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Homemade Dog Ear Cleaner: 5 DIY Ways to Clean Your Dog’s Ear

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If you’re looking for a more natural way to keep your furry friend’s ears nice and clean, you may be relieved to hear that homemade dog ear cleaners can be made quickly, easy, and relatively cheaply.

In fact, some of the recipes we’re about to look at today can be made using little more than the kind of ingredients you’re likely to already have in your home, making them a great, affordable alternative to even the best over-the-counter ear cleaners.

Those that require ingredients you may not already have can still prove to be relatively inexpensive. What’s more, they also offer the peace of mind that comes from knowing exactly what’s in your cleaning solution, something which is particularly important for pet owners concerned about the ingredients used in store-bought solutions.

Below, we’ll talk you step by step through each of the most common DIY ways to clean your dog’s ears. We’ll also talk about when their ears may need more specialist treatment than a simple homemade cleaning solution, including how to tell if their ears are infected, and what to do about it. 

Top 5 Homemade Dog Ear Cleaners 

1. Traditional Water and Vinegar

Water and vinegar has long been considered the most popular DIY ear-cleaner for dogs and typically prove to be every bit as over-the-counter options such as Vet Organics EcoEars

Traditional Water and Vinegar

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • 1 x Half a cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 x Full cup of room temperature water
  • Cotton balls
  • Squeeze bottle.

How to use water and vinegar to clean your dog’s ears

For the water, either use bottled water or boil tap water and leave it to cool to room temperature before use. This helps to eliminate the risk of bacteria in tap water causing infections or skin disorders.

If you don’t have any white vinegar in the kitchen, options like Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar will do the job just as well. 

Mix the two together in a squeeze bottle and set it aside.

Next, take a cotton ball and lightly rub along the inside of the ear, wiping away any visible ear wax.

You can then use the squeeze bottle to flush your dog’s ears with the vinegar/water solution. Be careful to use an appropriate amount for your dog. Small breeds will obviously require a much smaller amount of ear cleaner than large-breeds like Golden Retrievers or Saint Bernards

Massage your dog’s ears so that the solution can move around inside, with the vinegar breaking up any stubborn gunk.

Finally, use a cotton ball to wipe the inside of the ear again so that it’s clean and dry. 

2. Advanced Water/Vinegar Solution 

A basic water/vinegar solution is great if your dog’s ears are simply a little mucky and need a good clean out, but if they’re showing signs of ear infection, then you may need something a little more advanced.

This recipe takes the same water/vinegar cleaner above and adds a few more ingredients so that it can serve as both an ear cleaner and a natural alternative to popular canine ear drops.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 x half cup of white vinegar or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 x cup of water
  • 1 x half teaspoon of boric acid
  • 3 or 4 drops of Betadine Antiseptic 
  • 3 or 4 drops of Isopropyl rubbing alcohol.

The addition of Betadine, boric acid, and Isopropyl rubbing alcohol makes it a good homemade remedy for yeast infections and other canine health problems as well as for cleaning out their ears. 

So, if you’re convinced that you want an all-natural approach to keeping your furry friend safe and healthy, it might be a good idea to keep these ingredients to hand so that you’ve always got a ready-made solution should the occasion call for it

To use this advanced water/vinegar solution, simply follow the same process as before:

  1. Mix the solution in the squeeze bottle
  2. Wipe the ears
  3. Flush the ears with the solution
  4. Wipe again.

3. Glycerin Mix

Glycerin Mix

If your dog’s ears aren’t too full of gunk, you may simply want a nice, gentle cleanser to give them a bit of TLC and leave them feeling soft and nourished. 

If that’s the case, a straightforward glycerin mix may do the trick.

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 x tablespoon of glycerin
  • 2 x tablespoons of boric acid
  • Cotton balls
  • Small bowl or container. 

How to use it:

Mix the glycerin and boric acid together in a small bowl. If your dog is small or particularly sensitive, you might want to dilute the solution a little with a few drops of water.

You can then dab the cotton ball in the glycerin mix and apply it gently to the inside of your dog’s ears.

The boric acid will get to work on breaking up ear wax and cleaning the ear while the glycerin soothes and moisturizes the skin to keep it healthy.

4. Witch Hazel Mix

Witch Hazel Mix

If you don’t have any glycerin to hand but you do have some Dickinson’s Witch Hazel or a similar brand, you can simply use that as a substitute to produce similar results.

What you’ll need: 

  • 1 x half cup of white or apple cider vinegar
  • 1 x half cup of water
  • 2 x tablespoons of boric acid
  • 1 x tablespoon of witch hazel. 

How to use it:

Mix the ingredients together in a squeeze bottle.

Next, wipe your dog’s ear with a dry cotton ball before flushing it with the solution in the squeeze bottle.

Massage your dog’s ears so that the solution moves around and cleans out the ear.

Finally, wipe dry with another dry cotton ball.

With this recipe, you’ve got the best of all the other three recipes.

