Swollen ears can have a lot of causes, so it is important that you aren't trying a home remedy for your dog's swollen ears without talking to a veterinarian first and getting her advice. Although dogs can't tell you what's wrong, when they have an ear problem it's usually not hard to guess. Habitual ear scratching or head shaking are two of the most common signs that your dog is experiencing aural discomfort. Other signs to look out for include discharge and odor from the ear, as well as scabbing around the ear.
You should also take note if your dog is reluctant to have their ears touched or if they're rubbing their face on surfaces such as the ground or carpet. If their ear flap (also known as the pinna) is swollen, it's important to bring your dog to their veterinarian for treatment to avoid long-term issues such as scarring and hearing loss.
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Did a bug get my dog's ear?
Mosquitoes aren't just a nuisance for humans, they'll happily feast on a dog as well. Your dog's ear flaps or other areas with exposed skin often roll out the dinner buffet for these blood-sucking insects. It's not unusual for dogs to get stung on the nose, face, or ears by bees, wasps, spiders, or other insects. It's especially important to keep an eye on your dog for bites and irritation during warmer months when insects are more prevalent.
There are some signs that you can keep an eye out for to determine whether your dog has been bitten by an insect. In most cases, the symptoms are very similar to a human's symptoms after being bitten. Some of the visible signs include redness around the affected area, swelling of the area, and skin that is hot to the touch. Additionally, some dogs may vocalize to let you know that they are in pain and something is bothering them.
If you suspect that your dog has been bitten or stung, there are some important steps that you can take at home to determine the best course of action. First, you should check the bite wound and carefully remove a stinger if it is found. Ants, bees, mosquitoes, and other pests usually cause minor swelling with minimal irritation to your pet. However, some dogs can have localized allergic reactions, which can cause excessive itchiness and hives. If your dog shows any signs of great discomfort after an insect bite, you should reach out to your veterinarian to learn about treatment options.
Dog ear infections and ear mites
Repeated scratching or head shaking from the discomfort of an ear infection or ear mites can also cause swelling in your dog's ear flap. In this instance, the swollen ear is a secondary symptom of a greater problem involving the affected ear that requires veterinary attention. However, wiping your dog's ears with a 50/50 mixture of white vinegar and water using a cotton ball can help reduce the itching and inflammation while you're waiting for your veterinarian appointment. If you use this mixture, be sure that you only wipe the outer ear and do not get the mixture into your dog's ear canal.
While you can wipe up any discharge and gunk that you see on the external part of your dog's ear, there's only so much that you can do at home. When you take your dog to their veterinarian, they can clean their ears safely and take samples of the discharge to help determine a cause for the issue, such as an underlying ear infection. In some cases, your dog may need to be sedated for cleaning and treatment, especially if their ears are very painful. During your appointment, your veterinarian can also show you how to properly clean your dog's ears and administer any treatment such as steroids that they prescribe.
Dog ear hematoma treatment
Occasionally, violent head shaking and scratching can cause a blood vessel in your dog's ear to rupture and cause a blood blister known as a hematoma. There is often an underlying cause when this happens, such as an ear infection or a foreign body in the ear. If your dog has an ear hematoma, you must seek treatment from your veterinarian to resolve the issue, even if it is only a small hematoma. Untreated, aural hematomas can leave severe scarring that results in permanent hearing loss or an unsightly "cauliflower ear." It can also encourage an environment in which yeast and bacteria can multiply rapidly, causing recurrent ear infections that can come from common causes such as yeast infections.
Your veterinarian can perform a minor surgical procedure on the hematoma to relieve the pressure and prevent it from filling up again. During the healing process, pain-relieving medications may be recommended by your veterinarian to keep your dog comfortable. It's important not to use any medication that is intended for humans unless your veterinarian specifically recommends it for your dog. If there are any underlying causes for the aural hematoma, your veterinarian can also treat that to try to prevent reoccurrence.
The bottom line
Don't try a home remedy treatment for your dog's swollen ears if you aren't sure what the cause is. It's not uncommon for a dog to have a swollen or itchy ear, especially if they have floppy ears. Whether the causes of ear irritation are due to a bug bite, ear infection, or something else, knowing the signs to watch for can help you get your dog the best treatment. Contacting your DVM at the first signs of discomfort can help you avoid long-term issues and help your dog feel better as soon as possible.