Sadly ear infections are a way of life in the canine world – especially for floppy-eared breeds like Doodles. The damp, dark environment of their ear can all too easily become the perfect breeding ground for harmful bacteria and fungus. Thick, curly hair in the ear itself further increases the risk of infections, as does frequent time spent in the water.
Ear problems may seem minor, but when left untreated, they can put your pooch at risk of deafness or worse. Plus, even mild infections can have a profound effect on the overall health of your pup. Regular cleaning is the best way to reduce the risk of infections occurring, and now we will talk you through some of the best dog ear cleaner products for this.
Our Top 7 Best Dog Ear Cleaners Based on the Reviews
If you’ve already done all the research on ear cleaning and fighting infections, here are our top picks with links to where you can pick them up. Keep reading for our detailed reviews and how-to guide.
Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone. Super powerful and super effective, Zymox’s Ear Treatment is effective against even antibiotic-resistant microorganisms and contains hydrocortisone for quick relief from ear infection symptoms.
Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner for Dogs. Get rid of dirt, debris, water, and wax in your pet’s ears fast with this potent but mild Advanced Ear Cleaner that’s great for all dogs, especially those that love the water.
EcoEars Dog Ear Cleaner. With 100% natural ingredients specifically picked out for their soothing and drying properties, Vet Organics EcoEars is an ear infection treatment and cleaner all in one.
MalAcetic Otic Cleanser for Dogs. A mild medicated solution, MalAcetic’s Cleanser effectively cleans and dries ears while subtly altering their pH balance to ensure bacteria and fungus don’t flourish.
OtiRinse Ear Cleansing/Drying Solution for Dogs. A convenient option for keeping pup’s ears clean and dry between deep grooms, OtiRinse’s mild, unmedicated solution is suitable for adult dogs and puppies alike.
Pet MD Aloe Vera & Eucalyptus Dog Ear Wipes. Gently remove dirt and wax from the outer part of your pooch’s ears with these handy cleansing wipes from Pet MD with their unique infection-fighting ingredients.
Earthbath Ear Wipes for Dogs. Soft, gentle, pH balanced, and all-natural, Earthbath’s Ear Wipes safely remove infection-causing buildup without causing any irritation even with daily use.
Common Pet Ear Problems
Mild ear infections, otherwise known as otitis externa, are by far the most common type of ear problem for dogs. They are usually caused by an excessive amount of bacteria or fungus in the ear canal. This happens because moisture gets trapped due to the floppy structure of the ear or because of a buildup of wax or debris. This warm dampness makes the ear a great growth environment for these microbes.
According to the experts at the American Kennel Club (AKC), signs that your dog may be suffering from an infection include:
- Excessive discharge or dark-colored wax
- Frantic ear scratching
- Frequent head shaking or rubbing
- An unusual odor
- Swelling or redness in the ear
- Scabs or crusting
They go on to explain how certain dogs (Cocker Spaniels, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, and Miniature Poodles – and, unfortunately, Doodles, too) are more at risk from ear infections than others. This is to do with their hairy ears and/or water-loving lifestyle.
Dogs can also get infections from ear mites – this is especially the case for puppies. If you notice a blackish-brown buildup that resembles coffee grounds in your pal’s ear, then it’s a good idea to get them checked out.
Ear infections rarely go away on their own; they require treatment in the form of an antibacterial/antifungal liquid solution. Regular cleaning can also help ward off infections by removing the dirt and moisture that can cause them.
Dog Ear Cleaners: Buyer’s Guide
Selecting the best ear cleaner for your pet can be a veritable minefield. There are just so many things to factor in. Here are the most important:
Formula and Ingredients
While ear cleaning solutions sound like they should all do the same thing, that is not the case at all. Some are manufactured as treatments, while others are cleaners/dryers or rinses. This distinction is important.
- Treatments are medicated, meaning they contain one or more active ingredients such as salicylic acid or hydrocortisone that target specific problems like fungus or itching. These are for treating an active infection and are not intended for regular use.
- Cleaners and rinses are designed to do just what they say – clean and rinse. These products will likely not contain the necessary ingredients to deal with active ear infections. However, keeping your pup’s outer ear and ear canal sparkling clean will help to prevent infections from occurring in the first place.
Type of Cleaner
If that isn’t complicated enough, there are also different kinds of cleaners that target different areas.
- Wipes are soft cotton pads that often look just like baby wipes. They are used to remove dirt and discharge from around the outer part of the ear only.
- Liquids are made to be dripped down into the ear canal. They break down waxy buildup, remove dirt and debris and/ or treat infections in this part of the ear.
Ideally, both should be included as part of your grooming routine. Used daily, wipes keep dirt from getting into the ear canal. Liquids can be administered after bath time to remove blockages deeper down in the ear.
The internet is awash with homemade solutions for treating this problem or that problem. Vets caution owners against using many of these, explaining that they often do more harm than good. “When the wrong thing is put into the ear is can be hazardous to the health of your pet and can result in deafness.”
