Diagnosing Problems with Dogs' Ears

The problems with dogs' ears can vary in nature, ranging from an infection to mites. Senior dogs or dogs that have suffered a trauma may also face deafness or hearing problems. Diagnosing problems with a dog's ears may be done based on a few symptoms and backed up by a few medical tests.

Ear Problem Symptoms

A dog with an ear problem may display several different symptoms, depending on the underlying problem:

  • Severe itchiness, resulting in scratching the ears, may be due to parasites or infections
  • Hair loss in the area may be due to scratching
  • Bleeding, due to a tumor or an injury
  • Shaking of the head may point to the presence of parasites such as mites

The dog may have ear discharges and the liquid may have different consistencies and colors. The color and consistency of the ear discharge may give a hint about the possible problem:

  • Clear, transparent ear discharges may indicate a fungal infection or allergies
  • Pink discharges with various consistencies may mean the dog has a fungal infection
  • Yellow or a green discharge may point to a viral or bacterial infection
  • A dark, consistent discharge may mean the dog has mites

The discharge may also be pus, which means the dog has a severe infection or that the ear drum is perforated. If the dog produces ear wax in excess, this may signal an infection with mites.

Hearing Test

To establish whether the dog's hearing is affected, you should perform a test at home. Make sure your dog is not facing you while you drop something or make a noise. If the dog is startled, this means he can hear you, so he is unlikely to have a hearing problem. However, if the dog doesn't turn when you make a noise, you can suspect he has hearing loss. The hearing loss may be total or partial.

Otoscope Exam

An exam with an otoscope is necessary to see what is happening in the dog's ears and to determine if the ear drum is affected in any way. If the dog's ears are partially or completely shut, the vet will administer antibiotics to clear the infection and examine the ears afterward. Meanwhile, a number of additional tests may be performed.

Ear Tests

To be able to diagnose a problem with the dog's ears, a few tests should be performed. The vet will decide on a number of tests, depending on the symptoms presented by the dog. The tests may include:

  • Ear secretion test, to determine if the dog has an infection and the nature of the infection
  • Skin scraping from the ear area, which can establish if there is a skin infection involved
  • X-rays to determine if there are foreign bodies or tumors located inside the ear

A complete blood count (CBC) may also be performed to determine if there are any abnormalities in the blood, which could point to different ear conditions.