If you’re a Spaniel or Basset Hound owner then you’ll definitely be used to spotting the signs. Your dog has started shaking their head a bit more recently or scratching their ears with their back legs a lot. Sometimes excessive wax with a pungent smell is the first sign, or you have noticed your dog is sensitive around the ear area. All these can be signs of problems with the ear itself. Below is a guide on what to do if you spot them.

Examine the ear

The most common cause of ear problems in dogs is ‘Otitis externa’, which is an infection of the outer ear canal. This accounts for 10.2% of all problems seen in dogs at vet clinics, according to one UK study. Mild cases of Otitis Externa can be managed at home but it is important to have this diagnosed first by your vet. Sometimes a ‘foreign body’ such as a grass seed can be stuck down the ear, or the infection is severe and the eardrum has burst. The first step is to get the ear examined!

Cleaning the ear

A mild outer ear canal infection can be treated by cleaning once or twice daily with an effective cleaner for 7 days. Ideally these are products containing Tris-EDTA as this has antibacterial properties, examples include Otodine and Surosolve. Our own brand RestAural is a good alternative if needed.

Below is a really useful video by the PDSA explaining how to clean an ear effectively. It’s important to clean down the ear canal itself as instructed and not just the outer ear flap.


If the problem persists or worsens even with cleaning then it is important you see your vet as prescription medications may be required.

Repeat ear problems

If your dog repeatedly gets ear infections then there could be an allergy underlying the issue. We recommend reading our blog called ‘Allergies in dogs & cats - A vet guide’ for more information on controlling this.

If the allergies only show as repeat ear issues then cleaning routinely can keep the problems at bay and prevent the need for prescription medication. This can be once weekly, especially if your dog has been swimming or is particularly dirty. If you are noticing early signs of an ear infection then cleaning as explained once or twice daily for 7 days can control the issue.

** Top Tip ** It’s really important not to over clean your dog’s ears as this can actually predispose to certain infections, such as yeast infections. If you are cleaning but you are not getting much wax out then reduce the frequency you are cleaning at.

If you have any specific questions about your dog’s ear problems then contact our customer services for individual advice on [email protected].

Written by: Dr. Nick Garside BVetMed MRCVS