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how to easily clean your dogs eyes and ears at home

How to Easily Clean Your Dog’s Ears and Eyes at Home

Cleaning your dog’s eyes and ears can be difficult, as those areas are so sensitive. That’s why having the right products, setting, and tools are important.

Why It’s Important to Clean Your Dog’s Eyes and Ears

Taking care of your dog’s eye and ear health doesn’t just mean taking them to the veterinarian when you notice something’s wrong (though that’s important, too, of course). It starts with a good routine of hygiene to keep them clean. But why is that so important?

First, the ear. Ears get waxy, and they can even get debris and dirt in them from when your dog goes outside. If hair isn’t properly trimmed, that’s also a problem. Dogs with large ear flaps also can be more prone to a buildup in their ears.

And all that built-up wax and dirt can lead to ear infections. A study in the UK showed that one in every fourteen dogs suffers from an ear infection every year. While a similar study hasn’t been done in the US, some estimate that up to 20% of dogs there have some form of ear disease.

Ear infections can be incredibly painful. Dogs with ear infections usually start shaking their head or scratching to get some relief. The ears will often get red and start to smell bad. There may be discharge as well. Chronic ear infections can even lead to hyperplasia, a closing of the ear canal that often eventually requires surgery.

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Eye health is equally important. When your dog’s eyes are irritated, it can lead to excessive tearing as the eye tries to soothe itself. That irritation can come from many sources: eye infections, eyelash or eyelid problems, pollution, or even allergies.

Allergies can be the hardest cause of irritation to pin down, since those allergens don’t have to be in the air. It may be hard to believe, but if your dog has food allergies it can manifest as eye irritation. Chicken is a common food allergy culprit for eye irritation.

So, as you can imagine, if a dog’s eyes are constantly irritated by allergens in their environment, they will be constantly watering. All those tears can lead to tear stains and eye boogers, too. In addition to preventing those stains, keeping your dog’s eyes clear is important for their long term health and well being.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Eyes at Home

First off, it’s important to note that you should only clean your dog’s eyes when there are no signs of infection or injury. 

For example, if your dog’s eyes are cloudy, red, or weeping heavily, it’s important to see your vet. And injuries can happen when you least expect them – Pet Living family dog, Pepper, literally ran a stick into her eye when running in the woods! If you know or suspect your dog has injured their eye, you need to see a vet immediately.

To  perform a routine cleaning your dog’s eyes, preparation, patience, and perseverance are key. 

First, gather your supplies – an eye wash approved for dogs for the eye itself along with a soft washcloth or dog-approved eye wipe for the area around the eye.

Kristen cleaning her dog's eyes with a wipe.

Next, make sure your dog is calm and relaxed. Spending a few minutes petting your dog to calm them – or planning your eye cleaning for a time of day you know they’ll be calmer – can make a world of difference.

And, if your dog rebels the first time you try to clean their eyes, don’t keep pushing forward but stop and try again at another time. Patience and perseverance may be necessary to finally earn your dog’s trust to clean their eyes properly.

To clean the eye itself, use a dog-approved eye wash while always following the directions on the packaging. It often involves flushing the eye if you see visible irritants or, for a daily “maintenance” cleaning,  applying a few drops to clean and soothe.  

To clean around your dog’s eyes, you may choose to use a damp, soft washcloth to gently wipe away any debris. Personally, I prefer an all-in-one eye wipe that’s designed specifically for dogs, as they are made to be extra gentle and effective.

For good eye health, it’s recommended to clean your dog’s daily, especially if they have had problems with eye infections or tear stains in the past.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears at Home

Just like with cleaning your dog’s eyes, you don’t want to clean your dog’s ears at home if there are any signs of infection. Ear infections need to be treated by your veterinarian. 

However, in healthy dogs, a regular ear-cleaning routine is a great way to keep your dog’s ears healthy and help prevent future infections.

If necessary, start with a trim from a groomer, as long hair around the ears can help capture dirt, debris, and ear wax.

As with the eye cleaning mentioned above, patience and perseverance are critical. Your dog may not like you messing with their ears, especially if they’re older and have never had their ears regularly cleaned. If you have a puppy, it helps to get them acclimated to this care when they’re young.

Kristen cleaning her dog's ears with a wipe.

You can start getting your dog acclimated by simply touching their ears, massaging them, and eventually handling them as you would when cleaning. Remember to do this in short spurts, sometimes even couple of seconds, in order to get them accustomed to the feeling.

Also like with the eye cleaning, a calm atmosphere will work wonders. And, if your dog still doesn’t go along with the cleaning at first, pause for the day and try again another time.

There are two main ways to clean your dog’s ears: with a rinsing solution or with a cleansing pad (both specifically designed for dogs). Always follow the directions as listed on the packaging.

For rinsing solutions, that often involves applying the rinse into your dog’s ears, keeping them from shaking while you massage the base of the ear, allowing them to shake the excess free, then gently wiping their ears afterward with a clean cloth.

With ear wipes, you generally need to gently clean away any dirt or debris from the visible part of your dog’s ear with the wipe.

Which solution is best for your fur family will depend on your dog’s needs – and their temperament. Rinsing solutions often only need to be used once a week, whereas wipes should be used daily. However, some dogs don’t tolerate the deeper ear cleansing of the rinsing solution as well, so the “easier” daily wipe may work better for them.

The Best Dog Ear Cleaners I Recommend to Pet Parents

With so many pet products out there, it can be difficult to figure out which ones to choose – which is why I write these blog posts and reviews.

