Black Lab getting his ears gently cleaned.

Can I Use Hydrogen Peroxide to Clean My Dog’s Ears?

What do chocolate cake and hydrogen peroxide have in common?
Both are great in moderation.


Can you use hydrogen peroxide to clean your dog’s ears? Yes, hydrogen peroxide has beneficial properties that can help fight infections and keep your dog’s ears clean.  However, if used too frequently or without taking precautions it can also cause problems.


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Is Hydrogen Peroxide Safe for My Dog’s Ears?

Hydrogen Peroxide has many good antiseptic qualities and can be a good agent to use in cleaning your dog’s ears.  However, there are a few things to be aware of.


Hydrogen peroxide kills off ALL of the bacteria in your dog’s ears, the bad and the good.  This can upset the natural flora balance in his ear. Flora are naturally occurring bacteria in the ear that are supposed to be there and help keep things balanced.  When the good bacteria are killed off this can lead to infections.


Another drawback is that Hydrogen Peroxide leaves water behind as it does its job.  This water is then left in the recesses of your dog’s ear canal. That is a perfect breeding ground for bad bacteria.  If this happens and the bacteria spreads it can lead to a bad ear infection.


Also, keep in mind that hydrogen peroxide doesn’t kill off ear mites.  If your dog has mites you will need to get a medication from your veterinarian to take care of them.


Most vets feel that hydrogen peroxide mixed with water is a safe cleaning agent for your dog’s ears as long as you use it in moderation.  Don’t overclean your dog’s ears – once a week is frequent enough. Also, make sure you dry your dog’s ears when you are finished in order to remove any excess dampness. Watch for signs of infection and DO NOT clean your dog’s ears at all if you see any signs.  Keep in mind that the ears are an extension of the skin. If your dog tends to have skin problems (rashes, dryness, etc) then he will probably have ear problems as well and vice-versa.


What is hydrogen peroxide?

Hydrogen peroxide is a mild chemical compound that is made up of hydrogen and oxygen.  Its chemical compound is H2O2.  Hydrogen peroxide is slightly thicker than water and is commonly used as a bleaching agent and as an antiseptic.


You can find hydrogen peroxide in most drug and grocery stores.  It is sold in a diluted form mixed with water.


How to Inspect Your Dog’s Ears

Before you clean your dog’s ears you need to inspect them.  You need to look for any signs of mites or infections. If you find any signs, DO NOT clean his ears. You need to take him to the vet and get that problem taken care of before it’s safe for you to clean his ears normally.


If you see your dog excessively scratching his ears and shaking his head then you should check for ear mites.  Mites are tiny arachnids that are related to tics and they cause a condition commonly known as mange.  Mange is a skin disease that causes itching and hair loss on your dog. Ear mites are microscopic so you can’t actually see them but you can see signs of them.  Look for a dark substance in your dog’s ears that is gritty like coffee. You may also find a dark crust in your dog’s ears or notice that he has rubbed the hair off his ears.  If you see these signs you need to take your dog to the vet and get medication that can kill off the mites and get rid of the skin disease.



Before you clean your dog’s ears you need to make sure they are clear of any infections.  Are his ears red, smelly, or hot to the touch? These symptoms can indicate a bacterial or fungal infection.  If there is any kind of a discharge in your dog’s ears then there is probably an infection present. Another sign of ear infections is your dog being overly sensitive to anyone touching his ears. If your dog shows any signs of an infection you need to take him to the vet for medication. Do not clean his ears, as anything you do could actually make the infection worse.  Untreated ear infections can lead to permanent damage and even hearing loss.


When we brought our Black Labrador, Trooper, home from the shelter we noticed a foul smell coming from him.  We thought his teeth were in desperate need of cleaning and that it was causing horrible breath.  It turned out that he had a nasty bacterial ear infection. We took him to the vet immediately and he was put on medication for it.  Since we found it early, the infection cleared up quickly. It was amazing how rapidly it healed and the foul smell went away. Ever since then, we have been diligent to check his ears as we would hate for him to have to go through that again.


