Dog Tries To Bite When Cleaning Ears (Why And How To Stop It)


Ear infections are a particularly common issue in dogs, especially among members of certain breeds. Preventing and managing ear infections is impossible without regular ear cleaning – a process most dogs hate.  

Help, my dog tries to bite when cleaning ears. This is quite a common issue among dogs. Considering the importance of keeping the dog’s ears clean, it is critical to find an ear-cleaning method that is easy for you and acceptable for your dog. Luckily, this is achievable – all you need is the right technique and lots of patience.  

In this article, we will talk about ear issues that stem from poor hygiene. We will also explain why dogs dislike having their ears handled and what you can do to make the ear cleaning process more pleasant.  

Ear Infections In Dogs 101 

Ear infections are one of the most common reasons pet owners seek veterinary attention. The scientific term for ear infections is otitis, and it translates to ear inflammation.  

Dogs have differently shaped ears and ear canals compared to humans. These anatomical differences make dogs more likely to develop ear infections.  

Namely, the canal is more horizontal, thus supporting the accumulation of debris and moisture. The presence of hairs inside the ears is another infection contributing factor. 

Dogs with long, dropped, and heavy ears are at higher risk of developing ear infections than dogs with small, light, and erect ears. Predisposed breeds include Basset Hounds, Cocker Spaniels, Bloodhounds, Labrador, and Golden Retrievers.  

The different types of ear infections   

Based on the affected ear part, there are three forms of otitis: 

· Otitis externa – the infection affects the outer portion of the ear (the ear flap) and, if caught early, is easily treatable   

· Otitis media – the infection spreads to the middle part of the ear, and if left untreated, it can progress and affect the inner ear 

· Otitis interna – the infection affects the inner ear and, unless properly managed, can lead to permanent hearing disabilities.  

Common otitis causes in dogs  

There are various different causes, but the most important ones include: 

· Bacteria and yeasts – usually opportunistic, meaning they are normally found in the ear but overgrow if the conditions change, for example, if there is excess moisture  

· Ear mites – pesky little parasites that live inside the ear canals and feed on the ear wax (cerumen); despite the gross description and appearance, they are treatable  

· Foreign bodies – a lot of foreign bodies can find their way into the ear canals and cause infections. However, the most commonly removed foreign object is foxtail 

· Trauma – ear trauma can result from direct trauma to the head or the ear itself, for example, when playing or fighting with another dog 

· Tumors or polyps – tumors are not very common in the ears, but polyps are; they both seclude the canal allowing dirt and moisture to get trapped.  

Clinical manifestation of otitis in dogs  

Ear infections, regardless of the cause, are extremely painful and relatively easy to notice. A dog with ear infections is likely to exhibit the following signs and symptoms: 

· Scratching, shaking, or pawing at the ear 

· Rubbing the ear of the floor or furniture  

· Unpleasant or repulsive odor from the ear  

· Redness inside the ear 

· Excess wax, crusts, and scabs inside the ear 

· Ear discharge (bloody, black, or brown) 

· Head tilting.  

In more severe cases, when the infection spreads to the middle and inner ear, affecting the balance central, the dog will exhibit more complicated symptoms like: 

· Ataxia (lack of coordination) 

· Walking in circles  

· Unusual eye movements 

· Impaired hearing sense.  

Diagnosing and treating ear infections in dogs  

An experienced vet will be able to diagnose ear infections just by looking at the dog’s ears. However, as in any other case, the veterinarian must follow the official protocol and perform a full body examination. Then the vet will pay extra attention to the ears and probably use a small tool called an otoscope to visualize the inside of the ear and canal.  

Once the diagnosis is set, the vet will recommend the ideal treatment. Usually, the treatment is based on cleaning the ears with a specialized cleansing solution (medicated or not) and application of ear drops with antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and corticosteroids. In more severe cases, in addition to the local drops, the vet may prescribe oral antibiotics (or antifungals) and pain killers.  

