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Gorgeous Spaniel’s Ears – How to Keep Them Healthy

Updated on April 13, 2009

Gorgeous Ears Are Prone To Problems

Discover why if you’re thinking of owning a Cocker Spaniel, you will be first attracted to its gentle, alert, intelligent, sensitive and well mannered loving nature and certainly amazing long droopy ears, which seem to be prone to ear infections.

Because of the way the Cocker's ear hangs down over the ear canal, and because of all that long hair on the ear, there isn't much ventilation in to the ear canal. Another common cause of ear problems in Cockers is the presence of thick hair within the ear canal. This hair traps debris, moisture and earwax within the ear canals, which again sets up condition for bacterial and fungal (yeast) growth.

Things get moist in there, making it an ideal place for bacteria and yeast to grow. This results in otitis. If water gets into the Cocker’s ear, that water remains present much longer than it would in a dog with an open and airy ear canal.

Cocker Spaniels, as you probably know, do require special care and once you learn and understand their needs its not that hard to care for a Cocker Spaniel.

Causes of problems

Causes of ear problems could be Foreign Particles entered into the ear canal, middle or inner ear, Ear Infection, Ear Trauma.


Foreign Particles

After a nice walk your dog often arrives home with a numerous particles from the trail on his fur coat. Occasionally one of those particles enters the ear canal and can cause a big problem. The most dangerous is a spike-like tall grass with spikelets and grains. Here it is, you know it.

The head of this grass somehow enters into your dog ear - I guess, when scratching or rubbing the dog helps it to enter. If that happens, you can see overall changes in behavior including depression, vigorous shaking of the head and tilting down or to the side, the dog stops eating and drinking.

It is an emergency case and you should see the vet. The procedure of retrieval of the grass includes complete anesthesia. Please remember, that the post-anesthetic recovery can be very hard and painful for the dog.

Ear Infection

There are several signs of ear infection:

  • A strange, often foul odor coming from the inner ear;
  • Consistent scratching and rubbing of the ear and/or head;
  • Discharge in the ear;
  • Pain or tenderness of the entire ear area;
  • Redness or swelling around ear canal;
  • Vigorous shaking of the head;

Since dog ear infection problems are recognized by professionals as widely varied and occasionally difficult to diagnose, it is helpful to do some research about all of the possible causes before your appointment with the vet.

The possible causes are as follows:

Microorganisms: One of the most common of these types of ear infections is the yeast infection. There are numerous types of bacteria that can cause dog ear problems.

Parasites: The most common parasite that makes the lives of our pets more difficult is the ear mite. Dogs with ear mites will often display excessive scratching of the ear and head, and can cause themselves serious ear trauma.

Water In The Ear: Water getting into the ear canal doesn’t necessarily creates any problems - water evaporates. However, it is not the case for Cockers - water remains present much longer than it would in a dog with an open and airy ear canal. So, bacteria has a water environment in order to multiply.

Small Foreign Particles: Large particles entered into the ear canal result in changed behavior of the dog immediately and were described above. Small particles unlike them are not noticeable at the beginning, but can cause an infection.

To read more about ear infections go to


Certain accidents can cause trauma to a dog’s sensitive ears. Wounds, if left untreated, can lead to serious infection and even deafness. If your dog has suffered any type of physical trauma, make sure to check all areas of the body, including the ears, to make sure nothing serious has happened.

How to beat cocker ear infection

One of the most common Cocker Spaniel health issues is ear infections.
A dog with an ear infection is uncomfortable; his ear canals are sensitive. He shakes his head trying to get the debris and fluid out, and scratches his ears.

Lift up the ear and look inside the ear canal. If the skin has a red tint to it, or if you smell a cheesy smell, or if you see any kind of discharge, you've probably got an ear infection in there.
You have two choices now - the first is to visit the veterinarian and the less common is to try helping your dog by yourself. I recommend the first, but still want to share a recipe luckily found on the internet -

It is home-made drops, ear cleaning solution from Cocker Spaniel club of San Diego county, that has been used in the Cocker world for decades.
My experience has been that a dog with an ear infection, if given this treatment daily, will show improvement within a few days, and will have the problem solved completely within about two weeks.
You can find photographs of the drops treatment procedure on this website

Long-standing ear infection

Long-standing ear infections may result in closing of the ear canal. There are medications that can shrink the swollen tissues and open the canal. Some cases will eventually require surgery.
You can read more on that in the article
Long-standing ear infections may develop irreversible damage to the ear canal, they may have a ruptured eardrum and infection in the middle ear. If so, the infection will not resolve with medication and your dog needs a surgery.
A dog that has chronic deep seated ear infections will be much less active than a normal dog because they do not feel well.
A dog that has chronic ear disease has a significant loss of hearing.
So, it happens that even if you don’t want and are afraid of surgery, you may start thinking about it.
You can find more information on dog ear surgery on this website

How to eliminate the cause

Don't make the mistakes many owners do though and presume a Cocker Spaniel is cared for the same way as any other dog. They aren't and that mistake could cost you dearly in time, money and heartache.
The first thing to do is to attempt to eliminate the cause.

Foreign Particles

  • Please, avoid walking your dog in the places with a spike-like type of grass
  • Groom an inner side of the ears to eliminate sticking particles and entering into the ear canal. Pet supply stores have a variety of tools to assist in that.

Ear Infection

  • Cockers should be checked at least weekly. The inner side of the ear should be a healthy pink color. A small amount of black discharge may be observed. Ear infections may result in: redness, discharge, odor, head shaking, ear scratching, rubbing ears on the floor or other surfaces.
  • Excess ear canal hair can cause ear infections, leading to terrible discomfort for your dog. Most dogs accept the procedure of removing the hair fairly well. Done properly, it does not cause pain. It might feel weird, but it does not hurt. This hair is not very firmly imbedded.
    Hair growing within the ear canals can be plucked out with forceps. Pluck the dog's ear hair every month. Plucking too often can cause irritation in your dog's ears and lead to an infection. You can watch video that may help in it -
  • Keep the ears dry! Avoid swimming, and, if happened, dry the ears thoroughly. Drying following baths is also necessary. Be careful when making baths as well.
    Ear drying solutions help too. The regular cleaning and disinfection of your Cocker’s ears is critical.
  • Clean the ears! Dogs do not like having their ears cleaned. There is website where you can find photographs of this procedure -



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