Giving Ear Medications to Uncooperative Pets

By: Celeste Treadway, DVM

TVMA Member
Austin, TX

Published February 2018

There are likely to be times in your pet’s life when you need to administer medications for ear conditions. This task can come with challenges as your pet may resist receiving medications for various reasons, including discomfort or fear associated with the treatment. If you are having difficulty, contact your veterinary team to discuss the challenges you are facing and explore options to ensure a smooth process for all.

When pets have ear infections, they can experience significant pain due to the inflammation and swelling of the ear canal and ear flap. Sometimes your veterinarian may recommend briefly sedating your pet for the initial evaluation, cleaning and treatment of a severe ear infection to allow thorough evaluation and treatment without inflicting more pain. Your veterinarian also may suggest “ear packing,” in which a particularly thick and long-lasting medication is left in the ear canal for one to two weeks. This is not suitable for all situations but can be very helpful when appropriate.

When you are instructed by your veterinarian to administer ear medications at home, the following tips may make the process easier. Be sure to have your veterinarian thoroughly go over the administration process before you leave the office, so you can get all your concerns addressed.

Keep It Positive

  • Try to create positive interactions with your pet around the medication process. Praise, stroke or treat your pet before and after you administer medicines, so the unpleasant event occurs between enjoyable interactions.
  • Try not to medicate your pet in his or her favorite spot to avoid creating a negative association with that place.
  • When it is time to give the medication, go find your pet rather than calling your pet to you.

Use Gentle Restraint Techniques

  • Take your pet to a relatively small area so he or she can’t run from you once you begin the medicating process. If your pet is small, placing him or her on a table or raised surface is helpful.
  • If your pet tries to run away from you, use a leash (dogs) or towel (cats) to gently restrain your pet.
  • In some cases, it may be helpful to have your pet sit in a corner facing out to keep him or her from backing away.
  • It is helpful having a second person hold your pet so you have both hands free to handle the medicine. The second person can administer treats while you are performing the ear treatment to help distract and reward your pet.
  • If your pet is growling or snapping at you, it is okay to use a properly fitted muzzle to protect yourself. However, if your pet is snapping even with attempts to put a muzzle on, it is best to cease efforts and contact your veterinarian for further advice and assistance.

Giving the Medication

  • When it is time to administer the medication, have everything you will need at hand so you can move quickly through the process. Be sure to have ample treats ready.
  • Avoid using over-the-counter cleaners in an infected ear, as these often contain alcohol, which can cause significant discomfort in any infected ear and make your pet more apprehensive about future medications.
  • Gently warming ear cleaners may help make the process more comfortable for your pet; just make sure they are not too warm.
  • Try to make your handling as gentle as possible. Avoid pulling too firmly on the ear flap or poking the ear canal with the applicator tip of medication bottles. Avoid introducing cotton-tipped applicators into the ear canal.
  • Placing a set amount of medicine in a small syringe may make it quicker and easier to deliver the medicine

Be sure to complete the full course of medications, not just until the ear looks better. Make sure to follow up for recommended exams to be sure the problem is completely resolved. However, if you continue to experience difficulty giving ear medications to your pet, let your veterinarian know promptly so he or she can either offer assistance or discuss alternative forms of medication with you. Remember that your veterinary team shares your goal of keeping your pet as comfortable and healthy as possible and will be eager to work with you in finding the best solution for your medication challenges!


Dr. Celeste Treadway practices veterinary medicine in Austin, Texas.

14 Responses

  1. Sondra says:

    When trying to doctor my dog`s ears she gets mean and shows her teeth and the vet wants to charge me a lot of money, What should I do?

  2. Sayani says:

    My dog is angry and never want to accept the ear drop,and whole night he scratching his ears like hell.. What can i do please tell me

  3. Anne Wright says:

    We were to start today with the ear wash in our dog’s ears. We had him in to see our vet 3 weeks ago in the Seabrook, TX area. He had an ear infection that she treated. I just wanted to check the net and read up on giving ear meds. We followed your advice and the information was perfect! We were successful and he didn’t mind the meds! Thanks so much!

  4. Kellie says:

    My staffs ear is closed up again now the vet did it for us last year but had to take him every day but can’t get to vets now.. He goes for us and with a mussel he still pulls mussle off and goes to bite us all who try and can’t hold him down as to big

  5. Orlando Cruz says:

    Doc at ER couldn’t even manage to put a muzzle on my silky terrier. A small dog and charge me over $600 for just basic incomplete exam. It’s the 2nd female vet who couldn’t handle my small dog. Like wtf they become vets? And lots of them have little love and compassion for pets. I am so pushed. It’s a money business. That’s what they’re most in it for.

  6. David Christiana says:

    What a TOTALLY USELESS site.

  7. Lindsey says:

    My dog is very uncooperative at the vet, including cutting of the nails, lol she’s a fiesty dog not mean or bitting. But we are/were unable to get drops in her ears and she had quite the infection! They gave us a tranquilizer to give her so we could get the drops in. She also was given an anti-itch anti-inflammatory pill for twice a day and it’s finally working, the combination of the anti-itch, ear drops and the tranquilizers. Which I only use at night bc she looks so pathetic drugged during the day I felt bad. Vet bill w/rabbies vax $150

  8. dhohoo says:

    Thank you very much, I’ve been looking for it.

  9. dhohoo says:

    Thank you very much, I’ve been looking for it.

  10. dhohoo says:

    Thank you very much, I’ve been looking for it.

  11. Michele says:

    I have difficulty medicating my 95 lb GSD who has infection in both ears. I muzzle him, leash him and pet him. He is very smart and knows what is going on and will bite me. I put him in the showe as a small space. He is getting oral meds too, no problem with that. The first Vet misdiagnosed him because she didn’t examine the infectious material under a microscope, just sent me home with a general antibiotic ear drop bottle. Next Vet anesthetized him, cleaned the ears, determined he had yeast as well as bacteria and gave him initial doses with he was anesthetized. But at home it is awful. I can’t get a proper dose in him

  12. […] administering ear medications go slow and be gentle. Many times if pets are resistant to this, they are painful or anticipating […]

  13. Cindy Hearrell says:

    My yorkie will not let us put her drops in her ears. She does not try to bite. She just will not be still and i’m afraid im going to hurt her.

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