Some dog breeds have naturally floppy ears, called lop ears, while other dog breeds have ears where both stand up straight. So, what if your dog has one ear straight and one that flops? She probably looks quite cute, but you still need to know if it’s normal for her or if something else may be at the root of the flop.

Why does my dog have one floppy ear?

The first question now is – is your dog’s one ear floppy all the time, or is it something that comes and goes? Has it been like that since you got her, or did it come on suddenly? Is she still a puppy? There are many reasons why a dog might have one floppy ear while the other ear remains erect. However, first is a list of dog breeds who always have both ears down and floppy:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Hounds
  • Cavalier King Charles Spaniel
  • Basset Hound
  • Havanese
  • Coonhound
  • Beagle
  • Poodle
  • Dachshund.

On the other hand, here is a listing of the dogs who may have one floppy ear:

  • Corgi
  • Boxer
  • Chihuahua
  • Great Dane
  • Border Collie
  • Yorkshire Terrier
  • Shetland Sheepdog
  • German Shepherd
  • Jack Russell Terrier
  • Doberman Pinscher

When dogs are puppies, the outer part of the ear, which is called the pinna, has not strengthened sufficiently to hold their ears up. This is true no matter what the breed. If by 8 months, one ear continues to flop while the other stands up straight, there could be another issue brewing.

What does it mean when a dog has one ear up and one ear down?

Besides an issue of under-developed pinna, there are other reasons why one ear flops while the other doesn’t. But before going further, it might very well be that it means nothing at all. If there is something else afoot, here are some possible reasons for that one floppy ear.

A Listening Dog

If your dog’s ear appears to flop occasionally, it may mean she is listening. She can turn her ears to focus in on a sound she wants to hear which may look like the ear is flopping. Dogs’ ears are an incredibly attentive tool that capture sounds well beyond what the human ear is capable of.

Ear Infections

Left untreated, recurrent ear infections can result in a permanently flopping ear. One way to tell if your dog has an ear infection is that she may hold the ear close into her head because of pain. While the painful one is held in close, the other continues to stand straight as normal. These are several things that can cause painful ear infections:

  • Vasculitis: A rare disease of the skin in the ear and ear flap. Some breeds are susceptible to this infection, including Jack Russell Terriers.
  • Yeast dermatitis: A more common infection found in beagles, cocker spaniels and other floppy eared breeds.
  • Otitis media: An inflammation of the inner ear.
  • Object stuck in the ear: Anything in the dog’s ear could potentially penetrate the ear drum, leading to infection.

Diet

Puppies need lots of protein in their diet which promotes growth and development of their bodies. One area of their body that needs protein is the cartilage area behind the ears which causes the ears to stand erect. Without sufficient protein in their diet, as well as other important nutrients, one ear may not stand up straight.

Wounds

The ears are a defenseless part of the dog’s body – easy to grab hold of by another dog in a fight or susceptible to damage in falls. Bite wounds can cause significant damage to a dog’s ear, resulting in permanent flopping. If your dog has received some kind of wound to her ear, it’s important to get her to your vet as quickly as possible.

Abscess or Hematoma

An ear that is swollen will probably droop and be stiff. Causes of swelling include an abscess where pus has gathered to cause inflammation. The ear will be warm to the touch and very painful. A hematoma occurs when something has damaged the blood vessels in the ear, causing them to burst. Besides an injury, hematomas are most commonly caused by scratching or powerful head shaking.

Just the Way They are Made

Genetics plays a big role in many cases of floppy ears. The genetic card can play in both purebred and mixed breed dogs. For example, we have a mixed breed Boston Terrier and Cavalier King Charles whose one ear stands straight, typical of her Boston Terrier side, while the other flops at the tip thanks to her King Charles heritage. We think she is adorable just the way she is.

Drug Effect

Prednisone and prednisolone in high doses can affect the cartilage in your dog’s ears. Ironically, one of the reasons vets prescribe these drugs is to treat vasculitis which can be the cause of an ear infection.

What to do about my dog having one floppy ear?

Once you have done an exhaustive examination of all possible negative causes of your dog’s floppy ear and nothing shows up, the short answer is to probably do nothing.

When do dog’s ears stand up?

Regardless of breed, puppies have floppy ears when they are born. Provided they are fed a nutritious diet, the cartilage in their ears should strengthen enough to hold up the ears between 8 weeks and 8 months, depending on the breed. Interestingly, the cartilage in the ears of small dogs strengthens faster than that in larger dogs.

How do I fix my dog’s floppy ear?

If there is nothing found to be wrong with your dog’s floppy ear, you may want to leave it alone and enjoy her as she is. On the other hand, if you want to showcase the various aspects of your dog’s breed, such as the erect ears of a German Shepherd, some vets will perform a procedure called ear cropping. During this procedure, the vet cuts off the floppy part of the ear and tapes the rest to a hard surface while they heal. This is done under anesthesia when the dog is 6 to 12 weeks old. It is a painful procedure and banned in several countries. Although it is not banned in the United States, very few vets will now perform the procedure.

Now that you have determined that your dog is healthy, enjoy her unique and adorable self, knowing that she is indeed, “one-of-a-kind.”

Author

I created and currently manage Pet Dog Owner, the website you can go to when you have questions about your dog's behavior. It is my hope that you find Pet Dog Owner to be a helpful resource. It is also my hope that it will help you to improve your relationship with your dog. You can read more about me and my website here.