Looking After Your Dog’s Ears

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Have you wanted to know more about your dog’s ears? What about things to look for and things to do to help keep them healthy? Find out more here.

A dog’s ears are so expressive. They perk up and tilt their head in that cute way they do when you talk to them, and they’re trying to hear you and get a better look at you. They drop back, away from the head when they’re feeling a little sad or under the weather. They pin them back, flat against their head when they’re fearful or aggressive. This, in addition to the essential function they serve of allowing them to hear, is what makes them so important to your pup. Looking after their ears is a responsibility not to be taken lightly. You know your pup, so any behavioural changes are things you will likely pick up, so don’t worry, taking care of their ears is a two-person job. This article details what to look for, how issues can be diagnosed, and what treatment and preventative measures there are to help you on your way.

Signs and Symptoms

Of the various signs and symptoms which indicate a problem with your dog’s ear, some will have only one or two, and some will show multiple – all with varying degrees of severity. Here they are:

  • Scratching at their ear(s) more frequently
  • Whining when they scratch their ear or you touch them
  • Redness and swelling inside the ear
  • Shaking their head
  • Dark discharge
  • An odour

The whining, scratching, and shaking will likely be visibly apparent to you than the redness, swelling, discharge, and even the odour. Despite the attention you no doubt give your pup, it might be worth it if they’re sitting on your lap or lying at your feet, having a quick peek inside their ears to see what’s going on. Doing this once or twice a week will be enough to catch any changes to the look and/or odour early on so that the diagnosis and treatment can happen swiftly.

Certain dogs will be more likely to have ear infections than others. Dogs with long, floppy ears or hairy ones, like this Disney-Princess Cocker Spaniel who has both, are more prone than those who don’t.


A key topic to cover before the diagnosis and the treatment section is insurance. It is best practice when getting a new pet to purchase a bed, a toy, food, and insurance. Having insurance so early on ensures that any surprises can be better dealt with. In the case of ear infections, allergies could be a cause. If you sign-up for pet insurance when you notice something isn’t right, you can’t claim for reimbursement until the policy’s waiting period ends. By this time, if the cause is allergies or any other disease or disorder, it will be deemed a pre-existing condition by the insurance company. (This is the definition of what is pet pre-existing condition defined as an illness or a disorder that has been diagnosed and exists on your pet’s medical records before your policy starts (once the waiting period ends). This will affect the policy you would have taken out, meaning that you will not be eligible for reimbursement with this policy as it stands. You will need to amend the policy.


As soon as any changes are noticed, you should book an appointment to see a vet. They will ask you questions about the problem – how long has it been like this? What behavioural changes have there been? Are they on medication? Do they have underlying medical conditions? How long is it since they’ve been groomed? And possible more – to further understand the context and they will do a physical examination: a visual assessment, use an otoscope, and gently determine the pain levels. If they believe it’s a more serious case, then swabs can be taken and biopsies or x-rays can be arranged.

There is a range of causes and things the vet will be looking for. A dog’s ear shape is more vertical than a human’s, so fluid can stay in there for longer, causing the infection. Allergies and other underlying conditions like thyroid disease and autoimmune disorders are a possibility. More innocuous things like moisture in the ear, wax build-up, injury, and foreign bodies are another.


Thankfully, treatment is fairly straightforward for the simpler cases, which most of them will likely be. The vet will use an ear cleaner with medicine in it and then prescribes an ear cleaner for you to use at home and probably antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications to help clear up the infection.  In more serious instances, surgery may be required – to remove diseased tissues or polyps, for instance.

Preventative Methods

Preventative care promotes and maintains your dog’s wellbeing. Some insurance policies will include preventative care, but others will have it as an optional extra. Vaccinations, flea treatments, annual check-ups, heartworm tests, and bloodwork to detect diseases can be covered. Others might include things like dental work. However, grooming and nail trimming aren’t included. For ear care, grooming and cleaning are likely to be included. So, when you talk about preventative care, it is worth checking your policy or looking for a policy that might include the things that could benefit you, like bloodwork and annual check-ups for tumor and underlying diseases and disorders.

Preventative methods include regular cleaning (though not too much, as this can cause infections), keeping them dry, using supplements like Omega-3 fatty acids, reducing inflammation in the skin, and plucking hairy ears only if necessary. These are ways to invest time and energy to keep your puppy’s ears healthy.

For more great dog-related resources, including dog-training consulting services, set aside some time to receive dog blogs by Acme Canine.


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