Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections Can Be Extremely Painful For Your Dog!

Cocker Spaniel ear infections are relatively common, particularly where the dog's ears aren't checked and cleaned regularly. Beautiful as they are, the design of their ears doesn't help either; they don't allow airflow into the ear canal!

Read on to learn about specific ear problems in dogs: their common causes, symptoms, treatment and how you can help keep your Cocker Spaniel's ears healthy and infection-free.

Causes of Ear Infections in Cocker Spaniels

I'm often asked about ear infections in Cocker Spaniels and their causes. I hope to answer some of your questions here.

In a nutshell, it's the design of their floppy ears - the trademark of this lovely breed, and because they hang low over the entrance to the ear canal, the air can't circulate properly.

Golden cocker spaniel sitting, ears splayed out to the sides. He's sitting against a white background.No cocker spaniel ear infections here!

And to make matters worse, there's often excess hair growing just inside the ear and on the outside, both of which go to foster a warm, damp environment, which is an ideal breeding ground for bacteria!

There are many other causes of Cocker Spaniel ear infections, but most may be avoided simply by ensuring good hygiene, knowing what symptoms to look for and regular checks.

Check Your Cocker Spaniel's Ear Regularly

Don't wait until your dog's ears smell rank or you catch him frantically scratching at the side of his head; it may be too late, and infection may have already set in.

Check your pet's ears after a romp in the fields and make sure you remove every last seed, bur or blade of grass; otherwise, it may end up burrowed deep inside his ear canal.

Cocker Spaniels love to swim; just make sure you dry his ears thoroughly afterwards.

Cleaning your dog's ears regularly(no more than once every two months) and examining them as part of his grooming routine will help keep bacteria in check.

Cleaning your pet's ears will also help stop a build-up of wax, which could cause compaction if left untreated, making it difficult to get any treatment to work effectively. 

Common Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections

Some of the most common ear infections in Cocker Spaniels are listed below.

Dog Ear Infection: Otitis Externa

  • Otitis Externa is an inflammation of the external ear canal, and it's one of the most common Cocker Spaniel ear infections.

There are many reasons why dogs' ears become inflamed, but generally, it's caused by bacteria and/or yeast infection.

Possible causes of your Cocker Spaniel's ear infection are:

  • excess moisture in the ear
  • an allergy
  • a hormone disorder (thyroid or adrenal disorders, although rare, can affect the health of your dog's ears)
  • foreign bodies, (such as grass seeds and burrs) or simply
  • dirty ears
  • parasites.

Symptoms of Otitis Externa

Symptoms of Otitis Externa may include sensitivity caused by pain, inflammation, head shaking, scratching the ears, and/or a waxy discharge which can smell pretty awful.

Treatment depends upon the diagnosis and how soon it's diagnosed. Obviously, the earlier, the better, but usually, your vet will prescribe an ointment to control the bacteria and/or yeast.

Just follow the link if you'd like to know a little about natural health remedies for infection and many other health issues.

Ear Mites - Dog Ear Infection or Infestation?

Ear mites (Otodectes Cynotis) are not so much an infection as an infestation.

Mites are tiny crab-like creatures that infest your Cocker Spaniel's ears, and they can be very quickly passed on to other dogs.

Beautiful golden cocker spaniel (head and shoulders) shot sitting slightly side-on. This photo was taken against a white background.What beautiful long ears!

Symptoms of ear mites include your Cocker shaking his head or scratching his ears, and you may also notice an increase in ear wax.

If you think your dog has mites, you may be able to confirm this by removing and inspecting the wax from his ears.

The mites leave a dark dried blood residue (which looks like tiny specks of black grit or coffee grains) inside the ear.

Although ear mites can be difficult to see, they may show up as tiny white specks in intense lighting, but you'll need good eyesight as they're minute.

If you suspect your Cocker has ear mites, make an appointment with your vet, who will be able to confirm your suspicions and prescribe a suitable course of treatment.

Dog Ear Infection: Micro-Organisms (Bacteria and Yeast)

Bacteria and yeast thrive in warm, dark, humid places such as the ear canal, and the Cocker Spaniel's long floppy ears provide the exact environment they need to succeed.

Whilst most dogs will have safe levels of bacteria already present in their ears. A change in the temperature or moisture levels in the ear can cause these micro-organisms to multiply, attracting other bacteria and causing further Cocker Spaniel ear infections.

Symptoms of a bacterial infection are similar to those seen in other ear diseases, such as shaking of the head, tilting the head to one side (as though listening), scratching the ears, inflammation of the ear, a malodorous discharge, and in long-term severe cases, hearing loss.

If you notice any signs of Cocker Spaniel ear infections, or you suspect your pet has a problem with his ears, the best thing you can do for him is to take him to see his vet immediately.

Please don't try to tackle the problem yourself.

Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections: Canker

Grass seeds and plant matter can work their way into your dog's ear. Poor air circulation and increased humidity levels, and an accumulation of wax in the ear can cause ear canker.

In the plant world, canker is a fungal disease, but it can cause ulcers in dogs.

Symptoms of canker are be seen as follows:

  • a dark coloured foul-smelling discharge, 
  • scratching his ears with his paw,
  • tilting his head to one side,
  • shaking his head,
  • showing signs of pain and irritation.

In the worst cases, especially if it's not treated quickly and adequately, there may be a risk of death, so you must leave the diagnosis and treatment to your vet.

Allergies And Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections

Grass seeds and plant matter can work their way into your dog's ear. Poor air circulation and increased humidity levels, and an accumulation of wax in the ear can cause ear canker.

An allergy will often manifest itself in your dog's ears, causing him to scratch...and scratch...and scratch!

This continued and often frantic scratching can inflame the skin on the ear's delicate lining, or your pet may accidentally tear his skin with his claws while scratching.

Inflammation increases the temperature and moisture levels in the ear, providing a warm and cosy habitat where bacteria can grow and multiply unchecked.

Your Cocker Spaniel may have an allergic reaction to something that he eats or an allergy to grass, seeds, or pollen.

Whatever the cause, allergies can be tough to diagnose.

If you suspect your Cocker Spaniel has an allergy, I recommend you chat with your vet, who will be able to advise you on the best course of action.

If You Suspect Dog Ear Infection: Act Quickly

Cocker Spaniel ears are prone to many infections, which can be really stubborn to treat.

You must check your dog's ears regularly and take your pet to see his vet as soon as you spot any Cocker Spaniel ear infections; otherwise, you may find it can take many months to clear up.

It took 6 months of bi-weekly visits to the vet and several different treatments, including three lots of ear flushing (for which he had to be anaesthetized each time!) before Max was clear.

That was painful for Max, poor mite, but it was painful for me too - on the pocket!

That was around eight years ago. I now check Max's ears after every walk, and I clean and brush them thoroughly every week, and we've never had any problems since then.

Learn how to spot the tell-tale signs of ear infection in your Cocker Spaniel.

Photo Credit: Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections
1. Buzya Kalapkina at
Hugo Felix -