’s ears may become tender for several reasons. It could be due to allergies, an injury, mild inflammation or infection. You can treat many of these issues with the use of the right cleansing solution. However, if you suspect your dog has a severe infection, you should consult with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

When to use dog ear cleaners

Most over-the-counter ear cleaning solutions work best when used as a preventative tool. With regular use, you can stop many ear problems before they even get started. Exactly how often you should use a cleansing solution on your dog’s ears depends on many factors. Certain canines and breeds prone to ear infections need them more regularly, whereas others may not. If you notice your dog’s ears often smell, that is a good indication you aren’t cleaning them enough.   

What to consider before choosing a dog ear cleaner

Cleanser type

Dog ear cleaners come as wipes or drops. Each offers its unique benefits.

Otic Drops: Liquid cleansing solutions get deeper into the ears. This promotes a more thorough cleaning, but they can be messy. Most dogs tend to shake their ears when you apply drops into them, resulting in some of the solution flying out and splattering walls and nearby items. Most medicated cleaners are in liquid form.

Wipes: Wipes don’t get as deeply into the ears as drops but are more convenient. They don’t require the purchase of any additional items like cotton balls and are less messy.

Active ingredients

Read the label of any cleaner you are considering to ensure the active ingredients are well suited to your needs. Cleaners that contain alcohol are effective but may be too harsh for some and cause irritation. Ingredients like salicylic acid and lactic acid have antibacterial properties. Steroids like hydrocortisone can help with itching and mild inflammation. Ketoconazole is good for combating yeast infections.

Inactive ingredients

Some cleaners make use of additional ingredients for their soothing or anti-inflammatory properties. These may include aloe, witch hazel, turmeric, green tea, essential oils and other homeopathic ingredients.

Dog ear cleaner scent

Most cleansers have at least some scent. This may be from the active ingredients or an added fragrance. Some owners may prefer a cleaner with an appealing scent. However, you should keep your dog’s comfort in mind and not choose one with a potent fragrance. Canines have a much stronger sense of smell than humans.

How much you can expect to spend on a dog ear cleaner

Most dog ear cleaners cost between $5-$25. Some prescription solutions may exceed this range slightly.

Dog ear cleaner FAQs

Can I make my own dog ear cleaning solution?

Some people may prefer to make their own cleaner at home. We recommend speaking with your veterinarian before attempting this to make sure you aren’t using any potentially harmful or irritating ingredients. 

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

If your dog won’t let you apply the solution, this is more likely because they don’t like their ears being touched rather than an issue with the solution itself. Start by getting them used to having their ears touched. You can desensitize them to the process by touching and massaging their ears regularly throughout the day. You may also want to give them a treat after each session to help them make a positive association with having their ears touched.

What is the best dog ear cleaner to buy?

Top dog ear cleaner

Virbac Epi-Optic Advanced

Virbac Epi-Optic Advanced

What you need to know: A mild cleansing solution, Epi-Optic Advanced can be used regularly without causing dryness or irritation.

What you’ll love: It contains soothing monosaccharides and is free of alcohol and chlorhexidine.

What you should consider: The bottle is small for the price.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon and Chewy.

Top dog ear cleaner for the money

NaturVet Tea Tree Ear Wash

NaturVet Tea Tree Ear Wash

What you need to know: Made with homeopathic ingredients, including aloe vera and echinacea, this cleaner is both gentle and effective.

What you’ll love: It helps dissolve ear wax to prevent buildups. It is also naturally disinfecting and has a pleasant baby powder scent.

What you should consider: The added coloring can stain pale fur.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon, Petco and Chewy

Worth checking out

Burt's Bees Ear Cleaner with Peppermint and Witch Hazel

Burt’s Bees Ear Cleaner with Peppermint and Witch Hazel 

What you need to know: Completely free of sulfates, colorants and added fragrances, this pH-balanced formula is a smart choice for canines with sensitive skin.

What you’ll love: The dropper-style bottle makes it easy to apply without creating a mess. Plus, it leaves ears with a fresh minty scent.

What you should consider: It’s best for routine cleaning rather than treating infections.

Where to buy: Sold by Kohl’s.

Brett Dvoretz is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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