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Dog Ear Problems

Dog ear problems are extremely common and they can be very irritating to our dogs. Ear infections and ear mites are two examples of common canine ear problems which, if left untreated, can lead to something more serious. Read this page to learn more about various common ear problems in dogs and how to apply ear medicines to dog ears.

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Ear problems in dogs are very common - they range from "swimmer's ear" to something more serious such as middle or inner ear infections which may result in hearing loss.

To prevent dog ear problems, it is most important to keep your dog's ears dry and clean and free from foreign objects. Wet ear canals and foreign material in the canals easily result in ear infections. To make sure that your dog's ears are dry and clean, remember to:
  • Put cotton wadding into the ear canals while bathing your dog.
  • Clean and dry your dog's ears with cotton balls after he has been swimming.
  • Check and groom under the ear flaps regularly, and especially after your dog has been out in tall grass and brush.

Common Dog Ear Problems

  • Outer Ear Infections

    Outer ear infections are perhaps by far the most common dog ear problems. It is an inflammation of the ear canal. Signs of outer ear infections include violent head-shaking, scratching and rubbing of the affected ear. There is usually is an odorous discharge from the ear. The dog walks with a tilted head because of the pain. (Visit our page on Canine Ear Infection for more information.)
  • Ear Mites

    Mites are highly-contagious, small parasites that live in a dog's ear canals. They cause intense itching to the dog, resulting in incessant scratching and violent head shaking. The canals with mite infestation contain a dry, crumbly, dark brown, waxy discharge that resembles coffee grounds. (Visit our page on Canine Ear Mites for more information.)
  • Middle Ear Infections

    Middle ear infections in dogs involve the eardrum and the middle ear cavity, and in most cases, are caused by an outer ear infection which progresses to the middle ear. The early signs of a middle ear infection are similar to those of an outer ear infection, but the pain is more intense. Diagnosis is made using an otoscope which will show a bulging eardrum. If the eardrum is ruptured, pus may be seen draining from the middle ear.
  • Inner Ear Infections

    Most cases of inner ear infections are preceded by outer ear infections. A dog with an inner ear infection displays signs of dizziness (labyrinthitis), such as having an abnormal posture, lacking coordination, losing balance, and sometimes vomiting. A dog with an inner ear infection should be treated immediately since it is an emergency.
  • Ear Allergy

    Usually dogs suffering from canine atopy or food allergies also develop inflamed ears. Signs of an ear allergy are intense itching resulting in incessant scratching. The ear canals become red, inflamed, moist or they may have a brownish discharge. There are scabs, crusts, and areas of hair loss on the outside of the ear flaps. These symptoms will only improve when the underlying cause is addressed.
  • Hearing Loss

    Hearing loss in dogs can be due to congenital development defects, or other factors such as ear infections or old age. (Visit our page on Hearing Loss in Dogs for more information.)

Applying Ear Medicines to a Dog

Here is how to apply ear medicines to your dog:
  • Fold the ear flap back over the top of your dog's head.
  • Insert the end of the medicine dropper into the ear canal only as far as you can see.
  • Squeeze out the number of drops as instructed by the vet.
  • Fold the ear flap back down and gently massage the base of the ear for about 20 seconds to disperse the medicine evenly.


Before applying any ear medicines or ear drying solutions to your dog's ears, make sure that his eardrums are intact. A perforated eardrum allows medicines to enter the middle ear and can cause damage to the ear structures essential to hearing.

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