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Hello,

Sherlock hates ear cleanings. Well actually, cleaning his ears he is fine with, but he does not tolerate what we clean WITH. When it is just water, he does not mind and is very well behaved. However, the mere scent of the ear cleaning solution that the vet gave us terrifies him.

My best guess is that he associates the scent with memories of the vet. Once when the vet cleaned his ear with this solution, she just poured it down his ears roughly, and neither I nor Sherlock liked that. We switched vets and the second vet was so much gentler with him.

Still, he is mortified of going for vet visits. When we bring him in, he never fights or bites, but goes quite limp with fear and trembles all over, while trying to get as close to us as possible.

We tried cleaning his ears with this solution once before and he was hysterical, thrashing around like crazy.

Just now, I first cleaned his ears with cotton balls and water, but noticed a smell to his ears so decided to clean them with the solution. He smelled it, and before we even did anything he ran away very quickly and hid under my dresser. He's not coming out, and neither am I going to make him. I don't want to make his fear worse.

The way he acts, you'd have thought he's been abused with this ear cleaning solution. What can I do? I need to show him that it's the same exact procedure as with the water and cotton balls, only with the solution and cotton balls. Please help!
 

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If you are cleaning the outside of your dog's ear (like the ear flap) water is okay, but for the inside you should not use just water; if water gets down into the dog's ear canal it cannot dry efficiently and creates the perfect environment for an infection to take hold. The reason you need an ear cleaning solution is for the drying agents (some people use vinegar mixed with water).

My dog does not love having her ears cleaned either, and I think it is because she does not like how it feels. She is much better about it now, but there is only one solution (Zymox) that she truly does not mind, but I don't feel that it gets her ears clean. I use Virbac Epi-Otic and she used to hide when I'd take out the bottle.

One thing you could try is a different cleaner to see if it is the smell that is bothering him. Which one did your vet give you? There are several good ones (Virbac Epi-otic, Zymox Ear Cleanser - even though I don't like it, gets good reviews...R-7, Vet Solutions Ear Cleansing Solution, Nolvasan Otic Solution, etc.). You could try one that has a different smell and see if he cooperates.

Otherwise (or if a new cleanser doesn't work), you could work on counter conditioning him to the cleaning. Start out just having the ear cleaning solution out so he can smell it and give him lots of treats and praise, then slowly build up to putting it on a cotton ball, putting it on the very outer part of his ear, and working your way in...it won't happen overnight, but you can work up to it.

When I clean Honey's ears she gets the most delicious treats, and she now tolerates it much better - however it took a while.
 

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You need to do some counter conditioning. (And try a cleaner with a different smell. Epi Otic has a green apple scented cleaner and a cleaner scented cleaner.) And stop cleaning with water, that will cause infection.


Watch the video. The goal is to associate the cleaner and cleaning with great things. Get treats that really thrill your dog and use them only for this. Have the vet clean your dog's ears really well, then spend the next week counter conditioning to cleaning, working your way up to actual cleaning.

Kabota's ears have to be cleaned 3 times a week. He doesn't like it, but he does allow me to do it. That's probably because he gets a treat when I put the cleaner in, when he shakes his head, when I clean one ear, when I clean the other and when we're done. And he gets the good stuff- cheese, hot dogs, chicken, etc.

Protip: Heat up the cleaning solution first so it doesn't feel so shocking in the ear. Put hot (not boiling, just from the tap hot) water in a bowl and submerge the cleaner bottle for 15 seconds. Test on your inner arm before using, just like with a baby's bottle. You want a little warm against the skin, not hot.
 
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