Got Dog Ear Problems
I Hear Ya!

Dog ear problems are the number one reason that owners bring their dogs to the vets. The one thing you can do to resolve the issue is to find the root cause and treat THAT.    Repeatedly cleaning the ears and administering drops often only treat the symptoms and, in some cases, can make things worse.  Not all ear problems require ear cleaning and drops.

To find the cause you need to do a little bit a detective work which I can help you with here.

Dog ear problems are number one reason for vet visits.

To get started, does your dog suffer from any of these conditions with his ears?

  • Head shaking
  • Tilting head to one side
  • Constant scratching at ears
  • Bad odor from ears
  • Repeated ear infections

I wouldn't be surprised if you said yes to them all! I know my dog(s) have suffered from all of these in the past which led me to figure out the common causes, along with what treatment works and what doesn't for each.

Here's the low down on dog ear problems:

Extra Hairy Or Heavy Ears

Unfortunately many dogs with heavy ears or very hairy ears (think Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds & Blood Hounds) are prone to ear problems as their large pendulous ears tend to lock in moisture and wax causing the perfect ground for bacteria and yeast to grow.  This leads to discomfort and usually ear infections. 

Basset hound sleeping on bed with ears up.

What works well for these dogs?  Basically, anything you can do to dry out the insides of their ears.  Now, I know this may sound bizarre, but what works really well for dogs with heavy ears is having their ears flipped back from time-to-time.  Now I don't mean go and tie their ears up on their heads!  Nope, that would be silly, but when they are sleeping or resting you could just flip the ear flap back to let some air in. That will go a long way to drying up any moisture in the ear canals.

You could also try using a drying agent, which is a powder that you squirt in your dogs' ears which does a great job of absorbing moisture.

For these dogs, it's extremely beneficial to clean their ears regularly.  Usually twice a month is good. See cleaning dogs ears for more information on how to do this properly.

Dog Ear Problems & Allergies

Without a doubt, allergies are responsible for the vast majority of dog ear problems.  Especially repeated ear infections.  If your dog suffers from lots of ear infections and has any of the other symptoms (head shaking, tiling head to side, constant scratching or bad odor) then he may have a skin allergy.  

In fact, if it's a skin allergy, you may also be able to see signs of brown (rust) stained fur on their paws and undersides of the body where they've been constantly licking. This is easier to see on light colored dogs of course.

If you suspect your dogs' ear problems are due to allergies, check to see if he has any other symptoms of a skin allergy; such as belly scratching, paw licking, face rubbing, or biting at their skin.  You can find full details of Dog Skin allergies, Dog Allergy Symptoms, and Dog Allergy Treatment here but also make any appointment with your vet to confirm the diagnosis.

You can also buy a simple test to determine if your dog is suffering from allergies.

Smelly Ears

If your dog has foul smelling ears, chances are he has a yeast infection in his ears.  A normal dogs' ears may smell a little waxy but shouldn't smell bad.  A healthy amount of yeast is normal and won't smell, but if your dogs' ears (and maybe paws) start to smell musky and moldy then they may have yeast overgrowth. 

Click here for how to treat yeast infection in dogs.

A quick update on yeast in dog's ears.  My Mum's dog had yeasty ears for years and we could smell it so knew what it was.  However, when my GSD started having problems with her ears I didn't think it was yeast because it didn't really smell. I later found out, that she was allergic to yeast so even a small amount in her ears would itch like crazy so she would get treated long before the bad odor had started. 

Repeated Ear Infections

Is your dog getting one ear infection after another?  Are you fed up of putting drops in your dogs' ears only to find the infection comes right back when you stop?  Well, it's possible that your dog doesn't have an "ear" issue but instead has a skin allergy.

For sure, the ears will be affected but only because the underlying cause (usually a skin allergy) isn't being treated.  If this is the case, then repeatedly treating the ears alone will not resolve the issue.  The ears will continue to get infected until you treat the underlying cause.

If your dog is suffering from repeated ear infections, I urge you to check on Dog Skin Allergies for more information on how a dog ear infection relates to allergies and how to treat the skin allergy..first

Ear Mites

Did you know that it's very rare for an adult dog to actually get ear mites? When you take your dog to the vets for an ear problem they will always look for ear mites first, but it is rarely the cause of ear problems in dogs.

Puppies get them sometimes and that is usually because they have been in close proximity to a cat.  In fact, its usually cats that get ear mites, not dogs.  However, if your dog is scratching at her ears a lot and shaking her head you may do well to check out my page on how you can detect and treat these pesky mites yourself at home.

Waxy Buildup

Does your dog have a lot of brown stuff in his ears and you're wondering if it is a problem?  Well, usually no, it's not.  Dogs do get wax in their ears which is brown and visible.  Wax production increases as puppies become adults and as they get older. 

As long as your dog isn't scratching or showing other symptom of an ear problem then a small amount of wax is normal.  If there is a buildup on the ear flaps, then clean the flaps but not the ear canal.  A small amount of wax in the ear is necessary for the health of the ears.

No matter what the symptoms of your dog's ear problems, to relieve the discomfort of all dog ear problems the one thing you must do first is find the exact cause.  This will enable you to begin the right treatment and finally resolve, or at least manage, the issue. 

So if you are fed up with constantly having to put drops in your dogs' ears, review all the information on this page to determine the exact cause.   Be sure to also check out the details of Dog Skin Allergies as the two are usually related.

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