The boric acid will break away stubborn wax and gunk, the water/vinegar solution will wash everything clean, and the witch hazel will add soothing and moisturizing properties. 

5. Essential Oils 

Essential Oils

Last but not least, essential oils such as lavender or tea tree oil can prove effective for helping our four-legged friends to recover from ear infections and/or skin irritations.

Tea tree oil is especially effective as a natural tick repellent for dogs and can also work well against fungal and yeast infections.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 – 2 drops of tea tree oil or lavender oil
  • 1 x tablespoon of olive oil
  • Cotton balls.

How to use it:

Add your preferred essential oil to a tablespoon of olive oil. The olive oil acts as a carrier that dilutes the essential oil and carries its healing properties into your dog’s skin.

If you’re already familiar with essential oils, you’ll already know how important carrier oils are for humans, so it’s good to remember that the same applies for our beloved pups.

With the oils well mixed, coat a cotton ball in the solution and gently wipe around your dog’s inner ear. 

You can then use a second cotton ball to wipe their ear dry again.

3 Top Tips for Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears 

For the most part, any one of the 5 DIY recipes above should prove effective in getting your pet’s ears free from wax and gunk, but let’s be honest: 

The actual cleaning process isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to manage.

Before you get started, here’s three top tips you may want to consider.

Take Them Outside 

No matter which recipe you use, there’s no escaping the fact that cleaning a dog’s ears is messy business. 

Much as they do when you’re giving them a good wash, your furry friend is likely to shake about the place, sending not only your ear cleaning solution but all kinds of dislodged gunk flying everywhere. 

With that in mind, you may find it best to take them outside, or at least lay down some blankets or sheets to catch any mess. On a similar note, it’s advisable to wear old clothes rather than risk your favorite top getting covered in canine ear wax! 

Avoid Using Q-Tips

It’s sadly all too easy for a q-tip to slide further inside your dog’s ear than is necessary and cause long-term damage.

As such, you’re better off sticking with a soft cotton ball that you can wrap around your finger and use to gently wipe the inside of their ear clean.

Clean the Squeeze Bottle Between Uses

If you’re using a squeeze bottle to flush their ears with your homemade ear cleaning recipe, you may find that some wax and residue build up on the tip of the bottle. Even if you can’t actually see it, it may still be there, so be sure to give the bottle a good clean after you’re finished.

That way, you avoid the risk of reinfecting their ear by re-introducing bacteria into it.

Signs Your Dog’s Ears May Be Infected 

Keeping your dog’s ears cleaned on a regular basis can help to keep them safe, healthy, and free from infection. Yet if you’re worried that your dog may have already been suffering with an infection.

Swelling around the outer-ear

Outer-ear infections are more common in dogs than inner-ear infections.

If your dog’s ear looks swollen there’s a good chance that it’s infected, especially if there’s a larger amount of earwax in their ear than usual.

Excessive digging at the ear

It’s not uncommon for our canine companions to swat at their ears from time to time, but if Fido is persistently going at his ears, that could be a tell-tale sign that something is wrong.

Keep in mind that not all ear infections are visible, so even if you can’t see anything, the fact that they’re paying more attention to their ear than normal is a good sign to get them checked out.

Brown discharge

If your dog is fit and healthy, the inside of their ear should be soft and pink. 

If there’s a dark, brown-colored discharge coming from their ear, that’s a tell-tale sign of infection.

Poor balance

If your dog is struggling with their balance, that could be a sign of an inner-ear infection. This is much more serious than an outer-ear infection and a vet should be consulted immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions About Cleaning Your Dog’s Ears

Can I use water to clean my dog’s ears?

Absolutely. While you’ll normally want to add something like white vinegar to help break up stubborn wax, there’s no reason why you can’t clean your dog’s ear with warm water and cotton wool.

How often should I clean my dog’s ears?

While all dogs should have their ears cleaned once a month, dogs with long ears will need cleaning at least once a week as they get less airflow to their ears which can cause a greater risk of infection.

How do you know if your dog’s ear needs to be cleaned?

If your dog’s ears smell funny or are visibly waxier than usual, it’s a good sign that they’re in need of a clean.

If they’re swatting at their ears or shaking their head more than normal, that’s another good sign. 

The Final Word on Homemade Dog Ear Cleaners  

While all of the DIY dog ear cleaners featured in our guide will be a good solution for keeping their ears healthy and infection at bay, it’s always worth checking in with your vet if you suspect they already have an infection.

If the infection isn’t too serious, they may simply recommend that you carry on as usual, continuing to use the same white vinegar and water solution to restore their ears back to good health.

However, there may be times when the infection requires more serious treatment and specialist medication. In that case, it’s better to follow the doctor’s orders until your beloved companion is feeling better. 

In the meantime, if you’re looking for more doggy DIY ideas, why not try out some of our favorite homemade dog food recipes or check out our guide to making your very own DIY homemade dog paw balm?

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