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208 Breeds, 422 Health Conditions  |  Find a Vet

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Foreign Object in Ear View In Dogs

First Aid Condition

First aid health condition




Condition Overview

Dogs and cats ears are pretty well protected by fur, especially in the case of floppy-eared dogs. Once in a while however, a foreign object can fall down inside the ear and get stuck.


A pet with a foreign object in his ear will shake his head, paw, and scratch at it. An infection will eventually develop. The pet may be so uncomfortable that he may need sedation before the object can be removed.


A piece of grass or a bit of sand can cause problems. Pets in certain parts of the country, especially in the southwestern and western United States, have problems with grass awns - the barbed seeds of various grasses and grains. The awns actually work their way into the tender skin of the ear. They are very painful and can cause infection.


Diagnosis can be made by physical examination of the ear.


First aid can ease the pain and in some cases, cure the problem.

  1. Muzzle your pet - Before doing anything else, create a temporary muzzle for your pet so that your aren't bitten while trying to help. A foreign object in the ear can be painful, and even the most loving pet may lash out when in pain. Use a necktie, length of panty hose, or a standard flat leash. Wrap it around the muzzle and tie it on top of his nose. Then bring the ends under his chin and know them again. Finally, bring the ends of the material back behind his head and tie them behind the ears.
  2. Restrain him - Have a second person restrain your pet and hold his head steady while you examine the ear. Otherwise, your pet could further injure himself if he jerks or flinches away. With a dog, seat him on a tabletop or on the floor. let his neck rest in the crook of your elbow and bring your arm up around him, snugging his head to your chest. Bring your other arm under his chest to hold him steady. Be sure that the affected ear is facing out for easy access.

    To examine a cat or small dog, grasp him by the scruff of the neck with one hand and by the hind legs with the other, then gently stretch him out on a tabletop.
  3. Remove what is reachable - Carefully grasp the earflap with one hand and shine a flashlight or penlight inside the ear canal to see if there is anything visible. The ear canal in cats and dogs is shaped like an "L", so you can only see down so far. If you can see the foreign object at the opening of the ear canal, you can try to remove it. A pair of blunt tipped tweezers or a hemostat (a long thin clamp available from pet supply catalogs) will work best. If the object is deeper in the canal, the veterinarian should remove it.
  4. Rinse the ear with saline solution - If you are able to remove the object, rinse out the ear with warm sterile saline solution (or contact lens solution) to clean the wound or irritation. just aim the stream of liquid with the squeeze bottle. You can also make saline by dissolving 1.25 teaspoons of table sale in 1 pint of warm water. Fill up the ear canal, massage the base of the ear, then wipe out the fluid with a cotton ball or soft cloth.
  5. Apply an antibiotic ointment - If you've been able to remove the foreign object, it is a good idea to medicate the ear with antibiotic ointment. Squeeze a little ointment into the ear canal (not too deep!) and massage the base of the ear to spread the medicine evenly. This will help fight infection and soothe the irritation.
  6. If the object is out of reach - If you can't reach or see the foreign object, it is best to keep your pet as quiet as possible until you reach medical assistance. Constant Shaking of his ears can bruise the earflap and cause an aural hematoma, in which blood collects and the skin swells - which will need surgery to correct. In order to prevent further damage, fold the ear inside out against the top of your pet's head and secure it in place. You can use roll gauze or a length of panty hose, or even cut the toe off an athletic sock and slip the tube of material over your dog's head to hold the ear down. Be sure the material isn't wrapped too tightly and doesn't restrict your pets breathing.

    You can also give your pet an over the counter antihistamine like Benadryl to reduce the irritation and swelling until the foreign body is removed. This may make him feel more comfortable even if the ear has become infected. See our Pet Medicine Chart (dogs) Pet Medicine Chart (cats) for a guideline on dosage and consult your veterinarian.


It is extremely difficult to prevent this condition.


If a foreign body like a grass awn has been removed from your pet's ear, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. Several days or oral antibiotics will help prevent the sore from becoming infected or speed recovery from an existing infection. For dogs, you can try hiding pills in tasty treats like cheese or gently grasp the top of your dog's muzzle, press your fingers against his gums right behind the large, pointed canine teeth, and when he opens his mouth, drop the pill to the back of his tongue, close his mouth, and gently stroke his throat until he swallows. The same technique works for cats, but be ready with a bribe once you get the pill in you cat's mouth so that she will swallow the treat and forget to spit out the pill.

Show Sources & Contributors +


The First Aid Companion for Dogs And Cats

Publisher: Rodale Inc, 2001

Website: http://www.rodalebooks.com/

Authors: Amy D. Shojai, Shane Bateman DVM

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