World Hearing Day: PDSA Tips on Dealing With Ear Problems in Pets

World Hearing Day

PDSA tips on dealing with ear problems in pets

The 3rd of March marks World Hearing Day – a day to raise awareness of the importance of early identification and intervention for hearing loss.

Ear problems are quite common in pets and can potentially be very painful, but our four-legged friends can’t always let us know if they are in pain. PDSA is urging owners to be extra vigilant and look out for the signs of ear problems in pets.

PDSA vet Olivia Anderson-Nathan said: “Dogs with skin allergies or those with floppy outer ears can be predisposed to developing ear infections. Excessive hair growth in the ear canal can also make some pets more susceptible to ear infections. If you own one if these types of dog, it’s therefore important to be aware of some of the symptoms that you can look out for.

“Signs your pet may have an ear problem include excessively scratching at their ears, shaking their head, red or swollen ears, lots of dark brown or yellow wax, or a bad smell coming from the ears. Sometimes, severe ear problems can cause other symptoms too, like loss of balance or head tilt, as the inner parts of the ear help to control balance.

“If you notice any of these signs it’s best to take your pet to the vet as soon as possible and they can advise on treatments. Over the counter treatments might make your pet’s ear seem better without solving the underlying problem and in some cases using ear drops or cleaners without veterinary advice can make the problem worse.

PDSA offers step-by-step tips for cleaning pets’ ears, which you should do if advised by your vet:

  • Step 1 – tools. You’ll need cotton wool (not buds), a pet-safe ear cleaner and gloves. You might need a second person to help you keep your dog still!
  • Step 2 – check for any nasties. Before you clean your dog’s ears, check for any redness or discharge. A small amount of light brown wax is normal, but lots of dark brown wax, yellow crusty discharge, pus or a nasty smell could all be signs of an infection, so your dog will need to see a vet. If it looks very sore, it might be best to wait until the inflammation has reduced with medication to clean your dog’s ears so you don’t hurt them – check with your vet if you’re not sure.
  • Step 3 – ear cleaner. Gently lift your dog’s ear and insert the nozzle into their ear. Be careful not to push the bottle too far in. Squeeze a few drops of the ear cleaner inside the ear canal. Massage the hard cartilage of the ear canal underneath the ear to distribute the cleaner and loosen any dirt or discharge inside the ear. Your dog will probably want to shake their head after that – let them! This will help bring material from deep in the ears to the surface.
  • Step 4 – wipe. With your cotton wool around your finger, gently wipe all the wax and excess cleaner from the outer part of your dog’s ear. Be careful not to put your finger into the ear canal as reaching in too far could damage your dog’s ear.
  • Step 5 – repeat on the other side! If you need any extra help, watch our video above to make sure you have the right technique. Your vet will also be able to give you advice and tips on cleaning your dog’s ears.

Olivia adds: “Sometimes, our pets can develop serious ear problems that don’t go away easily with treatments like ear drops or tablets. If you pet’s ear problem doesn’t clear up after treatment, your vet might want to do further tests. They may want to have a proper look inside the ear and flush it out and they’ll give your pet a sedative or general anesthetic, like they would for an operation. This is because this sort of examination can be very sensitive and painful, and they wouldn’t want to cause your pet any discomfort. In severe cases of ear disease, surgery to remove the affected parts of the ear canal might even be considered.”

For more pet health advice, visit PDSA’s website:

PDSA is the UK’s leading vet charity. We’re on a mission to improve pet wellbeing through prevention, education and treatment. Support from players of People’s Postcode Lottery helps us reach even more pet owners with vital advice and information.

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