The treatment lasts from several days to few weeks. Considering the length of the treatment, in most cases, vets prescribe cleansing solutions and meds, and the ear cleaning part is performed at home. This is where things become tricky, as most dogs do not like having their ears cleaned.  

Why Does My Dog Hate Getting His Ears Cleaned? 

Dogs have many nerve endings in their ears which makes these body parts quite sensitive. However, the main reason dogs hate having their ears cleaned is pain. Ear infections tend to be very painful, and dogs quickly start associating the pain with the cleaning part.  

Usually, dogs experiencing ear problems for the very first time are more cooperative and tend to accept the process. However, if they develop ear infections for a second time, chances are they will resist the process or even act aggressively.  

How Can I Clean My Dog’s Ears Without Biting? 

Before we deal with the biting part, we should explain how the normal ear cleaning process occurs. Here are the steps you should take to clean your dog’s ears properly:  

· Step number 1: Pull your dog’s ear flap straight up as and slightly backward. Do this very gently using one hand.  

· Step number 2: Use the other hand to apply the cleansing solution or medication into the ear canal.  

· Step number 3: Hold the earflap elevated for several minutes to allow the medication to get down the canal.  

· Step number 4: Massage the ear at its base using two fingers (the squishing sound indicates the solution or medication is getting distributed) 

· Step number 5: Release the base of the ear and let your dog instinctively start shaking its head (there can be solution drops and wax chunks coming out of the ear, which is a normal result of the shaking). 

· Step number 6: If there is another medication that needs to be applied, you should wait at least 30 minutes before repeating the procedure.  

As for the biting part, or better said, avoiding it, there are various things you can do. However, teaching your dog to accept having its ears cleaned is not something you can achieve overnight.  

Therefore, it is best advised to start desensitizing your dog while still a young pup. Handle your dog’s ears frequently and mimic the ear cleaning process. Do not forget to give rewards every time your dog responds positively. 

Keep in mind that when inflamed, the dog’s ears will be much more sensitive. Therefore, before starting the process, you need to determine the type of handling your dog finds acceptable.  

Finally, there is always the possibility to use a face mask and ask another person to assist. However, depending on the dog’s personality, this can make things even worse. Be patients and give your dog enough time to adapt. If things do not work out, use the muzzle and ask for assistance.  

How Do You Clean Aggressive Dog Ears? 

Aggressive dogs are problematic on various levels and make collaboration efforts less than successful. When dealing with an aggressive dog with infected ears, applying cleansers and ear medications is tricky. In such cases, there are two options.  

Option number 1: Use pet CBD oil  

Pet CBD products (oils, capsules, treats) are the ultimate hit in the pet care industry. There are many different brands offering CBD products. In this case, the CBD can be helpful in relaxing the aggressive dog and keeping it calmer during the ear cleaning process.  

CBD contains natural compounds with calming properties. It is capable of changing the brain chemistry and increasing the dog’s responsiveness to serotonin – the hormone responsible for happiness and emotional wellbeing.  

Option number 2: Ask the vet to do the cleaning  

The other option is to ask the vet to perform the cleaning procedures. This is a more expensive approach, but it is worth giving it a try. Depending on the dog’s level of aggression, the vet might use meds for relaxation or even sedation.  

However, some dogs that act aggressively at home tend to be calmer on neutral and unknown grounds. In such cases, the vet will be able to perform the cleaning without sedating the dog.  

SUMMING UP: Dog’s And Ear Cleaning

Ear cleaning in dogs can be a challenging task, especially if your dog finds the process painful or uncomfortable. Even calm and mellow dogs find ear handling to be a distressing situation. If the dog is generally hyperactive or even aggressive, things become even more complicated.  

Luckily, there are things you can do to calm your dog and make the cleaning process a bit less distressing. If nothing else works, you can talk to your vet about the alternatives, for example, bringing your dog to the vet’s office for professional cleanings until the situation resolves. 


  • Brad

    Hi I'm Brad, the founder of Having been a vet of 6 years I work alongside our team to provide valuable insight into your dog's health. I have a frenchie myself named Senzu who is my pride and joy!

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