Vet-recommended cleaners and treatments have been rigorously tested to ensure they actually do what they say they will. Plus, the ingredients have all been carefully selected to ensure the lowest possible risk that your pup will have an allergic reaction to any of them. Most of the solutions also contain drying agents that vitally remove moisture from the ear canal, making it less likely that bacteria and fungus will multiply.
Best Dog Ear Cleaners: Reviews
Best for Treating Infections and Easing Inflammation
Active Ingredients: Hydrocortisone 1%.
A favorite among vets, Zymox’s Otic Enzymatic Solution has been specifically formulated as a cleaner and treatment in one. Its three active enzymes are antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral, making the product effective against even antibiotic-resistant microorganisms such as Staphylococcus. The active ingredient hydrocortisone, a mild steroid, calms the body’s immune response for quick relief from ear infection symptoms: itching, swelling, redness, and pain.
Reviewers rate this product well for both acute and chronic otitis externa. Admittedly it’s a little on the pricy side compared to other ear treatment products out there – but you really get what you pay for. Pages of reviews document how people tried all kinds of ear drops without luck before stumbling upon this amazing treatment.
With antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties, this solution is incredibly versatile. It can deal with just about every minor ear problem out there.
This treatment is a little too strong (not to mention a little too expensive) to be used as a regular ear cleaner. This one is just for active infections.
Best for Removing Dirt and Reducing Waxy Buildup
Active Ingredients: Salicylic Acid 0.2%
Another vet-recommended product, Virbac’s Advanced Solution, is great for frequent use to prevent ear infections. The active ingredient salicylic acid has both antiseptic and antifungal properties; it also soothes painful swelling and redness. The anti-adhesive glycol technology of the formula prevents microbial attachment, meaning harmful bacteria are quickly and easily flushed from the ear canal. The anti-odor technology eliminates bad smells, replacing them with a mild citrus aroma.
Effective on the gunkiest of ears, those with water-baby dogs particularly love this product’s quick-drying agent, which reduces bacteria and fungus growth. The formula is really mild, meaning that it doesn’t cause any irritation even with regular use. This cleaner is a must-have for all floppy-eared, fur baby parents.
This is a great multi-purpose cleaner with antiseptic properties that make it great for keeping infections at bay – and it smells nice too.
Virbac’s Cleaner can’t treat existing ear infections. It’s to be used as a preventative measure only.
Best for Reducing Itching, Discharge and Odor
With its 100% natural ingredients, this excellent eco-friendly ear cleaner aids in the treatment of the most common symptoms of mild acute or chronic bacterial and fungal ear infections. This includes removing discharge and odor and relieving annoying itching. Moreover, the fast-acting formula also renders the ear canal an inhospitable environment for bacteria and fungus, making ear infections much less likely with regular use.
With the vast majority of pet parents saying they would recommend this product to a friend, it seems to do everything it promises. Reviewers are surprised at how clean it leaves their pet’s ears, removing buildup and gunge with ease. Overall, they are impressed that a solution with all-natural ingredients could do so much.
EcoEars is a great 2-in-1, treating ear infections as it cleans but being mild enough for regular use.
It’s worth noting that it doesn’t have any officially listed active ingredients. Some also commented that the smell was a little overpowering, and their dog didn’t like it. Be careful also with tea tree as some pups can have an adverse reaction to this ingredient. It’s worth doing a patch test on a less sensitive area first.
Best for Halting Bacteria and Fungus Growth
Active Ingredients: Acetic Acid 2%, Boric Acid 2%
MalAcetic’s Otic Cleanser, with its patented acetic and boric acid-based formulation, has been specifically designed to alter the pH balance of the ear canal. This makes it much less attractive to fungus and bacteria. In addition, it helps to quickly dry the ear out, avoiding any irritation after swimming or bathing. Finally, its cleansing and degreasing properties help with removing dirt and keeping this sensitive skin hydrated.
Again, as a preventative cleaning solution used twice a month, this cleaner does an excellent job of keeping ear infections away even in floppy-eared breeds, according to comments on the website. A little goes a long way, and it even seems to relieve itchiness.
Another vet-recommended cleaner that is awesome at preventing ear infections with its excellent active ingredients.
Reviewers are divided on the ‘signature apple fragrance’ with one mentioning that it smelt like vinegar.
Best for Regular Cleaning of Sensitive Ears
Another excellent all-arounder, OtiRinse’s Cleaning and Drying Solution is perfect for routine, weekly, or even bi-weekly cleaning to keep ears free from buildup and in tip-top condition. The acidifying cleansing formula contains ceruminolytic to help break up and dislodge debris and a drying agent to help eliminate moisture. It even has aloe vera, which is excellent for soothing painfully inflamed and itchy skin.
Reviewers are pleased with the price of this product, stating that it works just as well as other more expensive vet-recommended cleaners. Dogs also seem to tolerate it well, even those who are not particular fans of the whole grooming routine. One Labradoodle owner refers to this as being an essential tool for their long-eared, water-loving pup.
