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Ear Drops for Your Dog

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Administering ear drops

When a dog has an ear infection, administering ear medication to your dog can be challenging.  Remember that your dog's infected ears may be painful and that even a normally gentle pet may respond by struggling, scratching, or biting.

Some liquid dog ear medications must be stored refrigerated, and dogs often object to the medication being placed in their ear simply because it is cold.  Ask your veterinarian if you can warm the ear medication by placing the bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes immediately before administering it to your dog.

Make sure you have read the instructions and understand the amount of medicine you are to administer in your dog's ear.  Be sure any liquid ear medications are well mixed.

With the ear medication handy, prepare a safe place where you can comfortably handle your dog.  Placing a small dog in your lap may be easier.  You can also wrap your dog snugly in a towel with only its head exposed.

Draw the ear medication into the dropper or hold the squeeze bottle with your dominant hand.

Gently pull your dog’s infected ear flap straight up, exposing the ear canal.  With smaller animals, you can do this with the last two fingers of the same hand that is holding the ear medication, placing the other hand under the dog’s jaw to support its head.

Apply the prescribed number of ear drops, placing the dropper a short way into the ear canal (unless you are treating the outer part of the ear).

Let the ear flap return to its normal position, and gently rub the base of the ear against the head in a circular motion.  You may hear a “squishing” sound as you massage the medication deep into the ear canal.

Release the ear and let your pet shake its head. If the medication contains a wax solvent, dissolved debris will likely be shaken out.

Make sure to praise your dog throughout the procedure and offer a treat after giving the ear medication.



What do I need to consider before administering ear drops?

Get ready by preparing a safe place where you can comfortably handle your pet.  Before starting, you should also read the instructions on the medication, make sure that liquids are well mixed, and ask your veterinarian if it is okay to warm refrigerated medications to room temperature (so that the cold drops won’t startle your pet).

What’s the best way to handle my pet?

You can place a small dog in your lap, perhaps wrapping your dog snugly in a towel with only its head exposed.  Bigger animals can be positioned against you or led into a corner on the floor.

What are some tricks for giving the drops?

Handle the dropper or squeeze bottle with your dominant hand, and pull the ear flap straight up with your other hand.  Place the dropper tip slightly into the canal, release the prescribed number of drops, then message the base of the ear gently in a circular motion. 

Is it okay if my pet shakes out some of the medication?

It is normal for your pet to shake its head afterward, so that a small amount of the liquid (along with dissolved debris) flies out.

Should I scold my pet if it struggles?

No, you should praise your pet throughout the procedure and offer a treat afterward, so that medication time is a rewarding experience.

Credit: Written and reviewed by John A. Bukowski, DVM, MPH, PhDand Susan E. Aiello, DVM, ELS
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