Understanding Ear Cysts In Dogs

When the middle ear, located behind the eardrum, becomes infected, cysts can form around the eardrum. These cysts, known as cholesteatoma, tend to occur when an infection has been present for an extended period of time, which isn't uncommon, as it's not always easy to spot the signs of a middle ear infection in dogs. All breeds of dog can develop ear cysts, but those with droopy ears, narrow ear canals or hair growth in the outer ear canal are at a greater risk of ear infections. Cysts can also form when ear mites have caused the ear canal to become infected. Here's what you need to know about ear cysts in dogs:


Ear cysts can cause generalised earache or ear pain that presents when your dog chews or yawns. Signs of ear pain include pawing at the ears, shaking the head from side to side, loss of appetite and becoming easily irritated when the head or face is touched. Due to the location of the cysts, hearing loss can occur, and this can be partial or complete. Signs of hearing loss include not responding to being called, withdrawal from play and anxiety or confusion when in unfamiliar environments.

Diagnosis And Treatment Approach

Your vet can diagnose ear cysts by taking details of your dog's symptoms and examining their ear canal with an otoscope. This is a magnifying device that allows your vet to determine the extent of damage to your dog's ear caused by an infection. The vet may also take swab samples from any identified cysts and have them analysed to determine the specific strain of bacteria causing the infection. In cases where the eardrum and ear canal are too inflamed for the vet to use an otoscope, diagnostic imaging, such as an X-ray or CT scan, will be used to confirm the presence of ear cysts and assess the damage to the ear canal.  

Ear cysts require surgical removal, and it's often necessary to remove the ear canal to ensure complete removal of the cysts. This won't affect the external appearance of the affected ear, but some dogs experience a reduction in their hearing after surgery. Conversely, if your dog has experienced hearing loss due to the cysts, their removal can improve your dog's hearing. Antibiotics will also be prescribed to treat the underlying infection, and your vet will examine your dog after they have completed their treatment to ensure the infection has cleared up.

If your dog is experiencing any of the symptoms associated with ear cysts, or if you have concerns about their ear health, schedule an appointment with your vet as soon as possible.