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Ear Care for Older Dogs!

Whether they are pointy or floppy, long or short, dogs' ears are a sensitive part of their bodies. Unattended ear infections in dogs can lead to serious problems and possible hearing loss. If the ears smell bad, your dog is scratching at them or shaking his head, or if he acts in pain when you touch them, it could be a sign of an infection and the time to call your veterinarian. Also, just like the warnings for human ears, dogs' ears are no place for cotton swabs.

Signs of ear infection in dogs


  • Unpleasant odor

  • Excessive scratching and pawing of the ear and head

  • Sensitivity to touch, often resulting from pain

  • Constant tilting/shaking of the head to one side

  • Black or yellowish discharge

  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal

  • Changes in behavior like listlessness, depression or irritability

  • Accumulation of dark brown wax

  • Loss of balance or hearing and disorientation

  • Bleeding or discharge resembling coffee grinds

Causes of ear infections in dogs


Ear problems are relatively common in dogs, especially during the summer months and in breeds with floppy ears. All ear problems have an underlying cause, which must be determined. Simply treating the ear for inflammation and infection guarantees that the problem will reoccur.

Because of the many different causes of a dog's ear infection, it is important to have your dog examined by a veterinarian, who can then determine the proper medication or treatment.

  • Allergies - In dogs allergies manifest themselves as skin itching and irritation. The ear is lined with very sensitive waxy skin, which also becomes itchy in allergic dogs. These dogs scratch and rub at their ears causing inflammation and the release of exudates that grow bacteria and molds. Types of allergies: dust mites - cigarette smoke - mildews - grasses - pollens - weeds - certain ingredients in their food.

  • Parasites - Ear mites are tiny infectious organisms resembling microscopic ticks. Infection usually produces a characteristic dry black ear discharge commonly said to resemble coffee grounds.

  • Bacteria and Yeast - Dogs have long ear canals that can hold water after a bath, swim, or run through tall, wet grass. Add to this a floppy ear that prevents good ventilation of the ear canal and you have a warm, moist, dark environment in which yeast thrive. The more moisture yeast get, the worse the infection will be.

  • Foreign object - It is not uncommon to find foreign objects in the ears of dogs. The most common are grass seeds. These are irritating and contaminated with potential environmental pathogens. Affected animals are extremely uncomfortable and a common complaint is frequent or persistent head-shaking or pawing at the head.

  • Trauma - An ear hematoma is simply a blood clot that forms in between the skin and the cartilage of the ear. Ear hematomas are usually the result of excessive blunt trauma that results in broken and bleeding blood vessels. This trauma is usually self induced and a result of chronic itching.

  • Hormonal Abnormalities - Hypothyroidism is an inadequate production of hormone from the thyroid gland. Hypothyroidism commonly affects the coat and skin and can causes hair loss (balding), excessive dandruff, poor hair re-growth after clipping, increased pigment in the skin, and ear infections.