dogs lick earsAs much as we love them, let’s face it, dogs are well known for their less than impeccable manners. From butt sniffing to leg humping, it’s safe to say they’re pretty comfortable with their animal selves, but there are some behaviors that have most pet owners stumped – like ear licking. So, why do dogs lick ears, and is it normal?

Why Dogs Lick Ears: The Good, the Bad, and the Gross

Is your dog enamored with your ears? How about with another cat or dog who lives in the home? Whether it’s a little love-kiss or a full-on slurp fest, the reasons that dogs lick ears can be varied.

A Sign of Affection

Pack oriented animals like canines will often use grooming as a means of bonding, as well as to say to a fellow pack member, “I give you my respect.” Many animals will also mimic behaviors learned as a youngster, like your cat’s insistence on “making biscuits” or kneading as a way to self-soothe. Mama cats and dogs will groom their babies, and this behavior continues to illustrate affection, respect, and acceptance among adult cats and dogs.

Remember that behavior is not simply “a behavior” but part of a complex means of communication. It’s likely your overzealous ear licker is trying to tell you (or the reluctant family cat) that you’re a member of his or her pack.

Infection or Compulsion

If your dog has taken a sudden interest in another pet’s ear, it may be time for an examination of the recipient. This is because dogs are curious about funky odors and tastes, and ear infections are a good source of both. Check your pet’s ears for signs of inflammation, odor, hair loss, or excessive itching. If you suspect there is a problem, please call us right away, as infections can become serious and cause a lot of pain.

Likewise, if your pet is being treated for an ear infection, do your best to discourage other pets from ear-licking. This can cause additional infection (via ongoing dampness in the ear), and your pet may inadvertently ingest medication.

Excessive ear-licking may also be an indicator of a behavioral compulsion, which can occur in pets who lack mental enrichment or who suffer from anxiety or stress. Please consult The Pet Experts if your pet begins behaving out of the norm or if you’re concerned about excessive ear-licking.

Gross but Tasty

As with a potential ear infection, the odor and taste of earwax may also inspire your “gross gourmet” to lick the ears of those around him or her. If your dog happens to be one who is attracted to the taste of earwax, it may very well explain why Rover has a thing for ears.

The important thing to remember is that as long as there is no underlying infection and your pet’s behavior has not become compulsive, your dog is likely just being a dog!

Please contact The Pet Experts at Naperville Animal Hospital our team today if we can answer any questions about dog behavior or if you would like to schedule an appointment.