My Dog’s Ear Is In Pain – Causes and Pain Relief

My Dog's Ear Hurts - Causes and Pain Relief

See files for Dogs

Otitis is a relatively common problem in veterinary clinical practice. A general term for many types of ear inflammation, otitis is manifested by itching, redness, excess sebum and pain in the dog’s ears. This causes not only discomfort for the dog, but also concern for the guardian. Despite its prevalence, otitis is not the only cause that can explain the discomfort your dog feels in the ear, whether external or internal.

In this AnimalWised article, we understand why does my dog’s ear hurt. We will look at the causes of ear pain as well as possible treatment options for pain relief.

You might be interested in: My dog ​​has lower back pain

The main cause of ear pain in dogs is otitis. This is a general term for an ear infection of which there are different types. Below we examine otitis in more detail along with other reasons why your dog may have earaches.

Otitis in dogs

The ear consists of the inner, middle and outer ear. The outer ear consists of pinnae and ear canal. Otitis is an inflammation of any part of the ear, that is, we can have inflammation of the outer, inner or middle ear. External otitis in dogs is the most common type. If neglected or undertreated, it can progress medially and/or internally to cause more serious problems. These may further manifest themselves in neurological symptoms.

Inflammation of otitis causes pain. Another very common symptom of ear inflammation is increased production of cerumen (earwax) in the ceruminous glands. If your dog shakes or tilts his head, scratches his ear excessively, has an excessive amount of earwax or an unpleasant odor, you should visit for a consultation veterinary.

Certain risk factors may increase the likelihood recurrent ear infections which can lead to otitis. Older dogs are more likely to develop tumors or inflammatory polyps. Breed is also a factor. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to bacterial build-up due to larger pinnae. Brachycephalic dog breeds have a different anatomy than other breeds, which can affect their ear canal to varying degrees. The Shar Pei breed has narrower ears, which can also predispose them to ear infections and ear pain in dogs. Learn more in our article on common Shar-Pei health problems.

Our care as guardians can also have an effect on the development of otitis. For example, if we don’t dry their ears properly after a bath, the moisture can lead to an overgrowth of bacteria.

Otitis can be caused by primary or secondary causes. Primary otitis includes:

  • Foreign bodies: foreign bodies are high on the list of differential diagnoses when a dog arrives at the veterinary clinic with ear pain and suspected unilateral otitis media (ie, only one ear is affected). The vet should look for plant thorns or seeds, small stones, dust, insects, hair or any possible build-up.
  • Masses in the ear canal: polyps or other types of tumors can develop in the ear or ear canal and cause pain and inflammation of the middle ear with secondary infection.
  • Mites: mite Otodectes cynotis is the cause of otodectic mange, which occurs inside the ear and causes otitis in the affected animal. Although these parasites are more common in cats, they can attack canines.
  • Autoimmune disease: autoimmune diseases can cause recurrent bilateral otitis media (i.e. both ears are affected).
  • Endocrine disease: endocrine disorders and pathological conditions are also included in the list of differential diagnoses for otitis media, as they can cause an overproduction of earwax in the glands and trigger secondary infections.

Secondary causes of otitis in dogs include: mushroom (Malassezia pachydermatis is a common cause) or bacterial infection. In a dog with a predisposition to problems with earwax or to the development of a microenvironment in the ear, opportunistic microorganisms multiply more often.


Pain in the dog’s ear can also be caused allergic reactions. A significant percentage of dogs suffer from allergies to some type of food or environment. If a dog is allergic to any component of the environment, it will develop atopic dermatitis at certain times of the year.

One of the most common symptoms of chronic allergies is ear pain. Since this is a generalized reaction, the otitis produced in these cases is usually bilateral. Each ear can be affected to varying degrees of severity.

A dog suffering from an environmental allergy usually shows symptoms such as thickened and reddened skin, reddened ear, alopecia, sneezing, itching or even anaphylactic shock in dogs. These symptoms will vary depending on the type of allergy and the type of contact the dog has had with it allergeneg inhalation, skin contact, etc. In cases of food allergy, rectal irritation, gastrointestinal symptoms, swelling of the eyes or mouth may be observed.


Virtually any type of ear injury can lead to ear pain in your dog. Blow, blow caused by a fight or even excessive scratching may have triggered this discomfort.


Scabies aren’t the only ones parasites which can cause ear pain in dogs. Ticks tend to stick to the thinnest parts of the skin, which is why ears are one of their favorite parts. Especially when we are faced with a moderate or severe infestation, the animal feels not only itching, but also pain. This is common in puppies that have not yet been dewormed, but also in adult dogs and seniors.

