Dog Ear Problems

A dog’s heightened sense of hearing compared to ours is incredible. They can hear sounds in the range of 40-60,000 Hz, while the human range is only 20-20,000 Hz. They can hear sounds that, to us, are inaudible. A dog runs to the front door or bark way before your house visitor rings the bell.

Some breeds have the erect, perky ears of the ancestral wolf, while others have floppy ears. The latter are the ones most commonly prone to problems.

Dogs With Floppy Ears

Floppy ears can get very warm and sometimes damp, which is why they are most vulnerable to infections. Bacteria is able to grow quickly in these ideal conditions, so it is important to carry out routine checks. Trim any stray hairs that grow down the ear canal, as this can cause irritation which may lead to infection.

To keep this fantastic hearing in tip top condition you need to know how to check and clean a dog's ears.

Dog ears can get very warm and damp, which can encourage bacterial growth. To fight against yeast-based ear infection or mites, your vet might prescribe your dog with ear drops. They might also prescribe ear drops for use after swimming to kill any bacteria that could be picked up in the water.


A Bloodhound with incredible floppy ears
A Bloodhound with incredible floppy ears

Checking For Deafness

A puppy’s hearing can be tested from the age of 8 weeks. Certain breeds – Bull Terriers, Dalmatians, and White Boxers – have a tendency towards partial or complete deafness, unfortunately.

A dog with impaired hearing isn’t doomed to an unhappy life, as long as there’s someone there for him. He requires close attention and sometimes a bit of help with day-to-day tasks. There are also challenges in training such a dog, too, as sound is generally a key part of training.

How to Check For An Ear Infection Or Yeast Infection

Your dog’s ears should be clean with very minimal visible wax or dirt. Ear infections are usually caused by invasive yeasts, which is why they are often referred to as yeast infections.


Dalmatian showing his ears
A happy Dalmatian showing you how clean his ears are

Typical ear infection symptoms to look out for in your dog include:

  • Encrustations or dirty-looking patches in the ear
  • Persistent scratching
  • Shaking the head
  • Tilting the head
  • Smelly ears
  • Red or inflamed ears

Adminsitering ear drops to a dog
Always follow the instructions you've been given for administering ear drops

Your vet will usually prescribe ear drops for your dog. They will often need administering at least twice a day, but always follow the instructions you have been given. Oral antibiotics are sometimes prescribed too.

How to Check For Ear Mite

If your dog has an ear problem which isn’t based on a yeast infection, it is probably ear mite.

Mites are small, and can be hard to see in dogs with dark skin. They form dark clusters in the ear canal, but some of them will be visible at the entrance to the ear canal. They are highly contagious and can be found in dogs at any age. They can be caught from other animal species too, usually cats.

Treatment for ear mites is in the form of ear drops, usually applied for 10 days to kill the mites and their eggs. Sometimes a cluster of mites will take hold on another part of the dog, but a standard flea treatment will kill these off.

Clean all the dog’s bedding, and treat your other animals at the same time, as mites are very contagious and can live away from the dog’s body for a long time, waiting for an opportunity to take up residence again.


Administering ear drops to a dog
Always follow the instructions you've been given for administering ear drops

How To Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Cleaning your dog's ears can be tricky and requires patience. Make reassuring noises, and gently call your dog for his treatment.

  • Fill the ear canal with a cleaning solution – you can get this from the vet.
  • Place a cotton ball (not cotton buds or Q-Tips) over the opening of the ear to prevent the solution from escaping.
  • Slowly tilt your dog’s head back and forth to catch any debris inside the ear on the cotton ball. Repeat this until your dog’s ears appear clean, and then allow the ear canals to dry.

Dog Ear Wax Problems

Small amounts of wax inside the ear canal is natural, but if you notice an excess of wax, contact your vet rather than trying to remove it yourself. It is easy to damage a dog’s ears if you try to scrape the wax – leave it to someone who knows what they’re doing!

Remember: Never put Q-Tips inside a pet’s ears. This can be extremely damaging and if used heavy-handedly or without knowledge of the structure of the animal’s ear canal, they can cause your dog to go deaf.


A dog with a small amount of ear wax
Check your dog's ears for excess wax

How to Give Your Dog Ear Drops

Unless your dog has particularly sensitive ears, giving him ear drops is a very simple process. To make it even easier, it is a good idea to get your dog used to having his ears touched from an early age. This will allow him to feel more comfortable when you do have to give him ear drops.

The Best Way To Give Your Dog Ear Drops

Use a calm and comforting voice throughout the process and reward your dog with lots of praise. Have a treat ready on the side to give him once you have finished. Avoid using an excited voice so that your dog remains calm and still, and remember, if you make this experience a positive one your dog won’t mind you administering the drops the next time.

Ear drops may need applying several times a day, but always refer to what your vet has prescribed. It may be useful to slightly heat the ear drop medication in a bowl of warm water before you administer them so that it comes out of the bottle easier. Kneel behind your dog and hold him with your knees.

  • Slowly lift up one of your dog’s ears and hold it back.
  • Insert the nozzle of the ear drop bottle into the opening of the ear. Never go any further into the ear than this as you can damage the dog’s hearing.
  • Gently massage around the base of the ear to allow the medication to make its way down the canal and then repeat for the other ear.

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