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The canine ear is made up of three separate areas: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. A dog that needs an in-depth examination of his ears will probably require anesthesia so that the veterinarian can perform the exam easily, without causing the dog discomfort or anxiety.
The outer ear includes the ear flap, also known as the pinna, as well as the portion of the ear you can see with the naked eye. The pinna, which can be either upright or floppy, is remarkably flexible, with more than a dozen muscles that move the ear around. The area is also well supplied with nerves and blood vessels, making the ears a sensitive part of the body. A 90-degree angle in the outer ear funnels noise to the ear drum. The inner side of the outer ear should be a pink and smooth.
The outer ear and middle ear are separated by the ear drum, which is also called the tympanic membrane. The ear drum is a very thin. Three small bones make up the middle ear. The middle ear also contains the bulla, an air-filled cavity connected to the back of the mouth through the Eustachian tube, which is also in the middle ear. The bulla protects the sensitive middle ear.
The inner ear connects to the brain. It is a nerve center for the dog, controlling hearing and balance. The cochlea is the final organ in the ear canal that aids in hearing. It converts vibrations and messages from the auditory nerve to sound. The vestibule and semicircular canal controls balance and uses electrical impulses to orient the dog.
The ear drum is delicate, and can be damaged by cleaning and disease. To clean your dog's ears, use a commercial ear wash to irrigate the ear, then wipe clean with a cotton ball. Do not insert cotton swabs into the ear.
Watch your dog for signs of ear infections, such as rubbing ears on the floor or furniture, scratching the ear, shaking the head and any redness, odor or discharge. Ear infections are more common in dogs with floppy ears, which restrict air flow into the ear, and dogs who suffer from food allergies.