What are the most common ear problems in dogs?

dog-big-ears-ear-problems Kyle Smith

Noticed your dog shaking their head more, rubbing it on the floor or scratching at their ears? Red, dirty or smelly ears? Keep reading to learn what may be causing this and what to do about it!

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Dog ears are amazing and they’re useful for so many things! They help dogs listen to the world and to you (selectively, odds are), communicate their intentions and emotions to other dogs, and provide endless and long-suffering entertainment to the family cat or puppy.

But sometimes they can be a source of discomfort for the dog and the way dogs indicate an ear problem is by:

  • shaking their head a lot more than usual,

  • rubbing at one or both ears with their paws,

  • rubbing the sides of the head and the ears against floors or furniture,

  • crying out when the ear is touched,

  • tilting their head or holding one ear a little bit higher than the other, even when they walk.

What may cause a dog to do this?

The behaviours listed above can have various causes, but the most common ones are:

What should you do about it?

The first thing to do is to have a thorough look at the inside and outside of the ear flap to check if there are any scratches or wounds hidden in the hair there that could cause the pain. Minor, fresh wounds can be treated at home. If it’s dried and scabbed over, leave it alone, only regularly checking for swelling under or around it. Pay attention to the edge of the ear flaps, especially if your dog is white, as the sunburn is usually happening in that area.

Then check the ear canal entrance. Do this carefully if your dog is protective of the area and do not insist if they don’t allow you to touch the ear.

If the skin is calm and the head-shaking or rubbing started very suddenly, it’s possible that your dog has something in the ear to make them itchy. If you spot the end of a grass blade or seed, gently pull it out of the ear.

If there’s mild redness and waxiness, start by cleaning the ears. A very red, hot and sore ear or redness and waxiness that persists despite 3-4 days of cleaning is likely to be due to an ear infection and it’s best to speak to a vet then.

If you need to take your dog to your registered vet, please do not use any ear cleaners the day before and on the day of the vet visit. Some of the liquid ear cleaner remains in the ear canal and pools there, making otoscopic examination difficult.

When to take your dog to the vet?

If you see or feel a hard bubble or cushion in the ear flap, with variable give, that’s likely to be an aural haematoma and that needs to be seen by your vet. Big or swollen, oozy wounds or lumps anywhere on the ear should also be examined and sampled.

As mentioned above, take your dog to the vet if you see severe itchiness or redness of the skin, with or without the ear(s) being dirty or oozy. Keep in mind that dogs are generally stoical creatures and they might be in more pain than they show.

If you are not sure whether you should see your registered vet, please use the booking button to the right of this article to speak to one of our FirstVet vets. They’ll be able to help you decide if your dog needs a vet visit or not, how urgent it is and what exactly to do in the meantime.

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