Handle with care
In an ideal world, your dog would be used to having his ears handled from when he was a puppy. It’s important to get dogs used to us holding and inspecting their ears while they’re young. You can even place the end of your finger gently inside the opening of the ear canal in their early years so that they don’t grow up to be totally ear-shy.
If you have an older dog, or one who’s especially resistant to having his ears handled, building a positive association with the ear medication can help. Giving a treat before and after you administer the drops can work especially well with food-motivated dogs, but using praise and positive reinforcement as a reward is also effective (although it may take a little more time).
Preparation is key
Before you begin, familiarise yourself with the directions on the medication and then enlist a second pair of hands. It’s important to have gentle but adequate restraint. Having someone else hold onto your dog’s collar while you put the drops in makes a big difference. If you’ve got a dog who wants to pull away or hold his head down, it’s hard to restrain him and administer the drops by yourself.
Once you’ve found an assistant and know the directions, gather all the materials, such as cotton wool or a towel, that you might need. You could also give your dog a treat before administering the drops and have a treat or two at the ready for afterwards. Then follow this step-by-step guide:
1. Clean the ear
Before you give your dog ear drops, you should first use a veterinary-recommended ear cleaner to get rid of any wax or discharge. Put the ear cleaner into your dog’s ear and give the area a gentle massage (see more on how to massage below). As the type of infection can differ from dog to dog, it’s worth speaking to your vet about how often they’d recommend cleaning your pet’s ears.
2. Dry the ear
Use cotton wool on the end of your finger – not a cotton bud – to dry the ear and clear out any loose wax. You won’t do any harm with your finger as you won’t be able to insert it far enough into the ear canal to damage the ear drum.
3. Insert the applicator nozzle into the ear and squeeze
Some ear drops have longer nozzles than others and the thickness of the liquid can vary too. You should squeeze just enough to administer the recommended dose. If the bottle has a long nozzle, it can sometimes be difficult to see how much is going in. A good indication that you’ve given the right amount is that the lining of the ear looks oily after application.
4. Massage the ear
After you’ve put the drops in, it’s a good idea to give your dog’s ear canal a light massage with your finger and thumb. To do so, gently press down his ear flap and place your fingers at the base of his ear. Then slowly and firmly move your finger and thumb in a circular motion, but be ready to lighten the pressure if you notice that your pet is experiencing discomfort.
This will help the oil get right down to the bottom of the ear canal, and also disrupts any of the excess wax that you might not have been able to reach with the cotton wool. A lot of dogs really enjoy a massage like this, finding it soothing.
5. Let your dog shake
At this point, your dog will most likely have a good headshake, which is a normal response to the sensation of having something in the ear. After that, you can take some more cotton wool and wipe away any excess oil from inside the ear flap.
6. Give your dog a treat or reward
Success! Treat and reward your dog and repeat the process when his next dose of medication is due.