Why Your Dog's Ear Is Swollen and Tips to Provide Care

If your dog's ear is swollen, it could indicate various underlying issues. Learn the possible causes and solutions for this problem and how to avoid it in the future. These tips will help keep your pet's sensitive ears healthy and problem-free.

Why Your Dog's Ear Is Swollen and Tips to Provide Care
Find out what’s causing your dog’s ear to swell up and how to provide the best possible care.

Photo by Natali

Is your dog experiencing a swollen ear? Although it may be unsettling, there are things you can do to help. A dog's swollen ear typically indicates inflammation brought on by various factors. Thankfully, proper care resolves most cases promptly. I'll explain some causes of swollen ears in dogs and explore practical ways to reduce the swelling. Whether it's ear mites, infections, foreign objects, or ear hematomas, we'll cover everything you need to know to give your pet the relief they need.

What Causes Swollen Ears in Dogs?

When a dog gets a swollen ear, it is typically a sign of inflammation. Different factors can trigger this. Inflammation can cause redness, heat, pain, and hearing problems in your dog’s ear. The swelling usually affects the ear under the flap, also known as the pinna. Some of the most common causes of canine ear swelling are:

1. Ear Infections

Bacteria, fungi, yeast, or allergies can cause ear infections. They can lead to discharge, odor, discomfort, and inflammation in the ear. Without proper treatment, they can spread to the inner ear and affect your dog's balance and hearing. Ear mites, foreign objects, water in the ear, or other underlying conditions can trigger infections.

2. Ear Mites

These tiny parasites feed on wax and oils inside your dog's ear canal. They are more common in puppies and young dogs but can affect any dog. Ear mites can cause intense itching, scratching, head shaking, and dark brown or black debris in the ear canal. Ear mites can also lead to ear hematomas or infections if left untreated.

3. Allergies

The environment around your dog may contain allergens such as pollen, dust, mold, or food. These factors may cause the ears to itch, redden, swell, and produce discharge. Unfortunately, they also make ear infections more likely. Finding the source of an allergy and getting the right treatment from your vet are the best ways to manage it.

4. Ear Hematomas

These blood-filled swellings occur when a blood vessel in the ear flap ruptures due to trauma or injury. Ear hematomas can be caused by excessive scratching or head shaking due to ear mites or infections or by bites, thorns, or insect stings. They can make the ear flap heavy, puffy, or distorted.

5. Foreign Objects

These can be anything that gets stuck in your dog's ear canal, such as grass seeds, dirt, wax, or debris. Foreign objects can cause irritation, inflammation, infection, or obstruction in the ear. Please take your dog to the vet immediately if you think something is in its ear; you want to prevent further issues.

6. Tumors or Growths

Occasionally, dogs may develop lumps or masses in or near the ear. They can be harmless or harmful and can affect the ear canal, the ear flap, or the glands close to the ear. Tumors or growths can result in swelling, pain, bleeding, or discharge in the ear. They can also impair a dog's hearing or ear function. Your vet would need to examine any abnormal growth as soon as possible.

Learn how to care for your dog's swollen ear. These tips will help you reduce the inflammation at home.

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How to Reduce Dog Ear Swelling?

In this section, I'll offer tips on what to do if your dog has inflammation in or around their ear. Depending on the problem's cause and severity, you can relieve your dog's ear swelling at home. However, the right way to care for it always depends on the specific situation, so please follow these tips with your vet's guidance:

1. Apply a Cold Compress

Ice can lower swelling and pain by narrowing the blood vessels in your dog's ear. The cold will also numb the area and lessen the inflammation. Pet-How says this simple remedy can also speed up the healing of an ear hematoma.

  • Wrap ice or a frozen pack in a towel and hold it on to your dog's ear for 15 minutes.

2. Examine Your Dog's Ears Regularly

It's best to check your dog's ears at least once a week, especially if they have ear problems. If your dog has floppy ears, lift the flap and check on their ears more often.

  • Have your dog sit or stand near you and gently pull back the ear flap to expose the inner side of the ear.
  • Look for any signs of swelling, redness, discharge, odors, debris, or pain.
  • If you see any of these signs, contact your vet right away.

3. Clean Your Dog's Ears Gently

  • Use a soft cloth or cotton ball soaked in a mild ear cleaner or warm water.
  • Wipe away any dirt or wax from the outer ear.
  • Don't use cotton swabs or insert anything into the ear canal, which can damage the eardrum or push any foreign object deeper.

4. Apply Medication as Prescribed by Your Vet

Your vet may prescribe oral or topical antibiotics or antifungals, anti-inflammatory drugs, painkillers, or insecticidal eardrops; this will depend on the underlying cause of your dog's swollen ear. Carefully follow the instructions and complete the treatment course.

5. Drain or Surgically Remove the Hematoma if Necessary

Your vet might need a needle and syringe to drain the blood from the ear flap. This process will remove the hematoma and stop it from returning. Vets often recommend this for dogs with large or persistent hematomas that don't respond to medication or conservative treatment.

Preventative Tips to Keep Your Dog's Ears Healthy

The most effective way to prevent inflammation is to keep your dog's ears clean and healthy. Some tips to follow are:

1. Regular Ear Checks

Check your dog's ears often for any signs of problems, especially if they have floppy ears, as they can easily get dirty or infected. Look for color, shape, size, texture, smell, or discharge changes. Call the vet immediately if you notice anything unusual such as blood, pus, or a sudden loss of hearing.

2. Proper Ear Cleaning

Depending on the breed and lifestyle, you may need to clean your dog's ears more or less frequently. Generally speaking, you should care for their ears once a week or whenever they get dirty or wet. Use a gentle ear cleaner designed for dogs, and avoid alcohol or vinegar, as these can irritate the skin.

3. Drying After Water Activities

Always dry your dog's ears properly after swimming or bathing. Moisture can create a favorable environment for bacteria and fungi to grow and cause infections. Use a soft towel to gently pat the ears dry and ensure no water remains in the ear canal.

4. Trimming Ear Hair

Some breeds have lots of hair around and inside the ear canal. Excess hair can trap dirt, wax, and moisture and cause infections. Using hair clippers or scissors, carefully trim the hair around the ear opening and improve air circulation. Just be careful not to cut the skin or damage the ear flap!

5. Preventing Ear Injuries

Because dogs' ears are delicate, keeping them safe from potential hazards like sticks, thorns, and sharp toys that could cause swelling or injury is wise. Give your pet soft, safe toys to play with instead.

You might also consider using an ear protector to protect your dog's ears from the cold, wind, or sunburn—a frequent cause of swelling or irritation. Many veterinarians recommend them. If you buy one, ensure it fits properly and doesn't make your dog uncomfortable or interfere with breathing or hearing.

Heading outside? Keep an eye on your floppy-eared friend to avoid ear injuries!

Photo by Cesar Mendez

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Final Thoughts

If we want to avoid swollen ears in our dogs, we must take good care of them. It can be very distressing to see our pets struggle with ear issues. But follow these easy tips to help you maintain your dog’s ear health; regularly cleaning and inspecting them can ensure healthy and happy ears. And don’t delay seeing a vet if you notice any symptoms of pain or infection—early treatment can prevent worse problems!

Sources and Further Reading

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2023 Louise Fiolek

(Excluding for the Headline, this article ("story") has not been edited by MiBiz News and is published from a web feed or sourced from the Internet.)