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Scientists reveal the dog breeds most affected by ear infections – with Basset Hounds topping list 

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Basset Hounds, Chinese Shar Peis and Labradoodles are the dog breeds most likely to suffer from ear infections, new research has revealed.

Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) analysed more than 22,000 dogs in the UK to understand which breeds were at highest risk for ear infections.

Their findings suggest that dogs with long and hanging ear flaps are at much higher risk of infection than dogs with pointy ears, while smaller breeds, weighing under 22lbs (10kg), are at lower risk than larger breeds.

Worryingly, if left untreated, ear infections can spread deep into the ear canal, causing serious harm to the affected dog.

The team hopes the findings will help owners to better spot the signs of ear infection and respond early.

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services Executive at The Kennel Club, said: ‘This useful research into such a common canine complaint – and helping to identify which dogs are most at risk of ear infections – certainly will inform better treatment and prevention.’

Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) analysed more than 22,000 dogs in the UK to understand which breeds were at highest risk for ear infections

Scientists from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) analysed more than 22,000 dogs in the UK to understand which breeds were at highest risk for ear infections

Basset Hounds (stock image pictured) Chinese Shar Peis and Labradoodles are the dog breeds most likely to suffer from ear infections, new research has revealed

Basset Hounds (stock image pictured) Chinese Shar Peis and Labradoodles are the dog breeds most likely to suffer from ear infections, new research has revealed

How to tell if your dog has an ear infection 

Key signs of an ear infection in dogs include:

– Pain when ears or head are touched 

– Ear discharge

– Unpleasant smell coming from ears 

– Itchy ears 

– Shaking their head often 

– Holding their head to the side

– Swelling around their ears 

If your dog shows any of these signs, call your vet for an appointment.

Source: Blue Cross 

Ear infections, also known as ‘otitis externa’, are common in dogs and occur when the lining of a dog’s ear becomes inflamed and thickened.

In the short term, the infection can be smelly, irritating and painful for the dog. 

However, if left untreated, it can spread deep into the ear canal, causing more serious harm.

In the study, the researchers analysed the health records of 22,333 dogs in the UK.

Their analysis revealed that 7.3 per cent of the dogs had suffered from ear infections, with certain breeds found to be particularly prone to infection.

Large breeds, and those with long and hanging ear flaps were found to be at highest risk, with Basset Hounds, Chinese Shar Pei, Labradoodles, Beagles and Golden Retrievers topping the list.

Conversely, Chihuahua, Border Collie, Yorkshire Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier were found to be the breeds at the lowest risk of ear infection.

Poodle breeds had 1.91 times the risk of ear infection, followed by Spaniel breeds, which had 1.24 times the risk. 

Meanwhile, compared to those with erect ear cartilage, breeds with droopy ears had 1.76 times the risk, and dogs with V-shaped drop ears had 1.84 times the risk of infection.  

Large breeds, and those with long and hanging ear flaps were found to be at highest risk, with Basset Hounds, Chinese Shar Pei (stock image pictured), Labradoodles, Beagles and Golden Retrievers topping the list

Large breeds, and those with long and hanging ear flaps were found to be at highest risk, with Basset Hounds, Chinese Shar Pei (stock image pictured), Labradoodles, Beagles and Golden Retrievers topping the list

Dogs at the highest risk for ear infections 
Breed  % diagnosed with ear infection in a single year 
Basset Hound 28.81
Chinese Shar-Pei  17.76 
Labradoodle  17.71 
Beagle  14.72 
Golden Retriever  14.11 
Cockapoo  12.97 
British Bulldog  12.44 
American Bulldog  12.35 
Cavapoo  11.54 
Pug  11.38 
French Bulldog  11.31
West Highland White Terrier  11.05 
Labrador Retriever  10.53 
Cocker Spaniel  10.51 
Rottweiler  10.29 
Bichon Frise  9.82 
Boxer  8.98 
English Springer Spaniel  8.42 
Lhasa Apso  8.04 
Cavalier King Charles Spaniel  7.82 
Border Terrier  7.75 
German Shepherd Dog  7.14 
Shih-tzu  6.54 
Crossbreed  6.41 
Other breeds  6.23 
Staffordshire Bull Terrier  6.06 
Jack Russell Terrier  3.53 
Yorkshire Terrier  3.27 
Border Collie  2.30 
Chihuahua  1.26 

Male dogs were also 1.21 times more likely to experience ear infections than females, while those aged over one year were also at increased risk.

Dr Dan O’Neill, Senior Lecturer in Companion Animal Epidemiology at the RVC and lead author of the paper, said: ‘Humans invented dog breeds with all sorts of extreme body shapes over a hundred years ago. 

‘But it is only now that we are fully realising just how much these body shapes affect the health of these breeds. 

Chihuahua (stock image pictured), Border Collie, Yorkshire Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier were found to be the breeds at the lowest risk of ear infection

Chihuahua (stock image pictured), Border Collie, Yorkshire Terrier and Jack Russell Terrier were found to be the breeds at the lowest risk of ear infection 

Ear infections, also known as 'otitis externa', are common in dogs and occur when the lining of a dog's ear becomes inflamed and thickened

Ear infections, also known as ‘otitis externa’, are common in dogs and occur when the lining of a dog’s ear becomes inflamed and thickened

‘This study explores the health issues associated with floppy ears in dogs that many people find so appealing but the results may prompt us all to question whether we have gone too far in our quest for variety in how our dogs look. 

‘Avoiding breeds with extreme body shape is a conversation everyone should now have before deciding which breed to purchase.’

If your dog does suffer an ear infection, the experts advise gentle ear cleaning with a dry paper cloth, careful use of ear cleaners with antimicrobial properties and avoidance of overzealous ear-cleaning or ear-plucking. 

DOGS FIRST BECAME DOMESTICATED ABOUT 20,000 to 40,000 YEARS AGO

A genetic analysis of the world’s oldest known dog remains revealed that dogs were domesticated in a single event by humans living in Eurasia, around 20,000 to 40,000 years ago.

Dr Krishna Veeramah, an assistant professor in evolution at Stony Brook University, told MailOnline: ‘The process of dog domestication would have been a very complex process, involving a number of generations where signature dog traits evolved gradually.

‘The current hypothesis is that the domestication of dogs likely arose passively, with a population of wolves somewhere in the world living on the outskirts of hunter-gatherer camps feeding off refuse created by the humans.

‘Those wolves that were tamer and less aggressive would have been more successful at this, and while the humans did not initially gain any kind of benefit from this process, over time they would have developed some kind of symbiotic [mutually beneficial] relationship with these animals, eventually evolving into the dogs we see today.’

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