Water in Dog's Ear - Dangers, How to Prevent It and What to Do About It

When you give your dog a bath, you will almost always end up with some water in their ears. It can also happen when your dog goes swimming.

Your pooch will show his discomfort by shaking his head and rubbing his paws on the sides of the head.

So what do you do about water in a dog's ear and is it something to be concerned about?

Water in Dog's Ears: Is it Common for Dogs to Get Water in Their Ears?

Yes, it's very common. Dogs can get water in their ears just like humans, and with their longer ear canals, it can be harder to get all the water to drain.

Depending on the situation, water in dogs' ears can become a health problem. Sometimes, they need a little help to dry them out to keep from getting ear infections.

Your dog's ears are very sensitive and are prone to a variety of health issues but are often overlooked by pet owners.

Most dogs require regular cleaning of their ears to prevent these issues. Breeds with long ears like Beagles or Basset Hounds especially need extra attention.

Water in Dogs Ear What to Do About It

Cleaning dog ears out after bathing and swimming are good routines to get into. But this also means the risk of getting water in the dog's ears.

Here's everything you need to know about the dangers of water in a dog's ear, how to prevent it and what to do about it in case it happens.

I will also include instructions on how to clean your dog's ears, especially when it comes to bathing and drying water in the dog's ear.

RELATED: 6 Most Common Dog Ear Problems – How to Prevent and Fix Them

Water in Dog's Ear and What to Do About It

Water in Dog's Ear and What to Do About It

Can Dogs Shake All the Water Out of Their Ears?

Dogs shake their heads to get the water to drain out of their ears, and usually do a pretty good job of getting most of the water out.

However, depending on how much water got into the ear as well as the ear type/structure (i.e. breed), not all dogs will be able to shake all the water out of their ears.

Most dogs' ear canals are very long (2 to 4 inches) and have a right-angled bend. This creates an area where if foreign material or excess water gets in, it can pool or be difficult to remove.

Bathing or swimming is when this happens most often, and at this point, the pet owner's interference is necessary to remove water in the dog's ear.

The two most common dangers of water in a dog's ear are ear infections, particularly otitis externa and fungus.

If water isn't removed, it creates a perfect place for bacteria to grow in the ear – it's a dark, warm, and moist environment (resulting in swimmer's ear in dogs).

Essentially, a dog's ear canal is a perfect setup for trouble if not cleaned properly.

Dog's Ear Infections Due to Water

It's easy to overlook excess water in your dog's ear. As a result, some dogs will battle ear infections and it is hard for them to let you know.

Ear infections are painful for dogs, and can eventually lead to loss of hearing. If it gets to that point, you'll need to use some type of ear infection treatment, but a professional's help may also be necessary.

Getting immediate care from your veterinarian is the best course of action. Your vet will recommend a treatment that will most likely include antibiotic medications as well as ear cleaners.

Follow the directions to the end, as the full course is required to make your dog better and prevent more serious ear problems.

If your dog regularly battles ear infections after swimming or bathing, then ask your vet about which drying ear cleaner is preferred.

If you notice that debris and regular cleaning isn’t getting your dog’s ears clean, you will need to take your dog in for a check-up. You may also need to get dog ear protection for swims or baths.

Ear Cleaning and Drying Solutions

Some ear cleaners for dogs are designed specifically to be effective at drying out water in the dog's ear and evaporating quickly. The two mentioned below are the most commonly used by pet owners and vets.

Later in this article, we'll mention “regular” dog ear cleaners that are not as quickly evaporating but are more effective at cleaning a dog's ears.

Vet's Best Dry Ear Relief for Dogs, 4 oz Vet's Best Dry Ear Relief

The Vet's Best Dry Ear Relief solution is good for somewhat dirty dog ears that do not require thorough cleaning.

It contains many natural ingredients, so it won't irritate the ears, and it helps to dry water in dogs' eat, evaporating quickly.

However, it also won't be as effective at removing all of the dirt and debris in the dog's ear, especially if you haven't cleaned the ears for a while.

It's best to use it in combination with a proper dog ear cleaner, like Zymox Otic (mentioned below).

Vet's Best Dog Ear Cleaner Kit | Multi-Symptom Ear Relief | Wash & Dry Treatment | Alcohol-Free 4 Fl Oz (Pack of 2) Vet's Best Ear Cleaning and Drying Kit

If you want to spend a few extra dollars, you can get the kit that includes a combination of the above-mentioned dog's ear drying solution and a proper dog ear cleaner.

This one is very cost-effective and will last a long time.

However, if you can spend a few extra bucks, I would personally recommend sticking only with Dry Ear Relief solution as your drying option and picking Zymox Otis as your ear cleaner, simply because it's more effective and is often used by veterinarians and owners.

Dog Ear Cotton Wipes

Petpost | Dog Ear Cleaner Wipes - 100 Ultra Soft Cotton Pads in Coconut Oil Aloe Solution - Dog Ear Rinse & Cleanser You can use pretty much any cotton balls or wipes to clean your dog's ears and then dry off the water in the dog's ear.

If you don't mind spending a little extra cash, then these dog ear cotton wipes can be very helpful as they also contain a few solutions to keep your pet's ears cleaner, drier, and nice.

Note that while the manufacturer claims that these will also effectively clean the dog's ears, it's unlikely to be true based on the ingredients they use.

It's most likely not a very effective dog ear cleaner and should mostly be used to dry water in the dog's ear instead.

How to Keep Your Dog’s Ears Clean and Dry

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an essential part of overall grooming.

If you often find problems with water in your dog's ears, then there are a few things you can do to prevent water from getting into your dog’s ears before giving your dog a bath.

