Medical Problems with the Ear

Problems in the ear can be caused by:

– Foreign Bodies (such as grass seeds)
– Mites (otedectes)
– Anaerobic bacterial or fungal infection, creating inflammation and discomfort.
– Inflammation can be an additional symptom of generalised skin disease.
– The ear flap (pinnae) laying over the ear canal (i.e. the ear hanging down!) The air cannot get to the canal thus creating a perfect conditions – a damp airless environment for bacteria to grow.
– Polyps or tumours


When administering any treatment it is important that the medication is massaged down the ear canal, any excess ear discharge can be wiped away with cotton wool.

Medicines for treating ears

Sebolytics which dissolve the wax and cleanse the canal. (such as squaline, propylene glycol, benzoic acid and salicylic acid).

You could also use a basic olive oil to cleanse the ears. (available from your local pharmacist!).

You could consider a prescription ear cleaner such as surolan to help with ear mites or leo ear cleaner for generalised cleaning of ears.

For treating ear mites, the home remedies I would suggest would be Thornit Ear Powder (TEP) and another remedy could be a homeopathic one “Hepar Sulp” 6c in potency. Any homeopathic remedy needs to be dropped into the dogs mouth without handling. I would give the hepar sulph twice daily for no longer than five days.

Application of Thornit Ear Powder

Clean ears and allow to dry before applying the powder. For the first week apply the powder twice daily. Using the end of a teaspoon – the back of the handle, put a nib of powder on to the handle and then put in the ear. Massage the powder down into the canal. After the initial week of twice daily applications, then apply only once a week. Do this for a three week period. As the wax comes away this is a sign the mites are no longer there. The powder works by killing anaerobic bacteria.

Further Help for your dog

A further option in treating ear problems, but to consider the type of dog you are treating. With certain breeds it can help to peg the ears up – not all dogs will tolerate a clothes peg on their ears but it can help by getting air to the ear. In very hairy breeds of dog it is advisable to ensure you keep the hair short – on the inside of the ear you may need to have your dog groomer pluck hair out from inside the ear (this has to be done with care)

The long hair can attract grass seeds as once the seed is stuck on to the hair then it will inevitably end up tracking down the ear canal if not observed and removed! Long haired dogs such as spaniels do occasionally require the hair trimming from the outside of the ear as the hair will become very thick if not kept on top of. This can lead to other complications (In my early days as a veterinary nurse a cocker spaniel had such heavy ears that he slipped a disc in his neck).

Surgical Treatment

In extreme cases treatment may have to be surgical, a lateral resection may need to be performed. This is to improve the drainage of any discharges and also improve air circulation.

This procedure can look a bit grim to the owner if they have not been warned of what to expect. Basically if you lift the ear flap and follow a direct line down the side of your dogs face about an inch or so, this when the incision is made. It is therefore very important to discuss this with your vet before the operation is carried out.

Other procedures may be Vertical Canal Ablation (removal of the ear canal to remove effected tissue). Total Ear Canal Ablation involves the removal of the vertical and horizontal parts of the ear canal.

Post Operative Care

To ensure the ear is protected the dog must be sent home with an Elizabethan Collar (Buster Collar). OR a figure of eight bandage which totally protects the ear pinnate. There can be quite a bit of discharge after this operation of blood or exudates. It is very painful so pain relief should also be given.

Ear Conditions:

Ear Mites

The life cycle of the ear mite is roughly three weeks so any treatment has to take this into account to get past the stage of a possible new infestation. Ear mites stimulate a dark brown waxy discharge. They may be seen as small white moving dots. Secondary infection can occur (pus like discharge).

Otitis Media

An infection which penetrates the ear drum, can be caused by infection of the Eustachian tube from the pharynx.

Otitis Interna

Symptoms – loss of balance and head tilts to one side. Treatment may involve medical and surgical therapy.


The ear flap is made up of two flaps of skin which creates a pocket. If the ear is involved in a trauma either by banging or injury such as a puncture wound then it is possible for the ear to fill up with blood, with nowhere for the blood to go. This condition does require surgery. The ear flap would be incised and the blood is then allowed to drain out. Then either buttons or small sutures are placed over the ear flap (to create a little bit of a mattress effect on the ear!) this helps prevent the blood building up but still with the excision available for blood drainage.

Signs of Foreign Bodies

– intense irritation
– holding the head to one side
– Rubbing it head with its paw along the ground

If the foreign body is visible MAKE NO ATTEMPT TO REMOVE as you do run the risk of pushing it down further. Seek veterinary help.

Warmed olive oil will relieve symptoms.


Comments are closed.