If your dog’s ears are clear of both mites and infections, you can then move forward with cleaning his ears.


How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

You should clean your dog’s ears about once a week.  If you do it more frequently than that, you can dry them out or irritate them.  If you clean them less frequently, they can gather bacteria that can cause infections.


Supplies You’ll Need

Have all of your materials ready.  You should have:

  • Cleaning Solution (such as Hydrogen Peroxide, or one chosen from the list below),
  • Lots of Cotton Balls or Pads, and
  • A Dry Cloth.


Do not use Q-tips when cleaning your dog’s ears as it is too easy to insert them too deeply and injure his ears.  Your dog’s ear canal is L-shaped so you can’t clean too deeply anyway – which is helpful since you don’t want to.  You only want to clean the outer area of your dog’s ears, just like you would on yourself.


It’s always a good idea to start with a calm, relaxed dog.  Play a game of catch with him or take him for a walk to get out some of that abundant energy.  After that, take the time to pet him, rub his belly and try to make him as calm as possible. Make ear-cleaning time something to look forward to for your dog.


It’s a good idea to clean your dog’s ears outside or in the bathroom as things can get messy.  dogs aren’t always thrilled to have their ears cleaned and things might get spilled as they try to resist.


Put a small amount of your preferred cleaning solution on a cotton ball and start massaging your dog’s ear.  Start near the ear canal but never in it. You don’t want to go too deep as this could damage your dog’s ears.  Massage the solution gently into the skin allowing it to loosen dirt and wax. Your dog may want to shake his head. Go ahead and let him.  This will help to loosen the debris. Repeat this process using clean cotton balls as needed and continue from the inside of the ear to the outer edges.  Starting near the canal and moving away from it will pull the dirt away from the ear. If you start on the outer edges and move towards the canal you may push dirt and wax into your dog’s ears.  If your dog’s ears are particularly dirty or waxy then repeat the procedure until everything is clean. Afterward, wipe down his ears with a dry cloth.


When you have finished the process reward your dog with a treat so that he will know there is something to look forward to at the end of every ear cleaning.


Possible Ear Cleaning Solutions

Hydrogen peroxide is just one of the products you can use to clean your dog’s ears  Below I have listed a few of the cleaning solutions you can choose from. However, the one product you should never use is rubbing alcohol.  The inside of your dog’s ears is soft and sensitive. Rubbing alcohol can dry them out and cause rashes.


Hydrogen Peroxide Solution

When using hydrogen peroxide make sure you dilute it with water.  Use one part hydrogen peroxide to one part water (ie.1 tbsp of each) and mix together.  Also, make sure you are using a 3% hydrogen peroxide product. You don’t want the solution to be too strong.


White Vinegar Solution

To make your own white vinegar solution, mix one part white vinegar to one part water. This solution seems to be beneficial for dogs that have chronic yeast and bacterial infections.


Apple Cider Vinegar Solution

Mix ⅓ cup apple cider vinegar with ⅔ cup lukewarm water.  This solution has a better odor than the white vinegar solution and cleans just as well.


Store Bought Solutions

If you don’t like to make your own solution or just prefer to use something your vet recommends, there are plenty of ear-cleaning solutions that you can pick up at your local pet supply store.


Oils for Waxy Build-Up

If your dog has a large amount of wax in his ear, but otherwise his ears seem clean, then you can use a little bit of almond, mineral or olive oil to help loosen the wax.  Squeeze a few drops onto the waxy area or put them on a cotton ball and gently rub to loosen the wax. Allow your dog to shake his head to disperse the oils then gently massage the wax off with a dry cloth.


A hydrogen peroxide solution can be a great, cheap product to use to clean your dog’s ears, just make sure you follow the precautions specified above.  Check for infections and mites first. If there is any sign of either, don’t clean his ears, take him to the vet to have his ears checked. If everything looks good then clean your dog’s ears regularly but not more than once a week.  If you have any questions or concerns about your dog’s ears, call and talk to your veterinarian about your concerns.