Ear pain usually occurs with infection, ear mites, obstruction or physical damage. Signs of ear pain include scratching or rubbing at the ear, frequent head shaking, or whining when the head is touched. Most causes of ear pain is correctable without major surgery.
Normal Ear Appearance
A dog’s ear should appear pink and dry, with a small amount of waxy discharge near the opening. The ear opening should be free of obstruction, including hair coat.
Infections can occur in the inner, middle or outer ear. Characterized by redness and a foul odor, as well as pain, ear infections usually result from the presence of bacteria or fungus in the warm, dark and moist area of the dog’s inner ear.
An ear mite infestation will appear similar to a buildup of coffee grounds inside the dog’s ear. Ear mites are easily treated, typically with an ear wash or powder that contains pyrethrin. Left untreated, ear mites can cause tissue damage, which can lead to permanent deafness.
An obstruction can result from any number of things from impacted earwax, water from swimming or bathing, narrow ear canals, pendulous ear leathers or even insects or plant seeds. Depending on the severity of the obstruction, the dog may require surgery.
Ear pain from physical damage often results from the dog’s nails tearing the skin inside the dog’s ear. According to vetInfo.com, a dog shaking its head too much can cause blood vessels under the skin to break and pockets of blood under the skin to form. These pockets "might require lancing, antibiotics or even surgery.”