Dogs ear infection problems, skin allergy issues & solutions. -a29

..... Dog ear pose

Dog ear problems can be one of the most frustrating, painful and expensive issues you and your dog will confront so it is important to solve the causes as soon as possible. In this article I will go through some of the causes and solutions for ear issues that your dog may suffer.

Dog ear issues can dramatically affect the quality of your dogs life as it can lead to deafness and a shortened life. I am not a vet, however this information has been collated over three years of regular vet visits for our dog’s ear issues.

CAUSES of DOG Ear Problems

Skin allergy issue CAUSES IN YOUR DOG

Firstly, I have a spaniel cross poodle dog. These dogs are said to be susceptible more than many dogs for several reasons. Many of these dogs have skin allergies through their genetics. Skin issues are not just relegated to the external skin, but also the skin within the ear. When a dog gets an allergy by contact or breathing in allergens its immune system works overtime to conquer the invader, which means that in its ear it may also either become inflamed, create more ear wax than usual or not be able to fight of fungal and bacterial infections because its immune system has been compromised due to the excessive work load of defending the rest of the body.

Added to this, my dog is one of a select breed within this breed. He is colloquially known as a ‘face scrubber’. It is said that about ten percent of the high risk dogs are excessively allergic to environmental factors and so may itch more than usual, get inflamed ears and fugal build up etc.

Ear shape is another big issue for poodles. Next the dogs ear canal is L shaped having a 45 degree drop and then a horizontal passage to the ear drum. When water falls into the ear canal, it is often easy for it to stay there like a purpose built well. In fact some people say it is the breed’s Achilles heel.

Also dogs that have long floppy ears are more susceptible to ear issues than other breeds. The reson why the ears are this shape (very different from wolf ear shapes) is that originally this was bred into some dogs such as retrievers to protect the inner ear from grasses and foreign matter piercing the ear drum when they would run full speed into swamps to retrieve fallen birds. In modern day domestic situations, this long outer ear flap now hangs down over the opening and traps in moisture. Warm moist areas are perfect for growing fungi.

Then there is the issue of poodles and other dogs being hypo allergenic. This is great for the owners who buy the dogs specifically because they are low shedding, but it also means that their fur continually grows all over its body, including inside its ear. While some groomers are highly skilled at plucking the deep down ear hair, many dogs resist this procedure and without anaesthetic can’t get the hair removed. The excess hair is perfect for stopping normal air flow and staying wet, which adds to the fungal issue.

And even improper grooming can significantly compound the problem. As plucking a dogs ear hair deep inside the canal is usually painful and the dog will resist all efforts, it is much easier to just pull the hair straight out or clip it off. If this happens, the hair will often break half way along the strand leaving an ever thickening core of hair next to the ear drum. This hair traps moisture, debris and wax making it easier for fungi to multiply. Thus the best method of air plucking is always to use specially designed tweezers that allow the tips to lock together. By reaching in and grabbing, then locking then TWISTING the tweezers you will encourage all peripheral hair to become entangled in the twisting hair and the majority of it will be pulled out by the root. This will leave the area immediately in front of the ear drum relatively clear.

Dog Health and Your Home Environment

As we are only talking about allergy issues here, the first causes of dog ear irritation can be such things as dust mites or fungal issues in your family home. In particular if you have an older home, that may have moisture under it, or old carpets or bedding that has a lot of mites, these could be a major source of ear pain for your canine.

Probably the best way to check for this is to get in home health experts who can measure and find where the sources of allergens are coming from and recommend solutions. For fungi it usually means that somehow stormwater is not being effectively diverted from your home and so is accumulating under it. Dark, still warm locations are perfect for breeding excessive levels of fungi.

While removing the source of these issues is paramount, ongoing maintenance is important also. If you don’t have a brand new home designed not to get these issues, you can help maintain a healthy indoor environment by using such things as HVAC systems that keep the air clean from mites, fungus spores etc.

