Ear Problems In Dogs
Help Your Dog Avoid Them!

While ear problems in dogs are very common, some breeds are more likely to be plagued by them than others. In particular, dogs with longer folded-over ears and dogs that love the water are more likely to have the type of moist environment that attracts bacteria.

long eared dog

They also have the disadvantage of not getting the good air circulation that is helpful in maintaining drier conditions in the ear.

What this means, is that breeds of this type need to have their ears inspected more frequently and kept very clean.

That being said, all dog breeds can and do get ear issues, so don't run off if you have a breed with ears of another kind. The information in this article is intended for the benefit of all dog owners - regardless of the shape of their dogs' ears!

Ear Problems In Dogs - Anatomy

The anatomy of a dog's ear is kind of like a "dogleg" in golf. Sorry for this analogy if you're not familiar with golf, but if you are, you'll know that a "dogleg" is a fairway that is shaped like the hind leg of a dog.

A dog's ear resembles this shape in that the ear canal first angles vertically in one direction and then takes a horizontal turn toward the inner ear.

It is this shape that makes it easy for various debris to become trapped, wax to build up, or parasites to find a home!

Ear problems in dogs can affect:

  • the ear flap,
  • part of the ear canal:
  • the external part,
  • the middle part including the ear drum,
  • or the inner ear.

Dogs rely on their hearing significantly more than their eyes so it makes sense for owners to become well-informed about the various types of ear conditions that may affect them adversely during their lifetime.

Armed with this knowledge, owners will have a better idea of what conditions they may be able to handle themselves and which ones need a vet's attention - asap!

Types Of Ear Problems

Ear flap Issues:

  • Inflamed ears - often related to food allergies, medications, or environmental sensitivities.
  • Injuries to the ear flaps that result from a physical confrontation with another dog or animal. Being bitten by another animal, unless it is very minor, is a situation requiring a vet's evaluation due to the risk of infection and/or the need for surgical repair.
  • Hematomas, caused by persistent scratching of the ears or head shaking. The ears may also show signs of injury from the shaking, such as cracks in the outer edges of the flap.
  • Bites from flying insects resulting in a form of dermatitis.

External Ear Canal Issues:

  • The most common problems affecting this part of the ear are infections. These may be of the bacterial type, or result from fungus or yeast. Infections are often preceded by a noticeable excess of wax or discharge accompanied by an unpleasant odor.
  • Foreign objects such as foxtails, seeds or other plant material that have gone unnoticed may become wedged in the canal and lead to an ear infection.
  • Parasites including fleas and ticks often take up residence in the warm moist environment provided by the fold in the ear flaps or pendulous ears that are hard to keep dry.

  • Otodectic ear mites are another distressing insect that can affect a dog's ears with a type of mange that causes an intense amount of itchiness. Parasites often cause ears to develop crusty skin, become swollen or suffer from hair loss.
  • Benign or malignant tumors can develop from the ceruminous glands and may be visible in the external ear canal and are sometimes associated with infections. A veterinary evaluation is definitely needed.

white dog with long ears standing outside

Ear Problems in Dogs affecting the Middle Ear:

Most of the problems associated with the middle ear are the result of the progression of external ear infections, or bacteria that enter the middle ear canal through nasal pathways and cause infections.

I hope your pet never has an infection that progresses this far because there is usually substantial pain involved at this level. His head will be painful to the touch and often noticeably tilted to one position.

If you ever had a painful ear ache, you will know the feeling! Because of the proximity to the eardrum, infections in this part of the ear can lead to deafness or facial paralysis.

Bottom line: a vet visit is definitely required right away.

Dog Ear Problems - Inner Ear:

Problems affecting the inner ear are the type of infections often associated with the loss of equilibrium - medically referred to at labyrinthitis.

If you have ever been sea sick you will be familiar with the very uncomfortable feeling of losing your sense of balance. You will also likely remember the nausea that went along with this experience!

Trauma to the head can also cause this type of condition as can poisoning or a drug reaction.

If your dog shows signs of dizziness, there is no time to waste - take him to the vet as quickly as you can!

Dog Ear Problems - In General

Other ear problems in dogs are sometimes hereditary.

For example: Dermatomyositis is a disorder of the connecting tissue that Shelties and Collies are most prone to.

Seborrhea, which results in scaly skin and hair loss in the ears of your dog, may also be an inherited condition.

Finally, hormonal abnormalities, adrenal gland disorders or a weakened immune system are also sometimes related to ear infections and/or the healing of them.

Prevention of Ear Problems In Dogs

  • Inspect your dog's ears daily especially after walks in wooded areas. Look for any signs of debris, discharge or redness.
  • Keep the ears well-groomed, clean and dry.
  • Keep your home environment, including the yard, free from dust, chemicals, garden waste and anything that might attract parasites. Try to find solutions for any known allergies your dog has - in this case, a holistic vet may be able to help you the most.
  • Watch out for signs of ear mites and get rid of them quickly if any are present.
  • Along with regular ear care, a natural organic diet, low in grains and free of any artificial ingredients and preservatives, provides the nutrient protection to keep a dog's immunity strong.

By taking these preventative measures, you will be able to stay one jump ahead of ear problems in dogs and take quick action at the first sign of any troubles.

More Health Topics

  1. Home
  2. Common Dog Diseases
  3. Ear Problems

To learn more about canine health, visit  Cornell College of Veterinary Medicine

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