The Zygomatico Auricularis Muscle in Canines

Full Title: The Zygomatico Auricularis Muscle in Canines

Author: Patricia McLane

Date of Publication: September 23, 2015


Research Paper Text:


To pat a dog on his head and not touch a part of the zygomatico auricularis is quite a feat. The zygomatico auricularis (see figure no. 12) (1) is a band of muscle that runs (generally) from just above the eye to just below the ear. References were found that called the zygomatic auricularis the “smiling muscle” but this muscle also directs a canine’s ear toward sound.

To get a more complete picture of what the zygomatico auricularis muscle does we can first distinguish traits of the auricularis or auricular muscles of which there are three – the anterior, superior, and posterior. The largest muscle of this group is the superior with the smallest being the anterior. In mammals, and for our discussion, canines, these three muscles can direct the pinna, the visible part of the ear made of cartilage. This part of the ear can exhibit as a flap that covers the inner ear or can be stiff with the tip raise above the head, exposing the inner ear, or a variety of other shapes, angles and sizes, depending on the breed. The auricular muscles move the pinna toward the direction of sound allowing for keen focus. This is a trait humans do not posses.

As we look at the zygomatic muscles, we again see a team of muscles working together. In this case to move the angle of the mouth backward and upward, the job of the greater/major muscle and the upper lip upward and laterally, the job of the lesser/minor. The zygomatic major muscle is appropriately called the “smile muscle”.

The zygomatic auricularis muscle, with a location above the eye stretching back to the ear and employing auricular muscles and zygomatic muscle also travels along the zygomatic arch. The zygomatic arch is a boney structure formed by the temporal process of the zygomatic bone and the zygomatic process of the temporal bone (2). It should also be noted that zygo literally means yoke or union.

Other important finds to discuss as it relates to the industry of pet massage are the acupressure points that occupy the general area of the zygomatico auricularis. SI19 is found at the base of the external ear and is part of the Small Intestine meridian and includes auditory dysfunction, otitis, seizures, mania or anxiety. GB1, GB2, and GB14 run near the base of the eye and are part of the Gall Bladder meridian and include ocular disorders and facial paralysis (3).

When in a massage session with a canine client, or even in a casual petting scenario, this practitioner’s experience with the zygomatico auricularis muscle has always been positive. To massage in the area of the zygomatic arch is to offer the dog a soothing and calming touch that seems to provide relaxation and a sense of ease and trust.

When slow, gentle pressure is applied and partnered with small half-circular movements with the thumb, the client exhibits relaxation by closing the eyes and softening the ears. It has also been observed that in older dogs the zygomatic arch and thus the zygomatic auricularis muscle are very prominent as the fatty layer has diminished.

Whether the zygomatic auricularis muscle is the muscle responsible for smiling or for aiding one of the canine’s most exceptional senses, hearing, massaging this muscle should be part of the Petmassage session.


  1. “Century Dreams – Zoology – Muscles of the Head.” Century Dreams – Zoology – Muscles of the Head. Serenity House Publishing Inc., n.d. Web. 16 Sept. 2015.
  2. “zygomatic arch.” The American Heritage® Stedman’s Medical Dictionary. Houghton Mifflin Company. 16 Sep. 2015. < arch>.
  3. Snow, Amy, Zedonis, Nancy. Acu-Dog A Guide to Canine Acupressure. Tallgrass Publishers, LLC; 1st edition. (March 1, 2011)

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