It is noted that this high end HVAC filtering system can be a very costly initiative to install however if you think about it this way,  your sick dog is acting like a ‘canary in a coal mine’ for you. In fact, if you at all have a prolonged period of blocked noses or itchy eyes or lung issues, your dog is just giving you great feedback that yo9u need your house fixed for both your health needs.

Since most dust mites probably live in your bed and your dogs bedding, if you can find a solution to regularly killing these without harming you or your dog, then do it!

OUTDOOR causes of Dog ear infections

One of the first places that your vet will probably tell you to look for, besides under your house, is your garden. While spring grass flowering will often cause much concern for hay-fever sufferers and your hyper allergenic dog, there are certain plants that on contact can cause skin allergies for your dog, and thus potential ear problems.

Such things as ‘wandering jew’ ground cover is one of the most notable causes of skin allergies in dogs. The plant comes in many varieties, and for best guidance it is good to look up specific sources of these plants to help you identify any particular species that may be lurking in your garden and should be removed.


Besides making sure your home has a low count of allergens and that your garden is safe. It is recommended that whenever you take your dog out and they jump in mud or water that you wash down the dirty part of them. You need to use low allergy shampoo or if you do it very regularly maybe just water.

There are sensitive skin shampoos on the market however it is recommended that you buy a medicated shampoo that has anti fungal and anti bacterial medications in it. We use one regularly for our dog, the only issue being that you need to have the shampoo be in contact with your dog for ten minutes minimum in the middle of a wash so that it can kill all the bad things.

THEN it is recommended that you use special medicated conditioners on your dog’s coat. The reason is that while the medicated shampoo has taken care of the fungi and bacteria it is often harsh on the skin. Because of this removal of oils etc in the skin and coat the dogs system will have to work hard to replace these which will reduce the effectiveness of their immunity against further fungal and bacteria attacks.

Also note that mid week during a high sensitivity reaction period it is very worthwhile to check your dog’s paws and see if there is any redness. This is often one of the first places that fungal and bacteria populations cause strong skin irritation and dog licking. In this case it is best to dilute the medicated shampoo slightly and nurse your dog for ten minutes to stop it licking the shampoo. You then have to thoroughly wash and dry the paws to prevent immediate repeat of the infections.

Once your dog has a severe fungal or immune reaction in its ear a vet is likely to give it a cortisone injection and/ or prescribe anti fungal/ anti bacterial/ cortisone medication such as Surolan (miconazole nitrate 23mg/mL, polymyxin B Sulfate 0.529 mg/mL, Prednisolone Acetate 5 mg/ mL) - this medication can not be used when the ear drum is perforated.

DOG ear maintenance medications

If you can get a groomer or vet to use the twist and pull special tweezers method of removing your dogs inner ear hair. That is a big start to keeping the ear canal clear.

Now with a face scrubber dog you will have the added issues that it may inadvertently shovel dirt and foreign matter into its ear, causes extra irritation as well as introducing something that bacteria and fungus can grow on. What I have been recommended to do is regularly clean the dog’s ears with solutions readily available at your vet or pet store.

The first class of rinse solutions use weak acid as their main active ingredient. Two products that I have used are Epi-Otic (12 mg/ mL Lactic Acid and 1.1 mg/ mL Salicylic acid. The DermaPet product says that it acidifies; is pH adjusting; all natural and hypo-allergic. Its active ingredients are 2% acetic acid and 2% boric acid.

I have been told that the acid solutions are supposed to provide an optimal environment for tissue regeneration. They also make it easier to flush out any debris or allow the dog to shake out the dislodged foreign matter.

The next option is to use the medicated shampoo that you use for its body. In particular I have been recommended to use Malaseb medicated shampoo diluted 10 to 1 or 20 to 1 as an ear wash. This shampoos active ingredients are 20g/L Cholorhexidine gluconate and 20g/L Miconazole nitrate. The great thing about using this is that it is antibacterial, antifungal and anti-pruritic. However as mentioned before, it should ideally stay in contact with infected skin for a minimum of ten minutes for optimum effectiveness.

