Canine Ear Infections

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“My dog’s ears have a terrible odor. What could it be?”

“My puppy has been scratching his ears. The ears have dark, crumbly material in them. What should I do?”

“My dog has been rubbing his ears on the carpet, but I do not see anything wrong. Why is he doing this?”

These are some of the most commonly asked questions of veterinarians.

Every day we see dogs who have problems with their ears. Signs of these ear problems include:

  • Odor
  • Scratching or rubbing of ears and head
  • Discharge in the ears
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
  • Shaking of the head or tilting it to one side
  • Pain around the ears
  • Changes in behavior such as depression or irritability

Ear disease is one of the most common conditions we see in pets. The medical name for inflammation of the outer ear canal is ‘otitis externa.’ It is estimated that up to 20% of the dog population is affected by this disease.

Causes of ear disease

Dogs can have ear problems for many different reasons. When we see a dog with ear disease we need to think about the possibility of:

  • Allergies such as atopy or food allergies
  • Parasites – ear mites
  • Infections – bacteria and yeast
  • Foreign bodies, e.g., plant awns
  • Trauma
  • Hormonal abnormalities, e.g., hypothyroidism
  • The ear environment, e.g., excess moisture and ear anatomy
  • Hereditary or immune conditions, and tumors

For more information on this condition click here.