This Cleansing/Drying Solution can be included in your regular grooming routine for helping keep your pet’s ears in good health, and the price is right too.
As with the above product, not all pet parents are happy with the strong scent of the product, which they describe as ‘overwhelming.’ However, others mention that it makes their pup’s ears smell clean and fresh.
Best for Keeping the Outer Ear Pristine
Developed by the experts for external ear cleaning, Pet MD’s Wipes are great for quick clean-ups in-between baths when you notice your pup’s ears are starting to get dirty and stinky. They also contain some fabulous ingredients (lactic acid, salicylic acid) for working against the growth of bacteria and/or fungus that can lead to ear infections. Aloe vera and eucalyptus oil soothe and keep your pet’s ears smelling super fresh.
‘Great wipes for Poodles’ (and Doodles by extension, we can assume), one happier purchaser proclaims. They remove a good amount of dirt and ear wax with just one swipe, and once dogs get used to them, they seem to like the relief they give. These wipes also leave the underside of floppy ears nicely dry.
These pads are great for giving your pup a quick clean after a walk or swim to help keep their ears clean and dry.
Unlike the liquid cleaners above, these wipes are not suitable for use inside the ear canal. They also can’t be used to treat existing infections. Some reviewers also mention that they are a little on the small side for larger breeds.
Best for Removing Everyday Dirt and Discharge
Last but not least, for fans of all-natural formulas, Earthbath’s Ear Wipes are fragrance-free and contain witch hazel, a natural cleanser and astringent. These excellent wipes are great for not only removing dirt and wax from around the outer part of your pet’s ear, they also help with keeping the under part of the ear clean and super dry. Beyond that, they work to reduce odor and discharge too.
Great for fussy pups, these wipes make ear cleaning a two-second breeze. Reviewers find them to be non-irritating, even on sensitive skin. They also particularly like that they are unscented – unlike many others of their sort. The pads are soft, which makes them feel super pleasant. Your dog will feel like they are being fussed rather than cleaned.
These kinds of wipes don’t replace ear flushing. Still, they can reduce the frequency that it’s needed quite significantly.
Some people complain that the wipes were thinner than expected. When tackling particularly tricky areas, you might want to reinforce them with a dry cotton pad or gauze.
Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears
As with grooming and bathing, you want to ensure your pup is fully relaxed before attempting to clean their ears. That’s why it’s good to do it after a nice walk or game of fetch. Treats and toys can also help distract them and keep them calm through it.
Then depending on the type of cleaner, you are using, you should do the following:
Gently pull your pet’s ear back and use the pad to wipe away visible dirt and discharge from around the outer part. Carefully work your way into the creases making sure not to exert too much pressure in this sensitive area. Never insert wipes into the ear canal.
The video below demonstrates how to do this.
Liquid ear cleaning, as you can imagine, gets a little messy. So, it’s best to do this either outside or in the bath if you can.
Gently pull your pup’s ear back and up so you can see into the ear canal and squeeze the liquid in until it pools slightly. Keeping a firm hold of your dog’s head, massage the base of the ear for a minute or two to loosen any impacted wax or dirt. You can then let them go to do their head-shaking thing. The force of this will expel everything from inside the ear.
Once they have finished running around like a mad thing, take a cotton ball or gauze and wipe the outer part of the ear clean. Never ever use a Q-tip as, if your pup was to move suddenly and it was to go too deep into their ear; it could cause quite significant damage.
Here is a video demonstrating the process:
If at any point your pet seems to be in any kind of pain or discomfort, quit what you are doing and take them to the vet. This could indicate a more severe problem or a sensitivity to one of the ingredients in the cleaner.
Dog Ear Cleaning: Frequently Asked Questions
What can I use to clean my dog’s ears at home?
There are a wide variety of different products you can use to clean your dog’s ears at home. There are wipes and liquids as well as cleaners, rinses, and treatments. The one you pick will depend on whether you are looking to avoid ear infections or treat them. You may also have specific preferences like all-natural ingredients or a fragrance-free formula.
How often should I clean my dog’s ears?
The frequency of ear cleaning depends very much on your dog. If they are susceptible to ear infections, have a lot of hair in their ear, or spend a lot of time in the water, you will need to do it regularly. To avoid irritation, it’s better to use wipes more often (daily is fine) and liquid cleaners less often (once or twice a week).
Should I clean inside my dog’s ears?
Some dogs never need their ears cleaned. However, if you notice dark-colored discharge, a lot of dirt of moisture in the ear canal, or an unusual odor coming from your pup’s ears, they definitely can do with a clean. Doodles with their floppy, hair-covered ears are likely to need their ears taken care of on a pretty regular basis.
Regular ear cleaning is a vital part of the Doodle grooming routine. Luckily, there are many affordable products on offer to take the pain out of this potentially fiddly task. You should carefully select the right one or one for your dog based on their specific issues. Hopefully, the information included in this article proves useful in helping you do just that.
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The information on this page is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for qualified professional veterinary advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your veterinarian or other qualified animal health provider with any questions you may have.