Dogs are skilled they hide the earache, which makes detection difficult. For this reason, it is important to watch for the following symptoms that may indicate an earache:

  • They scratch their ears a lot
  • He shakes his head
  • He bows his head
  • Red or hot ears
  • Increased wax production
  • Bad smell from the ear canal
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • He cries when scratched
  • Aggression when touching their ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Lack of motor coordination

If any of the above symptoms are observed, it is necessary to visit a veterinary center as soon as possible. As we have seen, the causes are various and many of them are serious. The vet can then do the following diagnostic tests:

  • Otoscopy for direct observation of the canal
  • Cytology and microscopic observation of possible microorganisms
  • Culture and antibiogram to know which antibiotic is best to use
  • Bone scan
  • Magnetic resonance
  • Computed tomography
  • Biopsy and histology

While a dog ears are hot can indicate pain, find out why dog ​​ears are cold in our related article.

My Dog's Ear Hurts - Causes and Pain Relief - Earache Symptoms in Dogs

To relieve ear pain in dogs, it is essential to identify root cause and treat him accordingly. For example, treatment will not be the same if the pain is caused by parasites than if the cause is a tumor. One of the first measures is usually to clean the ear to remove excess wax and keep it dry.

Ear cleaning

There are several cleaning solutions suitable for many different situations:

  • A ceruminolytic prevents the formation of additional cerumen by softening it.
  • A ceruminous solvent (glycerin or lanolin) softens the earwax and causes its release from the walls of the ear canal.
  • There are also drying solutions that dry the canal and are indicated for productive or purulent otitis (propylene glycol, acetic acid, etc.).

If your dog has a lot wax build-up in their ear and you want to clean it at home, follow step by step:

  1. Soak a clean gauze pad in saline or cleaning solution.
  2. Wipe off the excess wax with gentle circular movements.
  3. Do not use cotton swabs or sharp objects to try to dig deeper. Cotton swabs can be used in shallow ear cavities, but are best avoided altogether.
  4. Use dry gauze to remove excess liquid and avoid leaving areas with moisture.
  5. Cleaning is complete when the gauze comes out clean and free of dirt.
  6. You can also trim the hair around the ear canal to better ventilate the area.

Before performing this cleaning of the dog’s ears, it is recommended to visit the veterinarian, as the presence of earwax can help in making a diagnosis.

Treatment of ear pain in dogs

Because treatment depends on the cause and dog ears hurt, we have to take the dog to the vet. This is because an accurate diagnosis is necessary. We may be aware that the dog has mites, but we don’t know which type. The correct antiparasitic treatment, usually in the form of ear drops, will need to be decided by the vet. The same is true when a dog’s ear pain is caused by fungal or bacterial infections.

Similarly, when the problem is caused by an allergy, the responsible allergen needs to be determined. This may require an elimination diet or trial and error of eliminating certain products in the home. Allergies that cause atopic dermatitis in dogs will require treatment with corticosteroids and medicated shampoos. A hypoallergenic diet will be required for dogs with food allergies. Tumors will require chemotherapy, surgery or other types of interventions, depending on their type and whether they are malignant.

For pain caused by inflammation, your veterinarian may prescribe non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. We should never give human medicine to dogs. Always follow your vet’s instructions carefully and report any side effects or ineffective treatment.

Along with canine ear infection or simply as a result of more vigor head shakingmicroleakage of the ear cartilage may occur. This can result in a type of hematoma known as an otohematoma. Serosanguinous fluid collects between the skin and cartilage, forming a pocket of blood in the ear. This could be the cause of the dog’s swollen ear, especially if we see blood under the skin.

In addition to being very unpleasant, otohematomas are also very painful for the dog. Treatment is surgical under anesthesia, during which the otohematoma is drained and fissures are created to continue drainage and prevent further fluid accumulation. In addition, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory drugs may be prescribed after surgery to promote healing and manage pain.

For this reason, we again insist on the importance of going to veterinary center if you notice that the dog has pain in the ear.

My Dog's Ear Hurts - Causes and Pain Relief - Consequences of Not Treating Earaches in Dogs

This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe veterinary treatment or make a diagnosis. We encourage you to take your pet to the vet if they are suffering from any condition or pain.

If you want to read similar articles like My Dog’s Ear Hurts – Causes and Pain Reliefwe recommend visiting our category Other health problems.

  • Miller, WH, Griffin, CE and Campbell, KL (2013). Muller and Kirk’s Small Animal Dermatology. 7th ed.Toronto, Ontario. Elsevier. pp. 741–767.
  • Nuttall, T. (2016). Successful treatment of external otitis.
  • Paterson, S. (2016). Local ear treatment – options, indications and limitations of current therapy. J Small Animal Exercise, 57(12)668-678.
  • S. Paterson. (2016). Revealing the causes of external otitis.

Leave a Comment