Common ear and eye problems in dogs

The eyes might be a window to the soul, but a dog’s ears are the window to their emotions! If your dog is happy and curious, their ears prick up and communicate that to us, while if they’re a bit sad or sleepy, chances are their ears will tell us too. Puppy dog eyes are also how our pets communicate with us, so when our pets have problems with their eyes and ears, it’s unpleasant for us and them.

Unfortunately, there are a number of common ear and eye problems for dogs, particularly in pedigree dogs. Fortunately, knowing the different types of issues that can come up in our pet’s lifestyle can help us spot a problem quickly so we can get them the care and treatment they need to be healthy and happy once again.

Ear infection

Ear infections can be caused by bacteria that gets into a dog’s ear. If your dog has a bacterial ear infection, the signs will be easy to spot. If your dog has an ear infection, you’ll notice:

  • Discharge and smells from the ears
  • Shaking of the head
  • Scratching at the ears and head
  • Reluctance to let you near the affected area.

Dogs with long, floppy ears are particularly susceptible to ear infections – especially those that love to swim! The shape of the inside of your dog’s ear plays a part in how likely they are to develop an infection, and while it can be hard to prevent them from getting one, they can be treated easily if it’s caught quickly.

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, book an appointment with your vet who will be able to confirm your suspicions. In mild cases, the infection can be treated with ear cleaning and prescribed medication, such as ear drops.

Ear mites

Ear mites in dogs present in a similar way that they do in cats. If your dog displays symptoms, look for brown chunks like coffee granules inside your dog’s ear. They might also:

  • Shake their head excessively
  • Scratch their ears and head
  • Secrete a dark, waxy substance from the ears

Ear mites can be picked up from other cats and dogs, and can be passed quickly between pets. If you have multiple pets and one has ear mites, there’s a high chance that the others will soon have them too. 

If you suspect that your dog has ear mites, take them to the vets for a diagnosis. The vet will likely clean your pet’s ears of mites and may prescribe a topical treatment  to eliminate the parasites. Clean your dog’s bedding and the carpets in your house to ensure that the mites don’t return!

Obstructions in the ear

Our curious canine friends often find themselves in all sorts of mischief. So it’s no surprise that one of the most common ear problems for dogs is foreign objects finding their way into the ears.

Grass seeds are the most common culprit. If your dog has been playing in long grass during the summer months, seeds can get lodged in the ear and cause pain, irritation and inflammation. You’ll notice:

  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Seeds collected in or around the ears
  • Inflammation in or around the ears

There may also be a small amount of blood if a seed is left and becomes inflamed. To remove obstructions from your dog’s ears, you should consult your vet so they can flush the ears safely and in a way that minimises your dog’s discomfort. Pain medication and antibiotics may also be prescribed to help with the healing process.


Conjunctivitis is a common eye problem that humans also experience, and is simply the inflammation of the conjunctiva – the membrane found on our eyelids. For dogs, the conjunctiva covers the third eyelid and parts of the eyeball too. 

A dog with conjunctivitis may have an underlying issue, as it presents itself as a symptom of another problem. This might be allergies, infection and irritations such as dust or eyelashes. Signs of conjunctivitis include a red and swollen eye, as well as discomfort. It’s a bit easier to spot as we humans get it too!

If you suspect your dog has conjunctivitis, be sure to take them to the vet to not only treat the issue, but to also find out more about what is causing the inflammation. Your vet might prescribe an eye drop or ointment that will soothe your pet’s eye over time, such as Exocin Eye Drops. Wash your hands thoroughly before and after applying the treatment to your pet to avoid getting more bacteria in their eye, and to further minimise the possibility of spreading bacteria from their eye.

Cherry eye

Dogs have several eyelids, two that are visible and one that can’t usually be seen. This third eyelid is also home to a tear gland that is normally invisible. However, if a dog has weak ligaments around this gland, the gland can pop out when they fail. This leaves the gland out of its normal place, looking like a cherry in the corner of the eye. 

This is a common genetic condition for several breeds of dogs, including bulldogs, pugs and Great Danes. It will require surgery and can occur in both eyes over time.


Just like we might be allergic to dust, pollen and even our pets, dogs can also experience allergic reactions to things in their day to day lives. Your dog might be allergic to pollen, mites, grass and different foods. Signs your pet has allergies or an intolerance includes:

  • Sore looking eyes
  • Rubbing eyes and face on furniture
  • Itchy eyes

These symptoms can be especially persistent and uncomfortable during the summer months, just like hay fever is for us!

Allergies can be really uncomfortable, so it’s important to take your pet to the vet if you’re noticing your dog behaving like this. Your vet might recommend taking tests to determine what your pet is allergic to. In the meantime, they might recommend soothing shampoos to calm their irritated skin, taking notes of what they are exposed to on walks and at home, and carefully changing their diet.

Neil’s top tips:

  • Always be very gentle when checking your dog’s ears. Don’t probe your dog’s ears with cotton buds or any implements as you can easily cause pain and further issues for your pet. Consult your vet if you need a simple way to check your dog’s ears at home, as they will be able to advise on a way for you to do this carefully.
  • To avoid ear mites and infections, keep your dog’s ears as clean as possible. Getting them regularly groomed and checked over by the vet will help you maintain their ears and keep on top of any potential problems.
  • Many symptoms of eye and ear issues can present over time, so if you notice your pet behaving oddly – whether it’s itching their face or scratching their ears, make notes so that when you’re sure they do have a problem, you can share the signs with your vet much more easily.