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Canine Ear Problems

Updated on July 26, 2013
Cleaning the ear
Cleaning the ear
Dog's paw with allergies
Dog's paw with allergies
A healthy, clean ear
A healthy, clean ear

Ear problems are a common issue among several breeds of dogs. The causes differ. The medical treatment varies. Daily care of the ear, however, can help reduce the problem. It will also prevent further occurrence and serious consequences can result from allowing the health issue to remain. Prevention is always important. It is, therefore, key you are able to recognize the symptoms.


The signs of ear problems are physical. A dog may shake his/her head from side to side. S/he may scratch at the ear or rub it along the surface of the couch, carpet, or whatever surface is handy. In some cases, the canine will actually lie on the carpet wriggling along it as s/he rubs the affected side of the head. Other symptoms include:

  • Tilting the head to one side
  • A brown, crumbly substance is discharged from the ear
  • Odour
  • Loss of equilibrium (usually indicative of an inner ear infection)


The cause of your dog’s pain and discomfort can stem from several potential sources. These include:

  • Ear mites, fleas or other parasitic insects
  • Ear trauma – including the entry of foreign objects such as plants e.g. seeds, burrs, and the over aggressive use of cleaning tools such as cotton-tips
  • Medical condition
  • Narrow or small ear canals – these increase the probability of ongoing ear issues
  • Genetic predisposition – breeds with long and very narrow ear canals
  • Yeast infections – inhabits the ear normally. Will increase in number greatly if influenced by other factors
  • Bacterial infection
  • Medical problems such as a tomour/growth

Influencing factors include the love of swimming and the environment. Animals living in hot and humid climates are more prone to ear infections.

However, the most common cause of ear health problems are allergies.


Allergies are a causal factor in various health problems affecting dogs. In fact, ear infections may be the first indicator of a food or other allergy. Statistics indicate approximately 80% of the canines with food allergies also have some form of ear problems. The ear problem is usually recurrent.

Yet, food is not the only allergenic. Molds, fleas, pollens (this can include grass, tree and plants such as ragweed) and dust can also trigger a reaction. An indication that the dog’s ear trouble may relate to an allergy lies in his or her behaviour. In addition to rubbing the face and shaking the head, s/he will frequently licking their paws.


Left untreated, any form of ear infection can severely impair the hearing of your dog. Complications such as hearing loss or damage to the inner ear are a common result of delay in addressing the problem. A vet will be able to diagnose the cause and recommend treatment. The usual treatment consists of ear cleansers as well as medications applied externally. These will be specific to the causal factor or factors.

In most instances, the remedy utilizes an anti-inflammatory. This will reduce any irritation and inflammation resulting from the infection. An oral medication may also be necessary, particularly in the case of yeast or bacterial infection. Be sure to follow the directions. Do not stop the medication before the end of the prescribed treatment period. This could result in a return of the problem and reduce the effectiveness of using the medication again.


Preventing ear problems can be as simple as keeping the ears of a dog clean and dry. This is particularly important for dogs susceptible to ear problems e.g. an English Bulldog. Other dogs will not require such intensive maintenance. Simply check their ears regularly for excess dirt or discharge. Consider the following:

  • Dry the ears after the dog has been swimming or had a bath.
  • Do not stick a cotton-tipped applicator into the ear canal for any reason. Use soft cotton or tissue.
  • Do not use wet wipes if the chance exists moisture will enter the ear. This could exacerbate any water retention problems resulting in increased growth of yeast or bacteria.


A dog deserves to have healthy ears. It is up to you to make sure you do everything you can to ensure this. If your breed, through its genetics or habits, is more susceptible to ear infections and other problems, take action. Be proactive in preventing the problems before they occur.

If, in spite of this, your dog exhibits signs of ear problems, take him or her to the vet. Be sure you can inform the vet of the specifics. Once the examination and tests clarify the problem, be sure to follow through on the treatment.


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