"Why are Cocker Spaniels so prone to ear infections?

"Why are Cocker Spaniels so prone to ear infections?

Health & Safety

One dog breed that is prone to ear infections also happens to be one of the most popular family pets and companions, namely the charming Cocker Spaniel. But why are cockers so susceptible to developing painful ear infections which are often notoriously hard to treat? The reason is the shape of their long and droopy ears which is one of their most endearing physical features, but there is more to the problem than just that.

Long, Droopy ears are a recipe for disaster

Cockers have long, droopy ears which in short means that they hang close to a dog's head and as such they cover the entrance of a dog's ear canal which prevents much needed air from circulating as it should. On top of this, Cocker Spaniels have a lot of hair that grows on the inside of their ears right at the entrance and just outside of their ears too which creates the perfect damp and warm environment for bacteria to thrive in. With this said, there are other reasons why a Cocker might develop an ear infection, but the good news is that often good hygiene and management will reduce the risk of infections flaring up.

Good hygiene and recognising signs of an ear infection early

Regularly checking a Cocker Spaniel's ears goes a long way in reducing the chances of them developing an infection in the first place. You should never wait until a dog's ears start to smell. If you see your dog continually scratching at their ears, the chances are the infection has already taken hold and it could prove that much harder and challenging to clear up even with the best medication and veterinary treatments.

When to check your Cocker's ears

  • It is important to check a Spaniel's ears after they have been out for a walk and been allowed to run free through a park, field or countryside. It's the only way you'll be able to check whether they have picked up a grass seed, burr or some other bit of debris that could trigger an ear infection
  • You should check your dog's ears after they have been swimming and clean them making sure they are dried thoroughly afterwards
  • Cleaning a dog's ears as part of their grooming routine is the only way of keeping on top of things and it reduces the risk of wax building up which could also trigger an ear infection

The most common ear problems seen in Cocker Spaniels

Cocker Spaniels are prone to certain types of ear infection which are as follows:

  • Otitis Externa - the external part of a dog's ear canal becomes inflamed which typically results in an infection taking hold due to a build-up of bacteria or yeast in a dog's ears. The condition can be caused by too much moisture in the ear or it could be triggered by an allergy, a hormone disorder, a foreign body being lodged in the ear or simply because a Cocker Spaniels ears are too dirty
  • Ear Mites are more of an infestation than an infection but the result is painful and irritating for a Cocker to have to live with. Dogs constantly shake their heads, scratch at their ears and often have a large build-up of wax in their ears. It is important to treat a dog's ears as soon as possible to prevent any further pain and discomfort
  • Bacteria and yeast can cause a serious and painful ear infection which are often challenging to clear up. All dogs have some bacteria in their ears, but it's when things start to get out of hand and there's a large build-up of bacteria or yeast that causes all the problems. Things can get nasty very quickly becomes these micro-organisms multiply at a very fast and dramatic rate when they are given the right, warm and damp conditions to thrive in
  • Canker when too much wax builds up in a dog's ear canal and they have any debris in there too. The lack of air and the higher humidity found in a Spaniel's ear can lead to them developing canker of the ear which can ultimately lead to them developing extremely painful ulcers

What about allergies?

Cocker Spaniels are prone to suffering from allergies and this in turn can lead to them developing ear infections thanks to the fact that a dog will constantly scratch at their ears making the situation that much worse. By scratching their ears, dogs run the risk of damaging the delicate inside lining. The inside of their ears then becomes inflamed and therefore that much hotter which creates the perfect environment for bacteria to take hold, multiply and thrive.

Allergies can be triggered by all sorts of things which includes food, pollen or even grass seeds and the problem is that identifying just what is causing a dog's allergy is often extremely challenging.

Tools needed to keep a Cocker Spaniel's ears clean and healthy

The tools you need to clean a Cocker Spaniel's ears are as follows:

  • Cotton wool balls
  • Tissues
  • Blunt tweezers
  • Blunt ended scissors
  • Cotton buds
  • A good quality ear cleaning solution specifically formulated for use on dogs


Good ear hygiene is essential for anyone who shares a home with a charming Cocker Spaniel and regularly checking a dog's ears after they have been out for a walk or played around in water is essential. However, if you suspect your Cocker has developed an ear infection, the sooner a vet can diagnose and treat the problem, the easier it tends to be to clear up.

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