Common Ear Problems in Shih Tzu

Shih Tzus are adorable furry creatures that make excellent companions. However, despite their cute appearance, they are prone to certain health issues, particularly ear problems. If you’re a Shih Tzu owner, you may have noticed your furry friend scratching or shaking their head frequently. These are just a few of the symptoms that could indicate an underlying ear problem. It’s important to understand the common ear problems that your Shih Tzu may be susceptible to, so that you can take the necessary steps to prevent or treat them. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore some of the most common ear problems in Shih Tzu and how you can treat them. So, whether you’re a new Shih Tzu owner or a seasoned one, read on to learn more about keeping your furry friend’s ears healthy and happy.

Common Ear Problems

Common Ear Problems
As a pet parent of a Shih Tzu, you might have noticed your furry friend scratching their ears more than usual or shaking their head often. These behaviors could be indications of common ear problems that are prevalent in this breed. Shih Tzus are prone to various ear issues, and it’s important to detect them early on and treat them promptly to avoid complications. In this article, we will discuss the most common ear problems that Shih Tzus face, their symptoms, and treatment options. We will also share some tips for preventing these problems from occurring in the first place. So, if you want your furry companion to have clean and healthy ears, keep reading! You can also learn more about ear cleaning for Shih Tzus by following this link.

1. Ear Infections

Ear infections are a common problem in Shih Tzu and can cause a lot of discomfort for the dog. There are several potential causes for an ear infection, but the most common is a buildup of bacteria or yeast in the ear canal. Some of the symptoms of an ear infection include itchiness, redness, swelling, and discharge.

If left untreated, an ear infection can worsen and even cause a ruptured eardrum, which is incredibly painful for the dog. It is essential to recognize the signs of an infection early and treat it promptly.

To treat an ear infection in a Shih Tzu, it is recommended to visit a veterinarian who can diagnose and prescribe the best treatment option. However, some common treatments for ear infections include:

  • Medications: In most cases, a veterinarian will prescribe antibiotics or antifungal medications to clear the infection. It is important to follow the instructions for dosing and duration of treatment carefully, even if the symptoms seem to have disappeared.
  • Cleaning Solution: In addition to medication, a veterinarian may also recommend using a cleaning solution to keep the ears clean and prevent future infections. There are various cleaning solutions available, but it is essential to choose one that is specifically formulated for dogs and does not contain alcohol, which can irritate the ears.
  • Surgery: In rare instances, if the infection is severe and has caused significant damage to the ear canal, surgery may be required. This decision will be made by the veterinarian after a thorough examination and consideration of all treatment options.

It is worth noting that prevention of ear infections is always better than treatment. Owners can prevent ear infections in Shih Tzu by regularly cleaning their ears and keeping them dry. Clean ears are healthy ears, and regular cleaning can prevent the buildup of wax and debris that can cause infections.

Ear infections are a common problem in Shih Tzu, but can be treated effectively with proper diagnosis and treatment. By recognizing the signs of an ear infection early and seeking veterinary care, owners can help their Shih Tzu. By practicing good ear hygiene and regular cleanings, owners can prevent future ear infections in their furry friends.

2. Ear Mites

Ear mites are another common ear problem in Shih Tzus that can cause a lot of discomfort for your furry friend. These tiny parasites are often found in the ear canal and feed on the wax and oils in the ear. If left untreated, they can cause inflammation and infection.

Symptoms: The presence of ear mites can cause several symptoms in your Shih Tzu’s ears, including:

  • Intense itching
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Scratching at the ears
  • Redness or inflammation in the ear canal
  • Dark discharge or crumbly debris in the ear

Treatment: If you suspect your Shih Tzu has ear mites, it’s important to take them to the vet for a proper diagnosis. Treatment typically involves applying an ear drop medication that contains an insecticide to kill the mites. Your vet may also prescribe antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to help reduce inflammation and prevent secondary infections.

