Your dog's ears are an essential part of their hygiene and health, but ear cleaning solutions are often overlooked. A great solution will help to flush out wax and also eliminate bacteria that could lead to clogs or ear infections.
Ear cleaning solutions come in a variety of forms, including liquid cleaners, wipes, and powders. The best solutions are backed by veterinary research, clean effectively, and include ingredients that are beneficial to your dog's skin, in addition to having antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Our favorite ear cleaning solution for dogs is Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser, which combines day-to-day hygiene with medicinal ingredients that can stop a serious infection from progressing—all without causing dryness or irritation. We have several other product recommendations that may work even better for your pooch. However, you should consult with your veterinarian before introducing a new treatment as part of your dog's daily hygiene.
Here are best dog ear cleaning solutions.
Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser for Dogs & Cats
Effectively dries the ear canal
Bottle is prone to leaking
Our pick for the best dog ear cleanser is Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser, which provides fast-acting and powerful protection against infection while also serving as an effective day-to-day cleaner. It is frequently recommended by veterinarians and works with most breeds of pups. Designed with a keratolytic formula, the liquid solution works wonders to remove proprietary wax and debris, preventing buildup that can lead to discomfort or infection. It is also recommended for use with dogs who swim or are exposed to water because of its ear-canal-drying abilities. Additionally, the Virbac cleanser has neutral pH and helps with combating bad odors without interfering with other additional cleaning treatments you might want to apply if your dog is really struggling with an infection. It has a pleasing fragrance, however, some may find it too strong, so keep this in mind if you or your dog is sensitive to smells.
Perhaps most importantly, Virbac has an excellent track record when it comes to soothing dogs’ skin. While even some popular products risk irritating dogs’ ears and skin in the cleansing process, this cleanser has monosaccharides and can soothe the dogs’ skin and ear canal. The formula also works to prevent unwanted material from hardening and attaching to the ear canal, which can be a direct road to pain and infection. Even better, compared to other vet-cosigned, high-quality ear cleaners on the market, the Epi-Otic cleanser boasts a reasonable price tag of just under $20 for an 8-ounce bottle. (Other extra-strength alternatives will run slightly to significantly higher, whereas milder, more proprietary products drop below $15.) Make sure to store the bottle upright and twist the cap tight to prevent the bottle from leaking.
Key Ingredients: Water, ethoxydiglycol, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, disodium EDTA, docusate sodium, triethanolamine, phenoxyethanol, chloreoxylenol, salicylic acid, fragrance, D-galactose, D-mannose, L-rhamnose, and FD&C Blue #1. | Volume: 8 ounces
Best for Infections
ZYMOX Otic Enzymatic Solution With 1% Hydrocortisone
Precision targets bacteria
Made in the U.S.
Stronger than needed for some dog owners
One of the most effective, extra-strength ear-cleaning solutions for your pup is this bio-active ear cleaner. ZYMOX Otic Enzymatic Solution With 1% Hydrocortisone tops lists of vet-recommended products for dog ear health due to its precision targeting of nefarious bacteria and the superior relief it provides from painful ear conditions. The liquid formula also includes a dose of hydrocortisone, which is a crucial agent for cracking down on general ear inflammation, as well as allergic reactions, itching, and discomfort.
The formula is housed in a 1.25-ounce or 4-ounce bottle that has an applicator top for easy application. It’s completely manufactured in the U.S. and can easily be found in local pet stores and online retailers. If there’s any downside to the product, it is that it may be a stronger solution than some dog owners need for everyday use. But for dogs with allergies or other chronic conditions or who are prone to irritation or unwanted buildup in the ears, it’s the ideal product among the widely available options on the market.
Key Ingredients: Benzyl alcohol, dextrose, glucose oxidase, glycerin, hydrocortisone, hydroxypropyl cellulose, lactoferrin, lactoperoxidase, lysozyme, potassium iodide, propylene glycol, purified water. | Volume: 1.25 or 4 ounces
Pet MD Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes
Wipe size is small
Pet MD’s wipes function as a welcome balm for your pup’s ears and a deceptively tough agent against infection and debris buildup. These are great for use with dogs who regularly get dirty ears. Depending on how large your dog’s ears are, you may need to use more than one to get the job done since they are quite small and thin in size. However, they come in packs of 100, making them long-lasting and cost-effective. Each wipe is infused with aloe vera and eucalyptus oil and helps to soothe your dog’s skin and minimize irritation. They also reduce unwanted odors by replacing them with a breezy cucumber-lemon scent. We’re not pretending your dog’s ears will smell like a flower patch, but they will smell better without relying on potentially hazardous ingredients (just note that the fragrance can be overpowering if you’re sensitive to smells).
