Otitis externa in the cocker spaniel

Otitis externa in the cocker spaniel

The cocker spaniel’s long, floppy ears are one of their most obvious and endearing features, but they also mean that dogs of the breed are prone to developing an ear condition called otitis externa. If you own a cocker spaniel or are considering buying one, this article will explain cocker spaniel otitis externa in more detail.

Read on to learn more about otitis externa in the cocker spaniel, including how to identify, treat and prevent the condition.

More about the cocker spaniel

The cocker spaniel is the UK’s most popular spaniel breed, and our sixth most popular dog breed overall. They are a medium sized dog breed from the gundog group, originally used for gun sport but now widely divided into two different types: show strains and working strains respectively.

All cocker spaniels have long floppy ears, often with long feathering making them appear even longer. Ears of this type can be challenging to care for and keep clean, and also mean that the breed tends to be more prone to developing problems with their ears – like otitis externa.

What is otitis externa?

Otitis externa is an ear condition that develops in the folds of the ear, and which dogs with floppy rather than pointed ears are particularly prone to, as less air is able to circulate within the ear.

Otitis externa is an inflammatory ear condition that develops due to a wide range of potential triggers, including things like ear mites, fleas, microorganisms, damp, skin conditions, and a build-up of dirt and muck within the ear.

The condition develops within the dog’s ear canal, which means that it can be hard to identify until it has become quite pronounced if you don’t inspect your dog’s ears regularly.

Cocker spaniels and otitis externa

Cocker spaniels have long, drooping ears that tend to be prone to developing otitis externa because ears of this type don’t allow as much circulation of air to help to keep the ears clean and dry. Muck, dirt, debris, bacteria and fungus can all build up and become trapped within the ear, along with moisture, which provides the right sort of environment for irritation and inflammation to develop.

Keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry is important, and for dogs with floppy ears like the cocker spaniel, this means that you should inspect the inside of the ears regularly and give them a wipe over as needed, ensuring that you dry the ears thoroughly afterwards too. Never poke or push anything (like a cotton bud) into your dog’ ears, and always keep an eye out for signs of problems like excessive earwax production, irritations, and the presence of mites or fleas.

The symptoms of cocker spaniel otitis externa

If your cocker spaniel develops otitis externa, they may display some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Signs of irritation with the head and ears, such as shaking the head excessively.
  • Persistent scratching of the ears.
  • Rubbing the ears and head against things.
  • Avoiding being touched on the head or ears.
  • Inflammation within the ear canal.
  • A foul smell emanating from the ears.
  • A discharge like pus coming from the ears.

Treating otitis externa in the cocker spaniel

Because otitis externa refers to the inflammation and irritation that develops within the ears of affected dogs rather than the specific cause of this irritation or inflammation, treating otitis externa in the cocker spaniel relies upon identifying and resolving the underlying cause.

This means that you will need to take your dog along to the vet to discuss the issue, and allow them to perform a physical examination of your dog’s ears. They may also take some skin scrapings or samples to examine under a microscope, or to run some tests on.

If a bacterial infection is responsible for the problem, a short course of antibiotics, accompanied by thoroughly cleaning the ears, will usually resolve the problem.

If your dog’s ears are very sore and inflamed, painkillers and/or anti-inflammatories may also be prescribed to provide some relief and encourage your dog to leave their ears alone while they heal.

If fleas or mites are the cause, these must be treated and eradicated as well as treating the effects of the condition itself.

The ears should also be kept clean and dry in order to promote healing and avoid creating a dirty or damp environment that can lead to the development of the condition.

Preventing otitis externa in the cocker spaniel

  • Dogs with long ears like the cocker spaniel are more prone to developing otitis externa than others, so you should check your dog’s ears over every day, lifting them up to ensure that they’re clean and healthy.
  • You may also need to gently clean the inner folds of your dog’s ears to remove muck, shed skin cells and grease.
  • Avoid creating a damp environment within your dog’s ears by drying them thoroughly too.
  • If the hair inside of your dog’s ears is very long, you might want to keep this trimmed down to make their ears easier to clean and care for, and to prevent them trapping muck and dirt.
  • Ensure that your dog is regularly treated with an effective anti-flea preventative, and keep a close eye out for the symptoms of ear mites.
  • Particularly during the summer, check your dog’s ears after walks for burs, seeds and other small foreign bodies that can work their way into your dog’s ears and cause inflammations and problems.


Pets for studWanted pets

Accessories & services

Knowledge hub


Support & safety portal
Pets for saleAll Pets for sale