A lot of dogs and cats love having their ears rubbed, but for others it’s less enjoyable; this can be caused by many factors: being head shy due to history of abuse or pain, frequent ear inflammation, lack of desensitization or improper ear cleaning attempts. But will gentle desensitization we can teach them to love a good ear massage!
Why massage your dogs ears?
Making sure your dog is comfortable with their ears touched is important from a husbandry perspective:
- Ears need to be checked for redness, inflammation, debris or ticks
- Some vets take temperature with an ear thermometer
- Ears need regular cleaning as part of ongoing healthcare
Making sure your dog is comfortable with their ears touched will make regular maintenance much easier and besides, ear rubs are awesome, so you don’t want them to miss out!
Benefits of ear massage
- Dogs have approximately 18th and cats have approximately 32 (!) muscles in their ears, relaxing these hard working muscles will help to relax the scalp and even neck muscles.
- Base of the ears contains a large number of nerve endings and gentle massage of the area engages the parasympathetic nervous system and invites a relaxation response
- Ear massage relaxes the limbic system and balances emotional states
- Massaging the area releases endorphins: the feel good hormone.
- The ear is rich in reflexology points and from a TCM perspective the ear is the meeting place of all the channels of the body and contains over 200 acupuncture points!
7 Steps to a Perfect Ear Massage
- To start gently invite touch and ask for permission by stroking your dog around the shoulder, don’t go straight for the ears!
- Once your dog or cat is happy to be touched, you can move your hand gently and slowly towards the ear.
- Gently hold the ear at the base and start making slow circular movement, you’ll notice that your dog might actually have a preference for clockwise or counter clockwise, try to do both. Make sure you are not resting your hand on their head, you don’t want to cause any neck compression.
- Use little pressure, feel the skin move under your fingers, focus on making slow and perfectly round circles, breath!
- Now you can grasp the ear flap between your fingers and gently run your fingers from the base to the tip of the ear, continue slowly and methodically until your cover the whole ear lobe.
- Once finished you can gently rub the ear and finish the session by stroking your dog along the back.
- Make sure not to grasp or hold onto the ear! You’ll notice that your dog or cat might shake their head quite a bit at the beginning.
Have fun! And as always don’t hesitate to ask questions or share your or your pet’s experience.