Otitis is the name for inflammation of the ear (an ear infection), and is very common in dogs. Ear disease

rarely goes unnoticed when it is severe. Dogs with ear problems will generally shake their head from side

to side, and may be forever stopping to sit down and scratch their ears or rub the side of their head on the

ground. In many types of infection there is a smelly discharge or the ear canal may be full of black wax.

Sometimes, dogs with sore ears will just sit with their head tilted to one side.


You should never put anything into a dog’s ear unless you have been instructed to do so by your vet.

Poking cotton wool buds or other cleaning devices into the ear canal can push debris or foreign bodies

further down where they can cause serious damage.

Sometimes a dog with ear disease will shake their head so much that they burst a blood vessel and

develop a swelling in their ear flap – a haematoma. If this happens your dog will probably need an operation

to drain the swelling.

A dog’s ear is quite a different shape to ours. Humans simply have a horizontal tube that runs straight from

the side of the head into the inner ear (auditory canal). In the dog however, the outside opening of the ear

canal is high on the side of the head. The canal runs vertically down the side of the head and makes a

sharp right angle into the inner ear. Additionally, some dogs have an ear flap which can partially cover the

canal opening. As a result, the ear canal can become very hot and sweaty.

There are a variety of things which may irritate your dog’s ear. Foreign bodies (usually grass seeds) can

get stuck in the ear canal and infections may develop. There is even a type of mite which lives inside the

ear canal. Infection can be secondary to these, or may be a primary cause of sore ears.

Unfortunately some animals are just more prone to ear problems than others. Dogs with long dangly ears

like spaniels seem to have particular problems. Dogs which spend a lot of time in water may also get

regular ear infections. Also, dogs with allergies frequently have recurring ear problems. The lining of the ear

is like the skin on the rest of the body and can become itchy and inflamed in an allergic dog.

Never put anything into your dogs ear without first consulting your vet. The longer you leave it before

starting treatment the harder it becomes to clear up the irritation. Each time ear disease develops, more

damage is done and eventually the walls of the ear canal may become thickened. This makes further

infections more likely.

Ear problems in dogs and cats are painful. Any person who has had ear infections in the past will know how debilitating they

can be, so if you suspect there is a problem then your best friend will thank you for bringing them in sooner rather than later!