It’s all in the ears!

Short, long, thin, thick, droopy, falling, upright… whew, the ears of dogs can vary so much! Here’s a brief about the type of ears in dogs and how to take care of them.

What makes the German Shepherd look so alert…what makes the Basset Hound look sad – yet, it’s theHealth shapes of their ears which give them a distinctive look. A dog lover would have noticed various types of ears in different breeds of dogs. Here’s more on the types of ears found in dogs and proper ear care.

Types of ears…

“Dogs ears are anatomically, vascularised layer of cartilaginous tissues covered either side by layers of skin. There are varieties of ear shapes, sizes, volume, length, shape of ear tips, seen in various breeds,” says Dr Mohankumar Shettar, Bengaluru. “They can be droopy or set from head towards muzzle along cheek, high set ears, middle set ears, low or very low set ears. They can be very long, long, medium or short. Then, they can be thin, thick, supple or large ears. Some are leathery while others are skinny; some are narrow, some wide; few are curved or curled and sometimes pricky or twisted or rosy. There’s difference even in the tips of the ears – blunt, sharp or round.”

Accordingly to Dr Chirag Dave, the dog ears are classified into the following broad categories:

Prick or Erect ears: Very common in dogs, these types of ears are sharp, pointed and erect. Sometimes, prick ears are done by cropping, which is now banned in several countries. German Shepherd, Pomeranian, Alaskan Malamute, Siberian Husky and Samoyed are some of the proud owners of prick ears.

Folded ears: These refer to ears that hang down in folds instead of hanging flat. Bloodhound and Field Spaniel are two popular breeds having folded ears.

Hooded ears: These refer to small ears that curve inwards from both edges, giving it an impression of a cowl or a hood. Basenji has typical hooded ears.

Cocked or Semi-Prick ears: It refers to an upright prick ear that folds slightly at the tip; Rough Collie and Pitbull are the perfect examples.

Bat ears: These types of ears are upright and large in proportion to the head. For example, Chihuahua and Cardigan Welsh Corgi have bat ears.

Dr Mohan Kumar Shettar

Dr Mohan Kumar Shettar

Blunt-Tipped or Round-Tipped ears: Characterised by large, upright ears with blunted or rounded tips, breeds like Chow Chow & French Bulldog carry these ears proudly.

Button ears: Small semi-erect ears, which have a front flap folding forward are called button ears. They are close to skull, obscuring most of the ear canal. Example of breeds with button ears include Jack Russell Terrier and Fox Terrier.

Drop or Pendant ears: Their shape and length may vary, but the basic feature remains that the ear hangs down along the side of the head. Basset Hound and Skye Terrier have such pendant ears.

Rose ears: Have you seen your Greyhound or Bulldog have small ears that fold backwards…well, that’s how a rose ear is.

V-Shaped ears: These types of ears are characterised by longer, triangular shaped ears that may or may not be dropped. Bullmastiff and Hungarian Vizla are two breeds with such ears.

The ear problems…

Do the shape and size of the ears have a correlation with ear problems? “If and when a pet has an ear

Dr Chirag Dave

Dr Chirag Dave

problem, the blame should be least on the size and shape of the pet’s ears, but mostly be on the pet parent’s negligence. However, having said that, there are a few ailments that are seen more often in one breed of dog than others,” says Dr Chirag Dave. “The ear disorders can be due to a problem within the structure of the ear or it is caused by an outside problem,” he adds.

“The most common ear problems occur because of the collection of ear wax, environmental pollution, water getting lodged in the ears during improper baths, harsh and improper cleaning, growth of hair in the ear, and most importantly, because of the presence of ticks, fleas and mites,” shares Yashodhara Hemchandra, owner of Yashbans Kennels and Fuzzy Wuzzy Pet Styling Studio and Spa, Bengaluru.

Common ear disorders, according to Dr Chirag Dave, are mentioned as below.

Otitis: This is the most common ear disorder. It means inflammation of the ear and it could be because of any allergy related to food or insect bites, bacterial infection, fungal infection, parasitic infection like ear mites, or sometimes a physical obstruction either due to foreign bodies like grass or small toys or due to narrowing of the ear canal, called stenosis, which traps dirt or moisture causing irritation. Fungal and bacterial infections can occur in dogs with droopy long ears and in dogs who live in humid environment.

Haematoma: It develops as a result of continuous shaking of the head and flapping of the ears because of itching or irritation in and around the ear. Excessive head shaking causes the tissues in the ear to become damaged, blood leaks in between the layers of the skin and a haematoma appears as a soft bubble on the ear.

Masses: Within the ear canal also lead to irritation, infection and neurological problems.