In addition to medication, it’s important to thoroughly clean your Shih Tzu’s ears to remove any debris or wax buildup that may be contributing to the problem. Regular ear cleaning can also help prevent future ear mite infestations. You can learn more about how to properly clean your Shih Tzu’s ears here or check out our guide specifically for Shih Tzu puppies here.

Prevention: Preventing ear mites involves regular ear cleaning to remove wax buildup and debris that may attract these parasites. It’s also important to keep your Shih Tzu’s ears dry, as excess moisture can create the perfect breeding ground for mites to thrive. If your Shih Tzu spends a lot of time outdoors, consider using an ear cleaner that contains a repellent to help keep mites at bay.

If you notice your Shih Tzu exhibiting any symptoms of ear mites, it’s important to take them to the vet for proper treatment. With proper diagnosis and treatment, your Shih Tzu can get back to their happy, healthy self in no time. And, remember that regular ear cleaning can go a long way in preventing future ear problems, including ear mites. Learn about how to clean your Shih Tzu’s ears here.

3. Wax Buildup

Wax buildup, also known as cerumen impaction, is a common ear problem among Shih Tzu dogs. When earwax builds up in their ear canals, it can cause discomfort and even lead to bacterial or yeast infections.

Causes of Wax Buildup

There are several reasons why Shih Tzus may experience earwax buildup, including:

Hair in the Ear CanalShih Tzus have hairy ear canals, which can trap dirt, debris, and wax.
Anatomy of the Ear CanalSome dogs have ear canals that are more prone to wax buildup due to their shape or orientation.
AllergiesAllergic reactions can cause an increase in the production of earwax.
Ear InfectionsAn untreated ear infection can lead to an overproduction of earwax.

Symptoms of Wax Buildup

If your Shih Tzu is experiencing wax buildup, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Shaking of the head
  • Scratching of the ears
  • Odor coming from the ears
  • Loss of balance or coordination (in severe cases)

Treatment Options

If your Shih Tzu is displaying symptoms of wax buildup, it’s important to seek treatment promptly to prevent further complications. Here are some treatment options your veterinarian may recommend:

  1. Ear Drops: Your veterinarian may prescribe ear drops to help soften the wax and allow it to be flushed out more easily.
  2. Ear Flushing: In some cases, flushing the ear canal with a cleaning solution may be necessary to remove the wax buildup.
  3. Manual Removal: Your veterinarian may use special tools to manually remove the wax buildup from your dog’s ears.

Prevention of Wax Buildup

To prevent wax buildup in your Shih Tzu’s ears, it’s important to clean them regularly. Here are some tips for proper ear hygiene:

  • Clean your dog’s ears with a veterinarian-recommended cleaning solution
  • Remove excess hair from the ear canal to prevent debris from getting trapped
  • Regularly inspect your dog’s ears for any signs of infection or buildup


Wax buildup in Shih Tzu dogs can be uncomfortable and even lead to more serious health issues if left untreated. By knowing the symptoms and treatment options, as well as taking preventative measures, you can help keep your furry friend’s ears healthy and free of buildup.

4. Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of ear problems in Shih Tzus. Dogs can be allergic to a variety of substances, including pollen, dust mites, mold, and certain foods. When an allergic reaction occurs, the body’s immune system overreacts and produces excessive amounts of histamines, causing a range of symptoms. Here are some potential symptoms to be aware of:

  • Scratching and rubbing the ears excessively: If your Shih Tzu seems to be constantly scratching or rubbing their ears, this could be a sign of allergies.
  • Redness and swelling: Allergic reactions can cause the ear to become inflamed, red, and swollen.
  • Ear discharge: In some cases, allergic reactions can cause the ear to produce excess discharge or wax.
  • Odor: Allergies can sometimes lead to an unpleasant odor emanating from your dog’s ear.

