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Common Ear Problems in Dogs & Care Tips From Fuzzy Vets

Posted by Dr. Jessica on May 12, 2021

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As many pet parents know, ear problems in dogs are very common. From the beautiful pointed ears of the Corgi to the wonderfully floppy ears of the Basset Hound, each breed is prone to different ear problems depending on their ear shape. No matter what breed(s) a pet parent has at home, it is important to recognize the signs of an oncoming problem.

Early treatment and proactive cleaning is the key to maintaining healthy dog ears.

Common Types of Ear Problems in Dogs

When it comes to dog ear problems, not all issues are the same. Common ailments include the following:

External Ear Infections

External ear infections—known as otitis externa—are defined as inflammation that affects the external part of the ear canal. Long or furry-eared dogs are more prone to external ear infections, which can be brought on by parasites, over cleaning, or allergies. External ear infections should always be treated early, as they can develop into internal ear infections.

Internal Ear Infections

External ear infections often spread into the middle or inner ear. Internal ear infections are known as otitis media and otitis interna and can be very serious. Dogs with long or heavy ears are more prone to chronic internal ear infections—which are the result of a yeast (the most common fungal infection) or bacteria infection that has traveled deep into the ear canal. 

Internal ear problems can lead to deafness, facial paralysis, and other serious health issues like head tilt, altered balance, and difficulty eating. Pet parents must seek dog health advice from a vet when ear problems arise. 

Ear Injuries

Though ear issues can arise with any dog, those with large or upright ears are more at-risk for ear injuries from foreign objects and their environment. Similarly, dogs with thin ears often experience blood blisters, tears, or small scratches from rough play.

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Symptoms of Dog Ear Problems

While some dogs display no symptoms beyond wax build-up or discharge, ear injuries and problems typically cause noticeable discomfort. Dogs afflicted with an ear problem often display:

  • Dark discharge or crust

  • Excessive head shaking

  • Noticeable odor

  • Significant scratching

  • Signs of pain and itchiness

  • Swelling or irritation in the ear

Causes of Ear Problems

Why do dogs experience so many ear problems? The shape of their ear canal is a major contributing factor. Canine ear canals are much more vertical than a humans'. The L-shape of the canal impedes air flow, which makes dog ears more prone to holding fluid. This creates a tiny microenvironment similar to that of an incubator and is the perfect place for bacteria and yeast to develop into the resulting ear infection. All it takes is a small amount of trapped moisture.

Common causes of ear problems include:

  • Allergies, which can cause inflammation

  • Ear mites

  • Excessive wax buildup

  • Foreign bodies

  • Moisture that fosters bacterial and yeast growth

  • Over cleaning

  • Thyroid or autoimmune disease

Dogs who spend a significant amount of time swimming or playing outdoors are often more susceptible to ear problems because of the increased exposure to water and foreign objects—like grass seeds or pollen.Pet parents should regularly inspect and clean their dogs’ ears if they are outdoor often and prone to any of the above problems.

Prevention of Ear Problems in Dogs

Though ear problems are common, there are several steps that pet parents can take to prevent recurring issues. Tips for minimizing ear injuries and infections include the following:

Clean the Dog’s Ears

One of the best ways to combat ear infections is with regular cleaning. Dogs with long and heavy ears will especially benefit from careful cleaning. To clean a dog’s ears:

  • Be gentle

  • Use a soft cotton ball on the outer parts of the ear

  • Do not try to swab the inner part of the dog’s ear

  • Use a vet-approved ear solution 

  • Avoid over cleaning 

Always consult with a veterinarian when choosing a new ear solution.

Use Appropriate Skincare

Pet parents often overlook preventative skincare for pets with upright ears. Use a gentle sunscreen on the outermost edges of the ear for light-colored or hairless dogs whose ear skin is exposed to the sun. 

Check For Problems

When it comes to maintaining healthy ears, one of the best pieces of dog advice is to check them often. Pet parents should regularly take a peek into their dog’s ears and remain vigilant about any signs of inflammation, injury, or infection. 

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Treatment of Ear Problems in Dogs

Treatment for ear problems will depend on the type of issue the dog is experiencing. In some cases, pet parents may be able to use anti-itch medicine for dogs to alleviate the itchiness of the outer ear. Other ear infections and injuries may require medium to long-term treatment. Always consult with a vet at the first sign of an ear problem. 

If you want to make sure your pet’s ears are well taken care of, check in with our Live Vet Chat. Send photos to the Fuzzy Veterinary Support Team for specific guidance and enjoy 24/7 access to Live Vet Chat. Fuzzy is your pet health partner, always available to help pet parents learn in real-time how to care for dogs’ ears and more. Become a Fuzzy Member today!

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