Dr Alex Niven outlines the causes, symp­toms and treatment of outer ear infection in dogs so that you can be prepared if your best friend is afflicted with this com­mon condition.

    This article is a basic introduction to the management of Chronic Ear Disease in the dog and specifically that of the external ear – Otitis Externa. This is one of the most common, and easily recognisable, skin conditions of the dog.


    Some breeds with large, floppy, Spaniel-type, and hairy ears are most often affected, as are those individuals that have a narrow ear canal. All of these factors reduce the natural ventilation required to help maintain normal function.

    An allergic component is a common factor as many generally ‘itchy dogs’ also have ear disease as an associated condition. Parasites, including mange mites, bacteria and yeasts, are also con­tributory factors. Tumours and injury also play a part as indeed does the over-zealous, and often mistaken, application by a wide range of well-meant, but inappropriate, products from human cosmetics to, and I kid you not, cleansing agents. All sorts of foreign bodies from grass seeds to insects also play their part. I myself was once thus affected when a beetle somehow found its way inside my ear and buzzed around there in a quite irritating manner until I found someone 12 hours later who was able to extract it for me.


    The owner will be aware of Otitis Externa due to head shaking and scratching. On closer examination there is often an offensive discharge that may range from being dark and flaky to downright purulent.

    The disease often develop an insidi­ous fashion as a slight problem that responds well to treatment, but, should this be inadequately followed up, a complex and serious cycle develops whereby each time there is an acute flare up of the condition, the vital force is unable to restore normal function which results in the normal for the individual as being at a more sensitive plane than previously. All chronic conditions develop in this insidious manner and such exacerbations are difficult.


    It is truly amazing what can be found inside the ear when it is examined by an otoscope. It is also possible at this time to take a swab of the contents as this helps with making a detailed and accu­rate diagnosis and forms the basis of a treatment schedule.

    Treatment usually includes a cerum-dissolving agent to help move debris that can be very thickly impacted over the eardrum with the possibility of more serious conditions develop­ing should this then migrate into the middle and internal ears. Avoid introducing anything in powder form as this does lead to clogging. Rooibos tea, at room temperature (please!), is often an effective wash in the early stages. Many early cases respond well to washing and the oral homoeopathic administration of Eco-Ears can be of great benefit. The following remedies are helpful:

    • Aconite and Belladonna: Hot, painful conditions
    • Arsenicum iodatum and Kalium sulphuricum: Discharges are offensive and purulent
    • Psorinum: Red, scabby eczema of the ear flaps

    Seriously damaged ears need more intensive management, including a thorough cleaning under anaesthesia, and even surgical remodelling may be required to open up the ear canal and improve drainage.

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