Treating allergies typically involves identifying and avoiding triggers as much as possible. Your veterinarian may also recommend medication to help manage symptoms, such as antihistamines or corticosteroids. In some cases, your dog may need allergy testing to determine the exact cause of the allergic reaction. Allergy shots or immunotherapy may also be options for dogs with severe allergies.

It’s important to note that untreated allergies can lead to other ear problems. As your dog scratches and rubs their ears, they can cause abrasions or even ear infections. If you suspect that your Shih Tzu is suffering from allergies, it’s important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible to prevent further complications.

5. Foreign Objects

Foreign objects in the ear are a common problem for Shih Tzu dogs. These objects can cause discomfort, pain, and even infections. Many times, dogs will get foreign objects in their ears while playing outside, but it can also occur during bath time or grooming sessions.

Foreign objects can range from grass seeds, dirt, food particles to small insects. The size of the object and its location in the ear canal will determine the level of discomfort and the required treatment. For instance, a small object may be easy to remove, but a larger object may require the help of a vet.

Here is a table representing the different types of foreign objects that Shih Tzu may face and their treatment options:

Foreign ObjectTreatment Options
Grass seeds, dirt, and other small particles
  • Removal with tweezers or forceps
  • Cleaning the ear with a mild solution
  • Application of antibiotic ointment or drops to prevent infection
Small insects, such as ticks or fleas
  • Killing and removing the insect from the ear canal
  • Cleaning the ear with a mild solution
  • Application of antibiotic ointment or drops to prevent infection
Large or sharp objects, such as sticks or pins
  • Seeking immediate veterinary care
  • Avoid trying to remove the object as it may cause further damage

No matter what foreign object is found in a Shih Tzu’s ear, it is important to address the issue promptly. Leaving foreign objects in the ear can cause inflammation, infection, and even hearing loss. As a responsible pet owner, it is essential to be vigilant for any ear-related problems and seek medical attention if necessary.

Symptoms to Watch For

Symptoms To Watch For
It’s important to keep an eye out for any unusual behaviors or signs of discomfort when it comes to your Shih Tzu’s ears. One of the most common symptoms of an ear problem is excessive scratching or itching of the ears. Another warning sign could be a change in your dog’s behavior, such as agitation or restlessness. In some cases, they may also be shaking their head more than usual or holding it at a strange angle.

If the ear problem is an infection, you may notice a foul odor or discharge coming from the ear. Redness or swelling in or around the ear can also be a sign of infection. Ear mites, a common problem in dogs, can cause a dark, coffee ground-like substance in the ear canal as well as intense itching and inflammation.

Wax buildup can also cause discomfort and symptoms such as itching, head shaking, and even balance issues. Lastly, if your Shih Tzu is experiencing an allergic reaction, you may notice ear inflammation or redness, as well as itching.

It’s important to keep a close eye on your dog’s behavior and habits, and if you notice any of these symptoms, it’s important to seek veterinary care right away, as untreated ear problems can cause pain or even permanent hearing loss.

Treatment Options

Treatment Options
When your Shih Tzu is experiencing discomfort or pain due to ear problems, it’s crucial to take action as soon as possible. There are several treatment options available to alleviate their symptoms and promote healing. Whether it’s medication, cleaning solutions, or surgery, each treatment option has its benefits and drawbacks. In this section, we will explore the various ways you can treat your furry friend’s ear problems, so they can return to their happy and healthy selves.

1. Medications

When it comes to treating ear problems in Shih Tzu, medications can be prescribed by a veterinarian to help alleviate symptoms and clear up infections. Here are some common medications that may be used:

  • Antibiotics: These medications are commonly used to treat bacterial infections in the ear. Your veterinarian may prescribe an oral antibiotic or an antibiotic ointment depending on the severity of the infection.
  • Antifungals: If a fungal infection is present, antifungal medications may be necessary. These medications can be administered orally or applied topically.
  • Anti-inflammatory drugs: In some cases, ear infections can cause inflammation and pain. To address these symptoms, your veterinarian may prescribe an anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Parasite control: If ear mites are the root of the problem, antiparasitic medication may be needed to eliminate the mites and prevent a recurrence.
  • Allergy medications: If allergies are causing ear issues, your veterinarian may prescribe an antihistamine or other allergy medication to manage inflammation and reduce itching.