The wipes also match up to other products on the market for keeping the ear canal dry and free from infection. Formulated and approved by vets, Pet MD’s domestically made products are designed to produce real and tangible results when it comes to your pet’s long-term health, so don’t fear that these gentle wipes are less potent than other comparable ear solutions for dogs.
Key Ingredients: Purified Water, Glycerin, Propylene Glycol, Disodium Laureth Sulfosuccinate, Polysorbate 20, Aloe Barbadensis (Aloe) Leaf Juice, Eucalyptus Globulus Leaf Oil, Lactic Acid, Salicylic Acid, Tetrasodium EDTA, Methylisothiazolinone, Sodium Benzoate, Fragrance, Red 33, Blue 1. | Volume: 100 wipes
Vet Organics EcoEars Dog Ear Cleaner
Can be used weekly
Made in the U.S.
Not ideal for treating intense infections
Applicator top could be more precise
If you’re a pet owner concerned about staying organic or exposing your dog to potential irritants, this ear cleaner is for you. Crafted with herbs and botanicals, the solution promises to clean out dirt, wax, and debris and reduce the likelihood of infection. It also helps to reduce and soothe itching, ear discharge, and overall discomfort. Just note that since the formula is so gentle, this may not be the best solution if your dog is already experiencing an intense ear infection. Use it in your weekly grooming routine and after any water activities.
Like other liquid options on this list, it comes housed in a bottle with an applicator top. However, the top isn’t as precise as other designs, so it’s easy to over-pour the solution if you aren’t careful. If your dog moves around a lot, the brand recommends pouring it onto a cotton ball and using the solution as you would a wipe. Also, keep in mind that this product is not advertised as vet-recommended, so it may be best to check with your veterinarian before purchasing.
Key Ingredients: Deionized Water, Witch Hazel Extract, Denatured Alcohol, Vegetable Glycerin, Polysorbate 20 (food grade), Boric Acid, Tea Tree Oil, Ionic Silver Solution, Organic Mullein Leaf Extract, Rosemary Extract, and Fingerroot Extract. | Volume: 8 ounces
Vet's Best Ear Relief Wash
Can be used daily
Formulated by veterinarians
Not ideal for treating intense infections
Bottle is prone to leaking
Formulated by veterinarians, this alcohol-free solution is another great cleanser that uses organic ingredients to cleanse your dog’s ears. It promises to reduce itching and irritation while also absorbing odors that can often appear during infections. Since it has such a gentle formula, it’s great for day-to-day cleanings after swimming, bathing, playtime, etc., but note that it may not be strong enough for an aggressive ear infection. However, it’s been proven to be a favorite among most breeds and sizes of dogs when it comes to a cleanser that goes down easy and without adverse side effects.
It’s available in two sizes (4 or 16 ounces) and is manufactured in the U.S. While the bottle has a handy applicator tip that makes it easy to apply, make sure to tighten it as best you can when storing it since it does tend to leak. Overall, this is a simple and affordable product that you can rely on to keep your dog’s ears in tip-top health.
Key Ingredients: Yucca, aloe vera, chamomile, teatree oil, clove oil and echinacea | Volume: 4 or 16 ounces
Miracle Care R-7 Step 1 Dog Ear Powder
Effectively cleans the ear canal
A little goes a long way
Not ideal for treating intense infections
Part of a two-step system
While they’re not an equal alternative to liquid solutions, powder formulas, like this one from Miracle Care, are a great option for preventing issues before they happen. This particular formula keeps the ear canal clear of wax and debris, namely hair, to help prevent infections from forming. It is formulated without harsh ingredients, so it’s a great gentle option. For general ear health day-to-day, the powder is a reliable go-to, but if your pup is suffering from some serious discomfort due to bacteria and fungus, reach for a stronger and more heavily medicated product.
