How to Deliver Ear Medication to Dogs

Three Parts:Assessing Your Dog's EarsPreparing to Apply MedicationApplying Ear Medication

If you own a dog, there may be times when you need to put medicine in its ears to treat an ear infection, parasites, or fungus. Your dog may not like this treatment and try to resist it, so it's important to figure out how to administer the medicine as quickly and easily. You also need to make sure that the ear medication itself won't harm your dog's ear, so be sure to assess your dog's ears for symptoms of a ruptured eardrum before applying medicine.

Part 1
Assessing Your Dog's Ears

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    Assess your dog for symptoms of a ruptured eardrum. Before you put medicine in a dog's ear you must first make sure you won't harm your dog’s ears by doing it. Therefore, before placing any medication in the dog’s ear you must make sure the eardrum is not damaged. Never place medication in a dog showing these signs, as they can indicate a possible ruptured eardrum:[1]
    • Unusual head tilting
    • Loss of balance (tipping to one side or falling down)
    • Vomiting
    • Pain when the ear is touched
    • Drainage of thick and/or bloody fluid from the ear
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    Pay attention to signs that the inner ear is damaged. If you place medication into an ear that has a damaged or ruptured eardrum, the medication can damage the delicate structures the make up the inner ear. Damage to these structures are indicated by these symptoms:[2]
    • Head shaking
    • Pain
    • Rubbing the ear(s) on the floor
    • Pawing or scratching at the ear
    • Head tilt
    • Loss of balance or falling over
    • Turning in circles towards the damaged ear
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    Have a veterinarian inspect your dog's eardrums. The only way to be totally sure that your dog's eardrums are fine is by having them examined by a veterinarian or veterinary technician. The vet, or vet tech, will use an otoscope, which is a lighted instrument, to peer into the ear canal to visually see the eardrum.[3]
    • It is important that the eardrum does not have any damage and is not torn. If you apply medicine to an ear with a damaged eardrum it could damage the ear further, including the risk of full hearing loss.[4]

Part 2
Preparing to Apply Medication

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    Gather supplies before holding the dog in place. Put the medication and tissue paper or paper towels within arms reach. Remove the cap from the medication. Most come with a long narrow nozzle that you can place on the medication container. Be sure to place this on the open end before proceeding.
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    Read the directions on the medicine.[5] The medication tube or bottle should have directions that will tell you how much to apply, how often to apply it, and when to use the medication. If in doubt, contact your veterinarian for clearer instructions.
    • There are a variety of medicines for dog's ears and they usually come in a liquid or an ointment form. Antibiotics for ear infections, for example, come in both liquid and ointment forms. Treatments for ear mites, on the other hand, usually come in liquid form.
    • Your veterinarian may also prescribe a veterinary ear cleaning wash. This will help clean out wax and debris from the ear, making your dog's ears healthier and allowing medication to absorb more easily.[6]
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    Find a helper. Have a helper that can help you hold the dog steady. This will make your job easier and it help the dog avoid injuring itself.
    • If the dog is in pain or doesn’t want its ears touched you may need to muzzle him or her. This will keep you safe and sometimes diverts the dog’s attention enough that you will be able to put the medication in its ears.
    • Placing a leash on the dog can also help you maintain control over a dog that does not want its ears messed with.
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    Hold the dog steady. Have your helper place one arm under the dog’s head so its neck rests on the helpers elbow bend. Have the helper put his or her other hand around the dog’s body, holding it steady.
    • If a helper isn’t available have the dog lay down. You will need to hold it steady while applying the medication. Place one arm gently across the neck and under the chin of the dog, and use the hand of that arm to hold the lower front leg. Place the other elbow on top of the dog, pinning its upper front leg to its body.[7]

Part 3
Applying Ear Medication

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    Carefully aim the nozzle’s opening toward the ear canal’s opening. Make sure it doesn’t touch any part of the canal. Hold the dog's ear flap open if you need to.[8] This will help to keep the nozzle and medication from being contaminated before the next application.
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    Squeeze the tube or bottle gently. Deliver the proper amount of medication into the ear canal. If the medicine is liquid, this is usually specified in a number of drops from a squeeze bottle. If the medicine is an ointment, then the proper amount may be specified differently. Make certain to aim the nozzle tip towards the opening of the ear canal so the medication actually gets into this area.
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    Massage the outside of the ear canal. Once the medication is delivered gently massage the base of the ear to make sure the medication is evenly distributed. Use a piece of tissue or a paper towel to wipe any medication that has spilled down the ear onto the fur.[9]
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    Hold the dog steady for awhile. A dog's first instinct when you put medicine in its ear is to shake its head.[10] After that initial shake, try to keep the dog from excessively shaking his or her head for a few minutes in order to give the medication time to work. You can release the dog if you don't think it will go wild, but try distracting the dog with gentle play or a food treat or even a short, slow leash walk.
    • Once again, wipe around the ear to remove any excess drops that have drained from the ear.
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    Apply medication for as long as prescribed. Make sure to give the medication to the dog as long as the label directions instruct. Failure to do so may result in not fully eradicating the problem and may even make the infection stronger by building its resistance to the medication.


  • Check your dog’s ears once a week to make sure there are no troubles brewing: smelly ears, discharge, or frequent scratching at ears are all signs that the ear may be harboring a disease or parasite.
  • If your dog is a frequent swimmer, you may want to consider cleaning the ears after each swim, with an approved ear cleaner, to help prevent any infections from residual water in the ear canal.
  • There now are products available that can be placed in the dog’s ear to treat the ear for 7 days or longer. These are only dispensed by a veterinarian and are only used in dog’s with intact eardrums.


  • Avoid contaminating the tip of the nozzle by only keeping the cap off long enough to deliver the medication to the ear and replacing the cap as soon as possible.

Article Info

Categories: Canine Health