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Posted: 7th September 2021

New research reveals dog breeds at risk of ear infections
The study is the largest of its kind to use anonymised veterinary health records to better understand why dogs in the UK get ear infections.
The RVC study aims to help owners identify the signs of an ear infection.

New research from the Royal Veterinary College (RVC) has revealed the dog breeds most effected by otitis externa.

According to the study, basset hounds, Chinese shar peis, labradoodles, beagles and golden retrievers are the breeds most prone to the condition.

Led by the RVC's VetCompass Programme, the study aims to improve awareness among dog owners of the frequency or ear infections in dogs, alongside breed and ear-types most susceptible to the condition, in order to help owners identify infections earlier. 

It was found that poodle and spaniel type dogs were at greater risk overall, and that dogs with long and hanging ear flaps had a significantly higher risk of infection in comparison with dogs with pointed ears. 

Also shown in the research was that dogs aged over one year old are at higher risk in comparison with those under one. 

Lead author of the study, Dr Dan O'Neill, commented: “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. 

“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.”

Additional results from the study showed that one in every 14 dogs in the UK suffers from otitis externa every year, designer breeds overall had 1.63 times the risk of ear infection in comparison with crossbred dogs and four breeds have a reduced risk of ear infection compared to crossbred dogs (Chihuahua, Border collie, Yorkshire terrier and Jack Russell terrier).

Bill Lambert, Health, Welfare and Breeder Services executive at The Kennel Club, commented on the study: “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. 

“Ultimately, we hope the research, funded in part by The Kennel Club Charitable Trust VetCompass grant, helps to ease this issue in our canine friends and ensures owners regularly clean their dogs’ ears to prevent infection, are aware of what to look out for and know when to seek veterinary advice or treatment.”


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