A Guide to Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections

June 8, 2022

Ear infections are a pretty common occurrence for Cocker Spaniels. They are even more prone to this than many other breeds.

The reason why is those long floppy ears which are characteristic of the breed. As they hang down the side of the dog's head they inhibit air from flowing freely into the ear canal.

This in turn can create a warm and moist environment ideal for conditions like ear infections to take hold. The likelihood of a problem will increase if you don't regularly clean your dog's ears.

In this article, we will cover the most common reasons your Cocker Spaniel can get ear infections along with the symptoms to look out for, and our top tips on keeping your Cocker's ears healthy and infection-free.

What Causes Cocker Spaniel Ear Infections?

It comes down to the design of Cocker Spaniel's ears. As their ears hang low over their ear canals air cannot freely circulate. This is the main reason that a Cocker Spaniel will have more ear infections than other breeds.

The lack of airflow inside the ear creates a dark and moist environment. A perfect set of conditions for bacteria to thrive.

Aside from the design of their ears, there are other reasons which can cause a Cocker Spaniel to develop ear infections. This includes excess hair inside your dog's ear, water getting into their ear or dirt, grass, or other allergens getting in while out exploring.

Signs of an Ear Infection

Generally, across the different types of ear infections, you will see infection set in with inflammation, warmth, and humidity. If you find more than one of these factors is present there is more chance of an infection progressing faster. Even more so if it goes unnoticed for some time.

Ear infections which have lasted for three months will be classed as chronic ear infections. You will definitely want to deal with it before it gets to that point. If you see any signals above book an appointment with your vet.

Other issues which can arise from longer-term infections include ruptured eardrums, or infections progressing to the middle or inner ear.

Before a Cocker Spaniel's ear infection can be treated you will need to know what has caused it. Keep a note of any symptoms your dog shows. It can be helpful for your vet.

Types of Dog Ear Infection

There is a few different types of ear infection a Cocker Spaniel is susceptible to. Ear infections can affect the outer ear, and middle and inner ear infections can also be present in dogs where it has been left untreated for some time.

There is a wide range of causes of ear infections in dogs. It may be due to a yeast infection or bacterial infection, or both. Even seemingly unrelated factors can play a role here such as your dog going for a swim or a run in the park and getting debris in their ear.

Otitis Externa

Otitis externa is the inflammation of the external ear canal. It's the most common infection seen in Cocker Spaniel's ears.

There are many reasons a Cocker Spaniel can get an otitis externa infected ear. The main reasons are yeast or bacterial infection though. Other reasons include foreign bodies in the ear, poor hygiene, or hormone disorders.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching their ears
  • Waxy discharge
  • Bad smell from the ear
  • Pain to the touch

How is this treated?

For this infection to be treated you will need to book an appointment with your vet. It's likely your dog will be prescribed an ointment intended to control the bacteria or yeast.

Of course, the sooner your dog is receiving treatment the better.


Micro-organisms are bacteria, yeast, or parasites. They thrive in dark, warm humid places. This is where those cute long ears which cover a Cocker's ear canals come into play. By covering that area they make the perfect conditions for growth.

All dogs actually have bacteria in their ears but if moisture or temperature levels change it can lead to micro-organisms multiplying. This in turn leads to ear infections.

Left untreated this type of infection can even lead to hearing loss in severe cases.

Symptoms to look out for:

  • Ear inflammation
  • Shaking their head
  • Scratching their ears
  • Head tilting
  • Malodorous discharge

How is it treated?

This is another condition which is best treated by booking an appointment with your vet. Once diagnosed by a professional your vet will prescribe treatment.


This type of ear infection is when plant matter or debris gets into a Cocker Spaniel's ear.

Just like the other infections, this one is caused by the perfect blend of warmth and moisture. Ear wax can also play a role.

A Canker ear infection is classed as a fungal disease and can actually cause ulcers in dogs.

It is actually a very serious ear infection if left unchecked and can even result in death when not treated.

Symptoms to look out for

  • Foul funky smelling dark coloured discharge
  • Scratching ears
  • Tilting or shaking head
  • Signs of pain or irritation

How is it treated?

If you think your dog might have this book an appointment with your vet. Topical ear medications are often prescribed by your vet to treat this type of infection.

As it can be quite a dangerous one please do contact your vet if you think your dog might have a Canker ear infection.

Black and white cocker spaniel

What to do if I Think my Cocker Spaniel has an Ear Infection?

Take action quickly.

A Cocker Spaniel ear infection is not something to take lightly. Not only is this something that will cause discomfort and pain for your dog but it can also be quite stubborn to deal with. Particularly if not swiftly dealt with.

As soon as you notice any symptoms book an appointment with your vet.

Keep a note of any symptoms your Cocker is showing and let your vet know. If could give more indication to exactly what is wrong.

How to Avoid Dog Ear Infections

There is nothing you can do to completely avoid ear infections in your Cocker Spaniel. However, there are many ways you can reduce the odds of one occurring.

Check your Dogs Ears Regularly

By knowing the symptoms to look out for and carrying out regular checks you can react quickly to any developing infections.

After coming home from a long walk if a great time to take a look into your dog's ears as they may have accumulated debris on their adventures.

Another time you'll want to check is if your dog gets water into their ear. This in itself can lead to an infection. Those floppy ears stop the canal from being effectively drained.

You don't want to leave it until it set in and you can smell the ear infection or you see your Cocker Spaniel frantically scratching the side of its head.

It may have already begun to progress at this point.

Clean your Dogs Ears

Good ear hygiene is a great way to stay on top of your dog's ear health.

Keeping your dog's ears in great condition with regular cleaning can help reduce the chances of an infection developing. It is recommended you clean your dog's ears around every one to two months.

One thing to note is you should only clean your dog's ears at home when they are healthy. If you notice any signs of infection outlined above you should stop and book an appointment with your vet. It could do more harm than good.

You can coincide this with bath time to get it all done in one.

Cleaning your Cocker Spaniel's ears can also stop the build-up of wax which can also lead to complications if left untreated.

If your Cocker Spaniel has waxy ears it can make other treatments less effective.

Keep your Cocker Spaniels Ears Dry

All dogs love a good swim.

Unfortunately, water in your Cocker's ear can grow bacteria and yeast which leads to infection. And the water has nowhere to go for your Cocker Spaniel and remains in the ear canal.

So if your dog's ears have been caught in the rain or they've leapt in a pond taking some time to ensure those ears are dry inside and out can make a big difference.

Sometimes your Cocker Spaniels will try to do this themselves by burying their heads into the rug or sofa as if they are possessed.

You can use dry tissue or cotton buds intended for dogs to remove any water with ease.

Brown Cocker Spaniel


Ear infections in Cocker Spaniels are a common issue with this breed that can often be rooted in the design of their long ears which hang over their ear canals impeding airflow.

Other dog breeds with similar ears are also susceptible to ear infections for this reason.

If a problem does develop it is important to address it quickly to avoid long term health issues.

There are a few ways you can stay on top of this with regular checks, ear cleaning, and keeping your dog's ears dry.

Thankfully with some care and attention, those cute ears can have the best chance of remaining healthy and infection-free.

Allan  Noble
Hi, my name is Allan! I am the owner of Spaniel Advisor and I've got over seven years experience of owning Spaniels.  
I hope this article was helpful for you! 
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