Helpful Pet Advice for Pet Care at Home
There are many different types of ear
infections. One type involves only the outer ear canal and is called otitis
externa. Infections may also involve the middle and inner ear; called otitis
media and otitis interna respectively. There are also different degrees of ear
infections ranging from mild to severe, acute to chronic, and there are
numerous causes with many treatment options.
What follows is excellent written advice
on how to medicate the outer ear canal for otitis externa.
Dr. Edward Nichols and his staff at Crestway
Animal Clinic will help you with the procedure at our San Antonio location. It’s easier than you might
How to Give Ear Medications
Ear medications are
often administered to pets that have an ear infection, inflammation, or a
condition within the ear canal that requires treatment. It is important to
treat the ear canal correctly, ensuring the solution reaches the target
location. With practice, instilling medications into the ear canal is easy and
can be done at home as needed.
- Topical ear medication
should have prescribed a specific medication to administer into your pet's ear.
You should wear latex (or similar) medical exam gloves to prevent you from
coming in contact with potential bacteria or fungi that your pet may harbor, as
well as with the medication.
The ear that is
affected should begin healing within the first few days of medication
application. In serious conditions, healing may take longer. However, if you
notice any of the following symptoms, you should contact your veterinarian
redness, swelling, or heat from the ear
shaking or scratching of the head
of the condition
to instill the medication (for example, if your pet will not allow it or
because you feel you are not doing it correctly)
If your pet shows
resentment to having this done, stop the procedure and call your veterinarian
for further advice. The ear may be too painful to treat without additional
medications, and it is imperative that you neither hurt your pet nor put
yourself at risk of a nip or bite. Resistance to treatment may also be an
indication that an infection is worsening and needs to be rechecked
calm pets, medications can be administered into the ears by just one person,
but with young, excited animals or pets that dislike (or are unfamiliar with)
having the ears handled, it may be necessary to have one person distracting
and/or holding the pet while another person instills the medication. The whole
process should take less than 5 minutes. If it is too complicated or difficult,
notify your veterinarian to discuss whether there are alternative strategies.
your veterinarian provided you with a solution to clean the ears, this must be
done before instilling medication. This allows ear debris to be loosened before
the application of the medication, and if the medication were placed first,
before the ear cleaning, the cleaning solution would eliminate the medication
one hand, gently flip the ear flap straight up. This is best done by cupping
the ear flap (pinna) in your hand, with the haired part of the ear against the
palm of your hand and your thumb on the hairless inner surface of the ear flap.
You should be able to see the inside of the ear (ear canal) this way. Some
breeds of dogs have naturally erect ears, and in these dogs, the hand can
simply be cupped behind the ear.
the ear flap cupped in the palm of your hand means that the ear canal takes on
the shape of a funnel. You can then drip the medication directly into the
deepest part of the ear canal. Be sure not to put the tip of the nozzle (or
medication tube) directly into the ear canal. Rather, place the tip of the tube
or bottle well outside the ear canal, and aim the nozzle so the drops of
medication fall into the greatest depth of the ear canal. Do not allow the
nozzle tip to touch the ear canal, which would contaminate the bottle/tube and
its contents. Massage the entire canal, allowing the medication to work through
the entire ear.
- If your pet scratches their ear
excessively, an Elizabethan collar (E-collar) may be necessary while the
medication is taking effect. These collars can be purchased from your
veterinarian or a pet supply store. Scratching the ears can cause
self-induced damage and therefore must be prevented.
- Remember that the medication is
cooler than body temperature and may feel cold to your pet when you apply
it in their ear, especially on raw or sensitive areas. Apply a small
amount at first, allowing the pet to become comfortable and adapt to this
type of treatment. The comfort that the medication brings makes it
Once you have finished cleaning
the ears, discard any remaining used gauze and gloves. Replace the cap on the
medication and place in a safe area, out of reach of children and pets.
How often do I
need to clean the area and apply the medication?
Your veterinarian will direct you
regarding how often to clean your pet's ears and apply the medication, based on
the seriousness of the ear problem and how good a response is seen from initial
treatment. It is important that you follow the directions given to help prevent
unnecessary return trips to the hospital.
Should I apply
the medication only until the area of concern is healed?
Cleaning and medication should be
applied for as long as the veterinarian recommends, because some lesions or
infections may appear healed, when in actuality the healing is incomplete. Some
types of conditions take much longer to heal than others. An important
exception is if you feel the condition is worsening during/despite treatment,
and if you have any question in this respect, you should contact your
Are there any
restrictions for my pet during treatment for an ear problem?
Your pet should not have a bath
or play in water until the area of concern has healed. Your veterinarian should
recheck your pet’s condition and advise you when your pet can have a bath and
Can my pet cause
more damage if he/she continuously shakes or scratches at the head?
Yes, your pet can cause more
damage and may require surgery should the condition worsen. An Elizabethan
collar may be applied to prevent scratching of the ears as a temporary solution
while medications begin to take effect. Contact your veterinarian if your pet
continues to shake his or her head despite treatment.
We thank Etienne
Côté, DVM, for the above article first published as a client education sheet in
Dr. Côtés excellent text Clinical Veterinary Advisor, 2nd Ed. 2011.
We thank Elsevier Inc. for permission to reproduce this article.