Breed-specific ear problems…

Though all breeds of dogs can go in for various ear problems, Yashodhara outlines the following breeds who


Yashodhara Hemchandra

are more susceptible. “Dogs who have upright, erect ears, especially working dogs like the German Shepherd, can go in for cancur of the ears. Since the ears are upright, they attract a lot of environmental pollution like dust, sand, and grime and if the outer ear and the ear canal is not cleaned properly and regularly, the ears can collect plenty of ear wax which allows the pollution to get stuck inside the ear causing irritation and botheration. This makes the pet to keep scratching his ears continuously with his paw, and then the skin of the ear canal gets perforated and infection sets in. Pus forms inside the ear, causing inflammation and if not treated at the correct time, the ears can get permanently damaged and will drop down. Another important culprit for the onset of cancur of the ears is by unprofessional and improper method of cleaning the ear too, thereby damaging the ear canal,” she says.

“Medium to long-coated dogs like Cocker Spaniel, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu face major ear problems because of the unwanted growth of hair inside the ears. If the hair is not regularly plucked out by a professional, they can get severely matted and along with the ear wax would create conducive breeding grounds for ear mites. Also, you can keep their dog ears held up during meals to avoid unnecessary ear matting or give rise to any infection caused by the food particles getting into their ear or ear-coat,” she adds.

Yashodhara further mentions, “Then, we have breeds like the Pugs and Bulldogs, who have rose ears, with the ears flying away, exposing the burr. If water, pollution or flea and ticks get inside the ears, the dogs can scratch their ears, and because of the exposed burr, can cause permanent damage to the ear.” “Ear problems in dogs can happen in any breed and age of dogs but some cases like chronic otitis are more prevalent in breeds like Retrievers, Labradors, Pugs, German Shepherds and Great Danes. Ear haematomas are more common in German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, Dobermans, etc. While, marginal ear infections are more common in Dachshunds, Dobermans, Boxers, Great Danes, etc,” adds Dr Udayaravi Bhat, Bengaluru.

Care for the ears…

“Ears have many functions like hearing, responding to call and body balancing. Since the organ has many functions to play, it needs a lot of care. Ear has secretary gland in mid ear as a defence barrier. Secretions flow or come out naturally. If ears are unattended, for example, removing water droplets after bathing or removal of excess wax, dogs tend to remove it with their paws, while in action may spill dust or soil in to the wax, which is a good medium for organisms to grow,” tells Dr Mohankumar.

On cropping…

“With the growing popularity of dog shows, and as a breeder of show quality Dobermans and Boxers, ear cropping earlier was advocated for enhancing their looks. A dog with cropped ears definitely looked more elegant and had better chances of winning than their counterparts. The Chairman of the Animal Welfare Board of India on 8th September 2011 has issued directions via the Veterinary Council to all registered veterinary practitioners (government and private), state veterinary councils and veterinary colleges to stop ear cropping and tail docking in the light of mutilation which amounts to cruelty to animals as per the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act 1960.

–Yashodhara Hemchandra, Bengaluru

“Ear cropping operation is not practiced any more since Animal Welfare Board of India has banned ear cropping and tail-docking in dogs.”
–Dr Udayaravi Bhat, Bengaluru

Ear problems can cause lot of discomfort to your pet. Dr Chirag Dave gives tips on how to take care of your pet’s ears:

  • Do not ignore signs of discomfort around the ears/neck/face shown by the pet. The ear flap should be absolutely clean, without any dust, dirt or food particles sticking on it. The folds and crevices of the ear should be free from all of the above too. The ear canal should be clean and there should be absolutely no discharge of any colour oozing out and there should be no smell from the ears at all.
  • Pet parents should learn how to properly clean the ears.
  • A daily check-up of the ears should be a mandatory routine procedure at home. This includes checking the flap of the ear, the folds and crevices within the ear and the ear canal. If need be, a torch should be used to check the ear canal which should always be dry and well ventilated.
  • Clipping hair from inside of the ear and around the ear opening and plucking hair from the ear canal improves ventilation and decreases humidity in the ears. However, hair should not be routinely removed from the ear canal if it is not causing a problem, because doing so can cause an acute inflammatory reaction. This procedure is suggested and carried by a veterinarian only.
  • Preventive ear cleansers/astringents as suggested by the veterinarian may decrease the frequency of bacterial or fungal infection in ear canals.
  • If your pet has any sort of ear problem, please follow your veterinarian’s advice properly. Remember that the ear is an extension of the skin, so beware of concurrent skin problems that might be affecting your pet. Similarly, if your pet has any skin problem, make sure that you keep an eye on the ears too.

(Inputs from Dr Mohankumar Shettar, Shreyas Vetrinary Clinic, Bengaluru; Dr Chirag Dave, Pet’s Clinic; Ahmedabad; Yashodhara Hemchandra,Yashbans Kennels and Fuzzy Wuzzy Pet Styling Studio and Spa, Bengaluru; and Dr Udayaravi Bhat, Prajna Vetrinary Clinic, Bengaluru.)

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