It’s important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions regarding medication administration and dosage. Never give your Shih Tzu medications that have not been prescribed by a veterinarian, as this can lead to serious health problems. With proper medication and care, your furry companion can recover from ear problems and return to their happy, energetic self.

2. Cleaning Solution

One of the treatment options for common ear problems in Shih Tzu is using a **cleaning solution**. This can be particularly effective when it comes to getting rid of wax buildup and preventing future infections.

There are several cleaning solutions available on the market, but it’s important to choose one that is specifically designed for dogs and safe for their ears. Below are some of the best cleaning solutions available and their benefits:

  • Zymox Ear Cleanser: This enzymatic solution is great for dogs with particularly sensitive ears. It helps break down wax and other debris inside the ear canal without causing any irritation.
  • VetWELL Ear Cleaner: This cleaning solution is made with natural ingredients, including aloe vera and eucalyptus oil, which can help soothe irritated ears. It’s also effective in cleaning out dirt and wax buildup.
  • Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner: This cleaning solution is known for its non-irritating formula that helps clean and dry the ear canal. It can also help prevent infections due to its antiseptic properties.
  • Pro Pooch Ear Cleaner: This cleaning solution has a unique blend of ingredients that can help break down wax and debris, including tea tree oil and aloe vera. It’s also gentle enough to use regularly to help prevent future ear problems.

When using a cleaning solution, it’s important to follow the instructions carefully and never insert anything into your dog’s ear canal. Instead, simply apply the solution onto a cotton ball and gently wipe the inside of the ear flap and surrounding area.

In addition to using a cleaning solution, it’s also important to establish a regular ear cleaning routine for your Shih Tzu. This can help prevent future ear problems and keep their ears healthy and clean.

3. Surgery

If a shih tzu’s ear problem is severe and traditional treatment options have failed, surgery may be required to correct the issue. Here are some surgical procedures that a veterinarian may recommend:

  • Tympanoplasty: This is a surgery for dogs that have eardrums that are ruptured or damaged. The procedure involves repairing the eardrum and can help prevent hearing loss.
  • Lateral Ear Canal Resection: This surgery involves removing part of the ear canal to allow better air movement and drainage. It is typically done in dogs with chronic ear infections that have not responded to other treatment options.
  • Pinna Ablation: In some cases, a dog’s ear canal may become so damaged that it can no longer be treated effectively. In these cases, pinna ablation may be recommended. This involves the removal of the external part of the ear and is typically done in severe cases of cancer or chronic infections.

It is important to note that surgery should always be considered a last resort, and only recommended if all other options have failed. It is also important to follow post-surgical care instructions carefully to ensure a speedy and successful recovery. If you are considering surgery for your shih tzu’s ear problems, make sure to talk with your veterinarian to fully understand the risks, benefits, and expected outcomes.

Prevention of Ear Problems

Preventing ear problems in your Shih Tzu requires diligence and routine maintenance. Good ear health boosts your dog’s quality of life and helps prevent discomfort and costly vet bills. Here are some essential tips to keep your Shih Tzu’s ears healthy:

Regular Cleaning: Shih Tzus possess floppy ears that obstruct airflow, trap moisture, and encourage bacteria growth. To prevent ear infections, clean your Shih Tzu’s ears with ear cleaning solution once a week or every two weeks. Use a clean and soft cotton ball or cloth to wipe out excess wax and debris gently. However, avoid using cotton swabs, which can push debris further into the ear canal or scratch the ear’s delicate lining.

