Ear Tumors in Dogs

Ear Tumors in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Katelyn Son
By Katelyn Son
Medically reviewed by Ivana Crnec, DVM
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What Is Ear Tumor in Dogs?

Ear Tumors in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Ear tumors in dogs are abnormal growths that can develop in any part of the ear canal. However, in dogs, tumors of the ear canal are more common in the outer than in the middle ear or inner ear.

Ear tumors in dogs can be benign tumors or malignant tumors. Generally speaking, benign tumors in the ears are more common than malignant ones.

There are four types of ear tumors in dogs:

  • Ceruminous gland adenoma (a benign tumor of the ear wax glands)
  • Ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma (a malignant tumor of the ear wax glands)
  • Nasopharyngeal polyps (also known as inflammatory polyps)
  • Squamous cell carcinoma.

What does a Dog Ear Tumor Look Like?

Ear tumors in dogs generally have smooth or bumpy stalk-shaped lumps or flattened patches that rise off the lining of the ear canal.

A biopsy will determine whether or not the growth in a dog’s ear is a real tumor, and a CT scan, x-rays (radiographs), or MRI to see if it is invading surrounding tissues.

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What Causes Tumors in Dog’s Ears?

The exact cause of ear tumors in dogs is unknown. However, there are some established risk factors:

  • Dog Breed. Dogs with floppy ears (Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, Golden Retrievers) are more likely to develop ear tumors.
  • Chronic Ear Infections. Dogs with history of chronic inflammation of the ears (otitis externa, otitis media, or otitis interna) are at higher risk of ear tumors.
  • Ear Mite Infestations. Frequent and repeated infestations with ear mites also increase the dog’s risk of developing ear canal tumors.
  • Lesions in the Ears. Ear tumors in dogs can also arise from different lesions in the ear canal, such as papillomas and ulcerations.

What Are the Symptoms of a Tumor in Dog Ear?

Ear tumors in dogs manifest with ear irritation and head-shaking. In more severe cases, there can also be neurological signs. Here is a close look at the symptoms.

  • Stinky Ear Discharge: The ear discharge may be waxy, puss-filled, or bloody.
  • Itchy Ears: Constant scratching is a sign of many things, but when paired with any of the other symptoms, it can be a sign of an ear tumor.
  • Painful Ears: Also a sign of an ear infection. If your dog’s ears seem painful, you should take them to the vet.
  • Head-Shaking: Most ear problems in dogs result in head-shaking (it is the dog’s attempt to get rid of the source of the ear irritation).
  • Ear Hematoma: Also known as a blood blister, dog ear hematoma is often the result of head-shaking and excessive scratching.
  • Neurological Signs: In more advanced and severe cases, the tumor can spread or pressure the nerves, causing neurological symptoms.

What Is the Treatment for Ear Tumors in Dogs?

Ear Tumors in Dogs: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

The treatment of choice for ear tumors in dogs is surgery. However, surgery can be combined with other treatments, based on the situation. Here is an explanation of the treatment options.

  • Surgery. Benign tumors are treated with surgical excision (laser surgery is also an option). For malignant tumors, the surgery is more extensive and is known as total ear canal ablation and bulla osteotomy (TECA-BO).
    This surgical removal includes the external ear canal, middle (tympanic bulla), and inner ear canal. Basically, the only remaining part of the ear is the flap.
  • Radiation Therapy. Radiation can be used when complete tumor removal is not possible and for dogs that are not surgical candidates (it slows down the tumor growth and helps with pain relief).
  • Chemotherapy. Chemotherapy is recommended for ear tumors in dogs that are aggressive, and if there is evidence of metastasis (affected lymph nodes).

How Long Does it Take for a Tumor to Form on a Dog’s Ear?

Ear tumors in dogs usually develop as a result of chronic ear conditions that can be prevented with proper ear care and hygiene. Therefore, pet owners should focus on prevention.

Here are some over-the-counter dog ear cleaners that can prevent some of the underlying causes of ear tumors in dogs.

Vets Preferred Ear Cleaner for Dogs. The safe and effective formula in this ear wash for dogs is made with isopropyl alcohol for an antiseptic effect in an infected ear. It provides itch relief and soothes uncomfortable ears.

It is a powerful ear wax remover that helps to fight inflammation before it has a chance to arise. It is made in the USA in a GMP-certified facility to ensure the highest level of safety and quality.

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Curaseb Cat & Dog Ear Infection Treatment. This ear infection treatment is formulated to treat inflammation, infection, redness, and itchiness. It flushes away dirt and debris and gently deodorizes irritated ears.

This product is safe enough for routine use, especially after bath time or swimming. It is made in the USA in a federally regulated facility to be safe for cats and dogs of all ages.

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Cardinal Laboratories Remedy and Recovery Liquid Bandage for Dogs. Liquid bandage is a great choice for treating cuts, scrapes, stitches, and hot spots. It provides a waterproof barrier around the wound that is breathable so airflow can reach the injury and promote greater healing.

It contains no acrylic and is made in the USA to provide the safest possible treatment for superficial wounds. With regards to a dog’s ears, this can be used to treat open wounds, so they do not become infected and inflamed.

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Sulfodene Dog Wound Care Ointment. This ointment relieves pain and prevents infection using benzocaine and salicylic acid. It is excellent for use on bug bites, irritation, and hot spots. Plus, it is effective against bacterial infections.

It is for use on external wounds only but provides a barrier against germs and pests. As a bonus, it has over 13,000 reviews on Amazon, so we can get a good idea of the experiences other people have had using this product.

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VETNIQUE LABS Oticbliss Ear Cleaner. Ketoconazole and chlorhexidine are the active ingredients in this medicated ear cleaner for dogs. Ketoconazole provides an antifungal effect to prevent yeast infections and other fungi from growing inside the ear.

Chlorhexidine provides antibacterial properties that are great for disinfecting a sore ear. Using this product to clean a dog’s ears helps to deodorize and soothe any inflammation or irritation a dog may have in their ears. It is safe for cats and dogs of all ages and sizes, created by veterinarians, and made in the USA.

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Forticept Blue Butter Antimicrobial Gel. This antimicrobial gel is a great first-aid solution for better wound care. The soothing gel helps to relieve irritated cuts, scrapes, and wounds and promotes the healing of rashes, sores, and various skin infections.

It is easy to use, only requiring the user to put a bit of gel on their hand and rub it onto the affected area. It is non-toxic, free of antibiotics and steroids, and pH balanced for safe use around sensitive areas like the nose and eyes.

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Fitter Critter Aloe Dog Ear Wipes. Ketoconazole and chlorhexidine are the active ingredients in these ear wipes. These provide antifungal and antibacterial properties that help fight infection and prevent inflammation.

This formula is packed into convenient wipes that are presoaked and ready for use. They control itching and irritation using aloe vera, vitamin E, and essential fatty acids to prevent excessive scratching and further injury. It is manufactured in the United States to provide buyers with the best quality control and safety measures.

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Also, promoting ear health in dogs requires regular vet checkups. During physical examinations, vets also perform otoscopic examinations – this is a great opportunity to catch ear problems early on.

How Long Can a Dog Live with an Ear Tumor?

According to merckvetmanual.com, the average survival time of dogs with malignant ear canal tumors has been reported to be almost 5 years. For cats and dogs with benign ear tumors, the prognosis is even better.