Patient Info: Guidelines for Cleaning and Medicating Ears

Treating Otitis Externa, inflammation or infection of the external ear canal, can be frustrating and take many weeks or even months to resolve. Making sure to follow specific doctor recommendations for cleaning, medicating, and rechecking the ear are important in helping clear the infection. Dog’s and cat’s ear canals are “ L “ shaped which is different than humans. The vertical canal connects with the outside of the ear. The horizontal canal connects to the deeper structures within the ear and terminates at the eardrum. The horizontal and vertical canals make up the external ear. Unless the eardrum is ruptured, cleaning and medicating is for the external
ear only. If the eardrum is ruptured and infected, cleaner or medication goes deeper; you may see neurologic signs in your pet that are indicated by a head tilt or a droopy eye.

Anatomy of the Ear Canal:


  1. Gently pull the earflap up and hold it with one hand.
  2. Fill the ear with ___________________________ until the liquid starts to spill out. Or soak a cotton ball with the cleaning solution first and gently stuff it into the ear canal opening.
  3. Let the earflap close over the canal and massage using your fingers and thumb at the base of the ear where it connects to your pet’s head for 60seconds each side. A “squishing: sound tells you that you are moving the cleaner around in the canal.
  4. Remove the cotton ball that was in the ear and replace it with a dry one and continue the same motion to start collecting debris. Continue using cotton balls to clean and dry the ear canal as best you can. During this time your pet will shake his/her head and chunks of debris may fly out. 
  5. Use cotton swabs only to clean the area of the ear that you can see. Never push a Q-tip down deep into your pet’s ear. This can rupture the eardrum.
  6. Repeat the cleaning procedure every _______________ days for ______________ weeks. 
  7. Wait 10-15 minutes to apply medication.


It is important to get the medication into the horizontal canal where most of the infections begin.

  1. Place __________________drops / mls of _________________________ into the right     /    left    /    or both     ear(s) every _____________ hours for ________ days. Sometimes it is difficult to tell how much you are putting in the ear. If you give a squeeze to your bottle and see some medicine on the flap, you have likely got enough in.
  2. After placing the medication in the ears, massage the ear canal to help move the medicine deeper into the canal.


Recheck examinations are essential in ensuring that the ears are responding appropriately to treatment. Some infections take 2 weeks and some infections take months to resolve. Stopping the medication too soon can cause relapses of the same problem.  Schedule a recheck appointment in 10-14 days to assess the progress of healing, add or change medications, and determine the length of treatment.