On a recent visit to the vet i was also recommended to use ‘Paws Gentle Ear Cleaner’. This liquid is said to be an “all natural blend of citrus oils, milk protein hydrolysates and deionised water. The unique formula effectively clears the ear canal of debris, reduces wax build-up and ear odours.” It suggests that you use it once weekly. The advantage that the brand touts is that it is not as harsh as other brands that use acids. Rather than killing the fungi this product is aimed at breaking down excessive wax build up.

Antihistamines are also used by some people rather than going to a vet and getting cortisone steroid injections. While this seems like a good idea, you need to get the dosage right and understand that due to dogs physiology being different from humans that it is thought to be only effective on 40% of dogs in controlling allergic reactions.

Omega 3 / Omega 6 oil treatments have been popular with humans for a while and now it appears they are being used in dog’s skin allergy conditions. It is believed that this can help support a natural skin environment, reduce inflammation and help ward of situations where fungal and bacteria can take hold.

DOGS FULL physical Ear kits

Along with the rinses you may be interested in visually inspecting inside your dogs ear. To do so you can buy  a LED Fibre-optic Otoscope. The first thing that your vet will do when inspecting your dog’s ears is to reach for their professional quality otoscope with halogen bulb. While these 240V robust medical quality units are great for vets, they would be incredibly expensive for you to purchase at retail prices.

Having a portable battery operated LED illuminated otoscope at home means that rather than wait until you or your dog can not stand the pain anymore (because of trauma in visiting the vet or expense) you can do an initial visual inspection of the ear canal. This will at least let you know if there is any foreign body such as a grass seed lodged in there or the degree of inflammation or redness in the ear. Of course to be on the safe side once you have identified a problem you will probably want to visit the vet immediately, but at least with this method you are likely to get onto the problem sooner.

The last thing I strongly recommend is that you buy a good dog grooming kit. If you have a poodle cross or similar you will be aware of how fast their coat grows. One of the major issues with our dog getting ear infections, is that the fur on the inside of its ear flap and the matching side of its face grows so fast and long that it effectively blocks any air flow to the entrance of the ear. If you have ever tried to use scissors to trim a squirming dogs face and ear you will know how fraught with danger this can be. So besides being able to trim your dog’s coat in-between professional groomer cuts in summer, by buying a clipper yourself you will be able to always maintain a clear air path to your dog’s ear canal.


There are no easy answers to resolving chronic dog ear problems. All you can do is provide the cleanest environment for them to live in, supply regular ear flushes, and preventative solutions, and to maybe buy some grooming and ear inspection hardware.

Not everyone understands the seriousness of a dog ear issues but here they are. If you don’t get to an infection soon enough your dog can go deaf. With deafness not only will they miss out on a lot of enjoyment from their daily walks, you will also have a very hard time with off lead recall and there is a much higher chance that if they break free that they will be hit and killed by a car.

Also just like skin allergies on their body, a chronic ear infection will severely compromise their immune system. With all of your dog’s white blood cells and other internal mechanisms trying to fight off regular bacterial and fungal ear infections, other illnesses such as cold, kennel cough, worms etc have a much greater chance of infecting your dog. If a dog is continually under such bombardment not only will it potentially lead to depression and other illnesses, it can dramatically decrease your dog’s life expectancy.

Owning a dog is a large responsibility for any person. While the basics include long daily walks, good food, discipline and love, going the extra step to prevent illnesses such as ear infections is also very important. I hope this mini guide mostly from my own experiences with our precious pup has helped you to some degree in understanding what can be involved in maintaining a happy and healthy dog!


Article by Bruce Dwyer. If you wish to use any of this information please refer to the article as a reference and provide a link to


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