How to Clean Dog Ears

I'll go into more details on dog ear cleaning later in the article, but in short, take a large cotton ball and block up your dog’s external ear canals before bath time.

Remember to take it out after, but your pet most likely will not let you forget to take them out anyway.

After bathing, using a lightly moistened cotton ball or cloth, wipe out as much of the external ear canal as possible, then dry it out. Professional groomers note that you could go as far as one knuckle on your finger to be safe.

Even though your dog’s ears are much longer and deeper than ours, do not use cotton swabs (Q-tips) on your dog’s ears.

Q-tips are too dangerous because you can damage your dog's ears since you never know how deep you can go. See this full guide with video and photos on how to clean your dog's ears.

Best Dog Ear CleanerUsing Dog Ear Cleaners

Above, I've mentioned ear cleaners that are designed to keep dogs' ears dry; those are best for dogs that have a serious problem with constant water in their ears.

There are also commercially available “regular” ear-cleaning solutions. Most of them use witch hazel as a pure drying option.

These formulas are more effective at cleaning but less effective at evaporating; they clean the debris and prevent ear infections in dogs.

Any dog ear cleansers should be applied with just a few drops and then massaged gently into the dog's ear canal. You can then use cotton balls to wipe out the excess liquid.

These commercially bought dog ear cleaners will contain ingredients that are designed to ease itchy ears, remove wax build-up, and treat ear mites and yeast.

Most of these products are very effective and safe for dogs, but you can also consult with your veterinarian about which dog ear cleaner is best for your specific pooch (depending on their ears). Here are some of the most often recommended ear cleaners for dogs:

Furthermore, there are natural homemade dog ear cleaners that work well but probably not as well as commercial products. Read here how to make a homemade dog ear cleaner yourself from natural ingredients.

Getting Your Dog Ready for Ear Cleaning

cleaning outside of dogs earsYou will need a good supply of towels. If your dog is wet from swimming or bathing, his coat will need a good towel to dry – here's how to do it quickly.

So before you get to your dog's ears, give your pooch a good drying, using a very absorbent pet towel all over, and then brush out his coat.

With most breeds, you should already be cleaning your dog’s ears at least once a month, so your dog will be comfortable with you handling his ears and getting them clean.

After towel drying your dog, you can spend some extra time checking for water in the dog's ear and drying them out.

Your pooch will probably dislike the process, so learn how to keep your dog calm while grooming and getting him ready for ear cleaning.

Start by towel drying the ears, and soak up as much moisture as possible on the surface and around the dog's ears.

Do not insert the towel inside your dog's ear; only use it for external drying. If there is still excess water in the dog's ear (and it's likely there is), this is when you dab along the opening of the ear canal with a cotton pad.

The above procedure should get your dog prepared for ear cleaning. Follow the below step-by-step guide on how to clean your dog's ears and dry them off.

How to Clean and Dry Off Water in Dog's Ear

1. The Big Towel Off

After swimming or after you've bathed your dog, using a big fluffy towel or a special dog towel, dry your dog’s ears as gently as possible.

Lift up floppy ears and dry both sides, top and bottom, but never let the towel enter the ear canal.

2. Using Dog Ear Cleaner

After drying the ear thoroughly, use an ear-cleaning solution in the ear canal. Apply a few drops as recommended.

If you are using a homemade solution, use an eyedropper to measure out the solution as you drip it into the dog's ear.

Be careful not to force the tip of the bottle or dropper far into the ear canal.

How To Clean Dog Ears

3. Massage the Ear

This may or may not be your dog’s favorite part, but you should massage the base of your dog’s ear for a few minutes to distribute the cleaner throughout the ear.

dog ears being cleaned with wipes

4. The Shake

Stand back. Give your dog some distance so he can shake his ears. As your dog shakes his head, it will dislodge any debris that is deep in his ears.

Do this outdoors or in a bathroom where the mess is easier to clean up.

5. Cotton Ball

You may need several cotton balls. After the shake, take those cotton balls and wipe the inside of the ear to soak up any additional liquid.

Do not push hard into the ear canal, but rather pat and allow the cotton to soak water in the dog's ear.

How To Clean Dog Ears Guide

If your dog suffers from dry skin, once the ear is completely dry, you can take the last cotton ball, dip it in mineral oil, and lightly clean off the inside of the flap of the ear. This will additionally cleanse but also provide moisture to the skin.

6. Repeat

Do the same with a second ear.

Cleaning Solutions at Home

We all try to save a little money at times, and some of us just prefer natural ingredients to chemical products.

There are recipes for homemade dog ear cleaners that you can use, and we've mentioned those here.

Generally, the most common homemade ear cleaner for dogs is simply using equal parts of hydrogen peroxide, witch hazel, or apple cider vinegar mixed with purified water.

Alcohol is not recommended for cleaning dog ears because it burns, dries the skin, and will cause irritations in your pet's ears.

Many people, including our editor Samantha, have had the most success with using the apple cider vinegar option.

As for the smell, it disappears after it evaporates. The important part is that it keeps your dog’s ears clean, healthy, and dry.

Water in Dog's Ears: How to Protect Dog Ears from Water

Finally, if you find yourself constantly dealing with water in the dog's ears, which later causes problems, instead of cleaning and drying them out every time, you can prevent water from getting into dogs' ears by using ear protectors.

Here are some of the best dog ear protection products that your dog can go swimming with or you can use for baths:

READ NEXT: Dog Ears 101 – How to Care for Them and Prevent Problems

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Guide on Water in Your Dog's Ears - Here's What to Do About It

Diana currently lives and works in London, UK and she's been an animal lover and dog owner since she was a child. After graduating high school, she focused on getting her degree in English to become a writer with a focus on animals, pets and dogs.