If your dog’s constantly shaking, scratching, or rubbing its head they may have a sore ear.

Ear disease is annoying for both the owner and pet alike since it causes a painful, irritating, itchy, malodorous ear. It’s no wonder that it is one of the most common complaints when seeking veterinary advice and also one of the most frustrating to treat.

The external ear canal of a dog comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes due to decades of selective breeding. For the most part, a dog’s ear canal is an L shaped tube lined with special skin cells that secrete a waxy material designed to protect the ear against moisture and infection. At one end of the tube is a fragile thin membrane protecting the middle ear called the tympanic membrane, commonly known as the eardrum. Problems will arise when this defensive barrier is abnormal. Whether they are too narrow or very hairy, both irregularities can block airflow and cause moisture retention. Underlying skin conditions such as allergies and overproduction of wax can also affect the defensive barrier. Occasionally active dogs will have a grass seed that can lodge into and migrate within the canal causing acute pain and inflammation. Also, secondary infections from yeast and bacteria soon set themselves up in the ear canal

As well as inflamed, itchy and painful ears you may see your dog rubbing their head on the floor and shaking their head.

Treatment is based on keeping the ear relatively wax free and dry. Changing the canal to a more acidic environment with specific astringent cleaners, using anti-fungal, anti-bacterial medications and ensuring adequate air flow are the suggested treatments. In severe cases, gentle ear flushing under a general anesthetic is needed to remove debris deep inside the canal without compromising the eardrum.

An important point to note is that ear problems can potentially return so owners must be vigilant with all medications and future monitoring for recurrence is essential.

Foreign bodies such as grass seeds must be gently removed but seek veterinary help with these since the eardrum is a delicate structure and your vet will have special instruments to aid in seeing and retrieving the material safely.