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Otitis Externa in Labrador Retrievers

Otitis externa is characterized by inflammation of the dog’s external ear canal. It is a result of a gradual change in the usual environment of the ear canal that causes glands to grow larger and produce excessive wax. The outer and inner skin progressively produce plenty of fibrous tissue which leads to the narrowing of the canal. Otitis externa is usually a secondary symptom of an infection. Pain, itching and redness may be experienced by the dog suffering from the disease. For chronic conditions, the results are often a ruptured ear drum. Sometimes, otitis externa may also lead to otitis media, which is an infection of the middle ear.

Otitis externa in Labrador Retrievers affects both cats and dogs. In dogs, it is seen across different ages and different breeds including Labrador Retrievers. Other breed types such as long-eared dogs or those with hair external ear canals are susceptible to this disease.


There are many possible causes of otitis externa. The main factors that contribute to its development are allergies, infections, parasites, foreign bodies, hormonal abnormality, change in ear environment and hereditary or immune diseases.

Allergies to food or something they inhale or contact with the skin are often causes of skin problems. In fact, ear problems are the first signs of allergy. Because the allergy changes the surrounding environment in the ear, symptoms of secondary infections are often seen such as bacteria and yeast which thrive in warm and moist ear environment. A Labrador with proper hygiene and a healthy ear has a strong defense against these harmful organisms. Along with the changes in the ear’s environment that result from allergies, bacteria and yeast may grow in number and break down the defenses. It is not only enough to treat ear infection because the root of the problem is the allergy.

On the other hand, parasites such as ear mites may also be a contributing factor to otitis externa in dogs. Labradors are sensitive to mites and may result to frequent scratching because of intense itch. This may only traumatize the ear and worsen the condition. In addition, foreign bodies such as plant awns that stick to the dog’s fur may only enter the ear canal and cause irritation. This also leads to scratching and trauma to the Labrador’s ears. It is therefore important to always check the dog’s ears and make it a part of the grooming routine. Moreover, other forms of hormonal abnormalities such as deficiency or excess of glucocorticoids may lead to ear problems.



The symptoms of otitis externa include head shaking or scratching of external ear flaps because of intense itch felt on the ears. Bad odors may also be detected on Labradors. There may also be redness or swelling of the external ear canal and scrabbling skin the create obstruction of the ear canals.



A diagnosis of the disease is made through an administration of different tests. The veterinarian may subject the Labrador to an x-ray or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) to determine accumulation of fluid or tissues in the ear. Moreover, skin scraping of the ear flaps may be used to detect parasites or skin biopsies to examine the presence of autoimmune diseases. Furthermore, a microscopic examination may be administered to check ear discharge.



In cases of otitis externa, topical therapies and cleansing of the external ear are ways to treat the disease. The therapy may include antibacterial or anti-yeast drops. In cases where infectious organisms are confirmed, antibiotics and antifungals may be taken. To reduce pain, corticosteroids are also used.


Living with Labradors

It is important to maintain regular cleaning of your dog’s ears. When taking your dog out for a walk, it is impossible not to gain contact with pollens and other elements. Always include ear-cleaning as part of daily grooming.

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