Routine Inspection: Schedule weekly ear inspections to look for signs of infections, mites, or foreign objects. Pay attention to signs of discomfort, such as scratching or rubbing of the ears, head shaking, or foul-smelling discharge. Early detection of problems can help catch and treat them before they escalate.

Diet and Allergy Management: Some ear infections result from allergies, so feed your Shih Tzu a high-quality diet and prevent exposure to known allergens. If your dog shows signs of allergies, such as skin rashes or chronic ear infections, consult with a veterinarian to discuss allergy testing or dietary changes.

Regular Grooming: Proper grooming practices help maintain your Shih Tzu’s general health and hygiene, including ear health. Regular grooming includes nail clipping, coat brushing, and hair trimming to prevent hair mats from enclosing the ear canal.

By following the above prevention tips, you can help your Shih Tzu avoid ear infections or other ear problems. Remember that regular maintenance and routine checkups with a vet is crucial for your dog’s health and wellbeing.


After learning about the most common ear problems in Shih Tzus and the various ways to treat and prevent them, it’s clear that taking good care of your dog’s ears is crucial for their overall health and wellbeing.

Regular ear checks and cleanings can go a long way in preventing infections, mites, and any other issues before they become severe. Using a gentle cleaning solution and making sure to dry the ears thoroughly can help to reduce the risk of bacteria and other contaminants multiplying in the warm, moist environment of the ear canal. Additionally, keeping your Shih Tzu’s ears free of foreign objects and monitoring them for signs of allergies will also help to prevent many common ear problems.

Should your Shih Tzu develop an ear issue, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and seek treatment right away. With the help of your veterinarian, you can choose the best treatment option for your individual dog, whether it’s medication, cleaning solution, or, in rare cases, surgery.

Overall, by providing routine ear care and promptly treating any issues that do arise, you can ensure that your Shih Tzu’s ears remain healthy and free from discomfort. So, make ear care a regular part of your Shih Tzu’s grooming routine and enjoy the rewards of having a happy, healthy furry companion.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How often should I clean my Shih Tzu’s ears?

You should clean your Shih Tzu’s ears once a week to prevent wax buildup and other ear-related problems.

2. Can ear infections be prevented in Shih Tzus?

While there is no surefire way to prevent ear infections altogether, keeping your Shih Tzu’s ears clean and dry can help reduce the likelihood of an infection.

3. How can I tell if my Shih Tzu has an ear infection?

Common signs of an ear infection in a Shih Tzu include scratching at the ears, head shaking, redness or swelling in the ear, and a foul odor.

4. Are ear mites common in Shih Tzus?

Ear mites are less common in Shih Tzus than other breeds, but they can still contract them from contact with other animals.

5. Can allergies cause ear problems in Shih Tzus?

Yes, allergies can cause itchiness and inflammation in a Shih Tzu’s ears, which can lead to infections over time.

6. Is surgery always necessary for ear problems in Shih Tzus?

No, surgery is usually only recommended for severe cases that cannot be treated with medications or cleaning solutions.

7. Can I use regular cleaning products to clean my Shih Tzu’s ears?

No, it is important to use cleaning solutions specifically designed for dogs’ ears to avoid causing damage or irritation.

8. Can a foreign object in the ear canal be removed at home?

No, attempting to remove a foreign object from a Shih Tzu’s ear at home can be dangerous and may cause further damage. It is best to seek professional veterinary care in these situations.

9. Can I prevent ear problems by feeding my Shih Tzu a specific diet?

While a healthy diet is important for overall health, there is no specific type of food that can prevent ear problems in Shih Tzus.

10. Is it normal for my Shih Tzu to have a small amount of ear wax?

Yes, a small amount of ear wax is normal in Shih Tzus and can actually help protect the ears from infection. However, if there is an excessive amount or an foul odor, it may be a sign of an underlying problem.


Matthew Farthing

Matthew Farthing

Сontributing author at DogCareHacks, Certified Dog Behavior Consultant.

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