Despite their modern groomed appearance and domestic demeanor, cocker spaniels were originally bred to help European hunters catch prey. Their long ears let them run through brush without damaging sensitive tissue. Unfortunately, their ear flaps also increase their risk of developing ear odor due to infections and other skin problems.
Spaniel Ear Hygiene
Even if your spaniel is completely healthy and has never had an ear problem, it is important to clean his ears at least once a week. In fact, cleaning them every other day wouldn't be too much. His ears shelter a large area of moist and sensitive skin, even when compared to other floppy-eyed breeds. This area is rarely exposed, so dirt and grime can build up quickly. Pathogens and parasites don't take very long to establish themselves, so it is important to keep the area clean to stop them from getting out of hand. Ask your vet about dog-safe cleaning supplies for your spaniel's ears. Some owners use a barely warm mixture of vinegar and water, while others prefer brand cleaning products. A soft and slightly damp washcloth or towel is fine for regular cleanings.
External ear infections, otitis externa, are one of the most common health problems in spaniels. Unpleasant odor and liquid excretion from your dog's ears are primary signs of an infection, although there are other problems that can cause these symptoms too. Bacteria are often the cause of doggy ear and skin infections, although yeast and fungi may be responsible too. Dogs that spend a lot of time in the water are at a significantly higher risk of developing ear infections, especially if you don't apply liquid drying solution or rub them with a towel for a few minutes every time they get wet.
If your vet determines that your dog's ear odor is the result of an infection, he will try to alleviate your dog's current suffering while attempting to fix the underlying cause. The usual short-term treatment for an external ear infection is a deep ear cleaning under anesthesia and a regular dosage of oral or topical medication for a few weeks. If the infection is linked to a physical deformity in your dog's ear, then surgery may be required to fix the underlying issues.
If your dog's ears smell bad, take a look over his whole head and body and look for irregularities. Particularly dry, scaly skin or patches of moist and oily fur mean your dog has a condition called seborrhea. This disorder is an overproduction of certain skin cells, which can include glandular cells that product biological oils and normal cells. It is common around the spaniel's head, so you may be confusing the bad smell from his abnormally productive skin glands with an ear problem. Seborrhea is often associated with other skin issues, like ringworm, adrenal dysfunction or allergies, but cocker spaniels can develop it without having other health problems, according to Illinois Cocker Rescue.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Quentin Coleman has written for various publications, including All Pet News and Safe to Work Australia. He spent more tan 10 years nursing kittens, treating sick animals and domesticating semi-feral cats for a local animal shelter. He graduated from the University of Delaware with a bachelor's degree in journalism.