Since I’ve been working in the pet industry for 30 years, I’ve had a lot of experience with a lot of pet products and pet product companies. And as a lifelong pet parent myself, I know how important it is to find trustworthy companies that you know take your pet’s health seriously.

All of which is why I find it easy to recommend Angels’ Eyes ear cleansing, rinsing, and relief products.

Angels' Eyes product collection

Their Coastal Breeze Ear Rinse is veterinarian-formulated and designed to gently deodorize, clean, dry, and acidify the ear canal. It prevents wax, dirt, and debris from building up in your dog’s ears which can lead to irritation and infection. The only thing some pet parents may not like is that you may need an outdoor space or garage to clean your dog’s ears, as they will need to shake after treatment.

If that’s a concern, then the Angels’ Eyes Ear Cleansing Wipes may be the perfect alternative. These daily wipes have no artificial colors or fragrances and are designed to be extra gentle and soothing to your pup’s ears. They’re great for all breeds, too – I really can’t think of anything negative to say about them.  

I’m also really excited about their newest product, Angels’ Eyes Zinc-otic Ear Relief Treatment. It provides relief for dogs with chronic yeast otitis, or external ear infections. When used 2-3 times per week together with the Cleansing Wipes, they can keep these painful ongoing infections under control without steroids or antibiotics. (As noted in its directions, when using this treatment make sure to have your dogs’ ears evaluated by a veterinarian on a regular basis).  

The Best Dog Eye Wash and Cleaners

For general eye cleansing, you want an eye wash that’s gentle – but you also want to be confident that it is sterile and manufactured to a high standard of quality. After all, a non-sterile or contaminated eye wash could lead to infection in your dog.

Angels’ Eyes Multi-Purpose Sterile Eye Wash fits the bill perfectly. It’s made in the USA and lab tested for safety and sterility. It’s gentle enough for sensitive eyes while also being highly effective at cleansing your dog’s eyes from potentially harmful dirt, dust, and allergens.

And, if you’re concerned about tear stains specifically, they also have highly effective Gentle Tear Stain Wipes for removing discharge and excretions from around your dog’s eyes to reduce tear stains. For the best results, they recommend combining it with one of their Tear Stain Powders or Chews to fight the stains inside and out.

Kristen feeding her dog chews for tear stains.

The only thing some pet parents may be disappointed in is the length of time it may take for your dog’s tear stains to disappear completely. It’s impossible for them to vanish overnight and, while many start seeing results in as little as 4 weeks, it could take up to 12 weeks for the full effect. This is common for any tear stain remover.

If you still see tear stains on your dog after that time, you may need to speak with your veterinarian. Severe allergies can sometimes be the cause, which may need a vet’s help to identify and treat.

Watch me talk about Angels’ Eyes on Daytime below!

FAQs About Dog Eye and Ear Care

  1. Why do dogs get eye boogers?

    Dog eye boogers form from dried tears mixed with things like pollen, dirt, dust, or just dead cells. Tears are absolutely necessary to keep our dog’s eyes healthy, and they normally flow through a duct at the corner of your dog’s eyes. When those tears mix with debris in the air or on your dog’s fur or skin, eye boogers form. Most of the time, they are natural and harmless and can be gently wiped away. If you notice your dog’s eye boogers increasing in size or number – or if their eyes are red, irritated, or watery – you should contact your veterinarian.

  2. How long does it take to get rid of dog tear stains?

    Long term dog tear stain solutions can take anywhere from 4-12 weeks to fully eliminate dog tear stains. While a cleansing wipe can help remove some or even most of a dog’s tear stains, the best results for long term stain control come from a combination of daily cleaning along with supplements like tear stain powders or chews to tackle the problem both inside and out.

  3. Can you use hydrogen peroxide on dog’s ears?

    No. Hydrogen peroxide can damage your dog’s sensitive ear tissue and should never be used.

  4. How do you clean puppy ears?

    Start by getting your puppy used to having their ears touched. Gently touch or tap them in a playful way, doing so daily. Then, graduate to massaging, then handling them as you would when cleaning. When they've become accustomed to this handling, you can proceed to clean their ears with a gentle cleanser.

The Final Woof

Seeing our pets suffering from itchy ears and watery eyes can be distressing, but there are ways we can help. By seeking veterinary care when appropriate and maintaining their eye and ear health in between vet visits with safe and gentle washes and cleanser, we can ensure our dogs have healthy eyes and ears for years to come.

This post was sponsored by Angels’ Eyes, but all opinions and recommendations are paw-thentically my own!

Kristen Levine is a nationally acclaimed pet expert, influencer, and Fear Free Certified® Professional with over 30 years of experience working with pets.

Through this blog and her book, Pampered Pets on a Budget, Kristen has helped millions of pet parents solve problems and provide the best care for their dogs and cats.

Working alongside hundreds of pet professionals, including veterinarians, behaviorists and trainers inspired Kristen to become a pet parenting “guide”, providing readers with reliable information about health, wellness and lifestyle for dogs and cats and the people who love them.

A dogged advocate for pet adoption and rescue, Kristen has featured over 1,000 adoptable dogs and cats from the SPCA on live television and radio appearances to get them adopted. Her blog, KristenLevine.com has been featured in over 100 media outlets – including the New York Times, USA Today, FOX & Friends, Good Morning America, Women's Day, Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Pop Sugar and more.

To stay up to date on the latest health and lifestyle trends for pets, Kristen regularly attends the top veterinary and pet product conferences, where she’s often a featured speaker.

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