Available in a 12-gram bottle, a little bit of this powder goes a long way. To apply it, puff the powder in your dog’s ear or take a less direct approach by putting it onto your fingers and then spreading it on your dog’s ear. Then use tweezers, forceps, or your fingers to pull out the excess hair. Keep in mind that it is part of a two-part system, so to up its effectiveness you can follow it with the brand’s Step 2 Ear Cleaner, a liquid formula that helps to flush your dog’s ear.
Key Ingredients: Zinc oxide, silicon dioxide, methyl salicylate, rosin, bentonite | Volume: 12 grams
After extensive research, we decided on the Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser as the best choice for a default cleanser. Its formula keeps ears clean, assuages irritation, and both suppresses and battles infection. For dogs with chronic issues or dealing with a serious ailment, however, ZYMOX Otic Enzymatic Solution with 1% Hydrocortisone may be an even better choice because it includes extra potent ingredients like hydrocortisone and a patented enzyme formula.
What to Look for in a Dog Ear Cleaning Solution
Before picking the kind of cleansing product you purchase, take the behavioral tics and preferences of your pup into account. Make sure your dog doesn’t react adversely to the feeling of liquid in their ear. There are also wipe and powder solutions that may make regular ear cleaning a less traumatizing experience for both you and your dog. Still, it’s important to make sure that you are using an effective cleanser and are not significantly compromising your dog’s ear health for ease of application.
Some veterinarians discourage using wipes over liquid cleansers because they do not provide coverage of the entire ear canal. But while wipes won’t handle the depths and difficult angle of your pup’s inner ear, they can be an excellent solution for maintaining consistent ear health for dogs who struggle during full-on flushings. It is definitely a worthwhile supplement when used in conjunction with other heavy-duty cleaning products—ones that may not need to be used outside of emergencies.
Many dog ear cleaning solutions on the market come with a veterinary stamp of approval or were formulated by veterinarians specifically. Generally, this means clinical trials have been performed and that the products are free of potentially harmful ingredients. Still, it’s important research about any solution you invest in, and in the best-case scenario, you should also discuss your choice with your vet after they’ve inspected your pup’s ears. Then they can be sure that you are making an investment that suits your dog’s specific needs.
While it is often satisfying just to clean the gunk out from your dog’s ears—and certainly to freshen them up odor-wise—it is crucial to invest in ear-cleaning products with antibacterial or antifungal ingredients. Purely hygienic products can work wonders, but they do almost nothing to assuage serious ear health problems. Therefore, make sure you understand exactly what your chosen ear cleansing accessory is designed to do.
How do I use ear cleaning solution for dogs?
The recommended way to apply cleansing solution or wipes is to sit your dog between your legs, hold their ear up and angle it vertically, and fill the ear canal with the cleansing product. After massaging the base of the ear, you can clear away debris using a product like gauze or a wipe. Your dog can shake his head to push any excess liquid out of the ear canal, allowing you to free more wax or debris from their outer ear. Using wipe cleansing products can save a step, but may not clean the ear as deeply.
Does dog ear cleaning solution expire?
It does—usually after about a year from the manufacturing date. There are rarely serious side effects to using dog ear cleansers that are past their expiration date; they will just be less effective, potentially leading to your pup getting to the vet later than they need to when dealing with a significant infection.
Can dogs use human ear cleaning products?
No, most veterinarians highly discourage pet owners from using their own ear health products on their dogs. Many cleaners designed for humans contain hydrogen peroxide, which can cause water to build up in the ear canal rather than be flushed out. Ultimately, this has the potential to cause additional pain and make ear infections worse.
Why Trust The Spruce Pets?
Winston Cook-Wilson is an experienced writer and editor whose work has appeared on The Guardian, The Ringer, Vice, and more. This product roundup was compiled with the help of lists of canine aural health products endorsed or directly developed by professionals. In addition to reports by dog health professionals, he checked the safety and efficacy of the ingredients in each product on addressing canine ear health needs. He also took note of whether the potent elements in each product were medicinal compounds or organic extracts.
The most important distinction he had to make was between products that promote ear cleanliness and ward off infections, and those that are capable of stopping them once they begin; he noted each products’ strength in those areas in our descriptions. He also checked the volume of the solutions against their price tag and consulted consumer testimonials to make sure that each of our chosen cleansers was a practical investment in their respective price ranges.