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Recent studies have found that humans as well as other animals are attuned to symmetry, but the world is not always symmetrical.
Dogs for example can come in all shapes and sizes, with multiple patterns on their coats.
Some of them have floppy long ears, others are small and pointy, and then there are those who despite all the rules have one ear standing up while the other one is floppy.
So, why does only one ear stand up on my dog?
As your dog grows up one ear might stand up before the other, so it’s common for puppies to have one floppy ear. This could also be a permanent breed characteristic, or it might be the result of an ear injury, infection, and malnutrition.
If you want to know the possible reasons behind your dog’s floppy ear and if there’s something you can do about it then keep on reading!
What Does It Mean When A Dog Has One Ear Up And One Down?
Dogs use their ears to listen to their surroundings, but also to express how they feel. That’s why it can become quite unnerving to see one ear remain floppy while the other one is standing upright.
So, what could this mean?
Reason 1: Your Dog Is Listening
The ears are an incredible organ of hearing and balance and canine ears according to Stephanie Gibeault, CPDT, are more sensitive to high-pitched sounds than the average human, but they can also detect sounds that are not loud enough for us.
When it comes to anatomy dog ears can also move independently from one another, so it’s normal to see one ear remain erect while the other is pointing down.
With such hearing ability and mobility, your dog could be multi-listening to various sounds simply by having one ear pointing up while the other one is pointing down and back.
If you see your little pooch occasionally raise one ear more than the other then they may not be that interested in the sound they heard, but still curious enough to point one ear at it.
But if your pooch is suddenly ignoring you or you constantly see them use the same ear to listen to you or their surroundings then perhaps your dog is suffering from temporary or transient deafness that can be caused by the buildup of wax or debris.
In this case, a trip to the vet is the only way you can make sure that the reason your dog is moving one ear up is actually caused by a condition.
Reason 2: Your Dog Is Feeling Nervous
Just like humans, dogs can experience stress. Their nervousness could be caused by a sudden and scary sound like thunder, or it could be the presence of another dog or even a human.
One way to understand that your dog is feeling stressed according to Malcolm Weir, DVM, is when “ears that are usually relaxed or alert are pinned back against the head.”
If your dog feels scared, but he’s still trying to listen to your soothing voice or to that intimidating sound might leave one ear erect, or one ear might be moving more than the other.
Because our hearing is not as good, and we might not be able to detect what our dogs can, then we need to pay attention to their body language.
Usually, scared dogs could sniff the air and look up, they might also tuck their tail between their tail and cower or they might become rigid. Your dog might pant from stress or start whining, barking, and drooling.
If that’s the case, then you need to calm your doggy and remove them from the stressful situation or environment.
Reason 3: Your Dog Is Protecting Their Ear
Your dog’s ears are a precious part of their body, but because of their position and how thin they are, they are quite vulnerable and prone to injuries, especially when your canine friend is interacting with other dogs that might try to lick their ears or bite them.
So, in order to protect themselves, you may notice your dog pointing both of their ears down and backward.
In some cases, they might keep only one of their ears down to protect it from an incoming side tackle.
Reason 4: Their Ears Haven’t Been Fully Developed
As a new dog parent, you may not know that having one ear up and one down is also a common phenomenon in puppies.
When puppies are born, they are both blind and deaf, so, they mostly rely on their sense of smell to navigate in this new world.
When it comes to their ears, hearing is the last sense they will fully develop, and they’ll start perceiving sound after they’re three weeks old.
But even as your dog begins to hear, their ear muscles, or to be more precise the part of the outer ear called pinna is still not fully developed, and that process takes time.
As I’ve mentioned before dogs can move their ears independently of one another, and this also means that one ear muscle can grow faster.
The size of the dog and their breed could also affect how fast their ear muscles develop. In some cases, small dogs will have both ears erect faster than larger breeds.
If you notice that your dog’s ear remains floppy when it should be erect, then you should talk to your dog’s veterinarian. They’ll be able to tell you whether your dog needs more time, or that’s they’re ears will remain lopsided.
Reason 5: It’s Their Genetics
Healthy adult dogs, depending on their breed will either have floppy ears, pointy ears, or semi-prick ears.
Usually, dogs that have erect or semi-erect ears could end up with one floppy ear. I’ve personally seen plenty of Russell Terriers rocking the one floppy ear look!
However, if lop ears are a characteristic trait of a certain breed like a Spaniel for example, then they should both remain floppy, and if one is erect then it could be a sign of a health problem.
Mixed breed dogs on the other hand could end up with one ear up and the other down. This can also happen with stray dogs that don’t have a clear breed ancestry.
When it comes to ear genetics, you might be also interested in finding out that floppy ears can be a sign of domestication.
Dmitry Belyaev, a soviet scientist, and researcher started a breeding program using foxes as an experiment in the late 50s.
In his effort to domesticate foxes by selective breeding, he noticed that their characteristics changed.
The tame foxes developed floppy ears due to pedomorphosis, the retention of juvenile traits throughout adulthood.
Reason 6: Bad Diet
In order for your puppy to grow into a healthy and well-developed dog, they need a high-quality diet.
Protein specifically plays an important part in your dog’s health and according to PetMD “protein has several roles in the body, such as building and repairing muscles and other body tissues. It is needed to form new skin cells, grow hair, build muscle tissue, and more.”
Since the pinna, the part of your dog’s ear that is visible and covered in fur, is made of tough cartilage covered by skin, your dog will need the protein from certain foods to help them rebuild and repair cartilage
So, malnutrition or the wrong diet for a developing puppy could cause one of their ears to remain floppy.
If you adopted an older dog that has a floppy ear then it’s possible that they were not fed properly during those crucial years.
But this is not something you can easily prove since a floppy ear could be a trait that was passed down to your pooch from his parents.
Reason 7: Your Dog Has An Ear Condition
If your dog belongs to a breed that has naturally erect ears, then seeing one ear remain droopy even as they reach adulthood could be a cause for concern.
Similarly, if one of your dog’s ears suddenly becomes floppy then it could be inflamed or infected.
According to Elizabeth Racine, DVM, “dogs are more prone to ear infections than humans because of the shape of their ear canals.”
There are three types of infections known as otitis externa, media, and interna and they can affect both or just one ear.
Otitis externa affects the external ear canal and it’s the most common canine ear infection.
This infection is usually caused by bacteria that enter the ear and some breeds especially the ones with floppy ears can be predisposed to otitis externa.
You may notice your dog move the affected ear downwards and they might scratch their ears and shake their head to the side.
If your dog is suffering from this type of infection, then you’ll notice redness and perhaps an unpleasant odor coming from their ear. Additionally, there could be yellow or black discharge and they may appear crusty.
When otitis externa is not treated it can progress into the middle and inner ear canal and this is much more serious since such an infection can result in deafness, facial paralysis, and vestibular signs.
MSD Veterinary Manual states that insects and parasites commonly cause inflammation of the pinna, resulting in redness, swelling, itching, or blistering, either through direct damage from the bite of the parasite or as a result of hypersensitivity.
You may also notice the affected ear looking droopy and your dog will most likely scratch it and shake their head because of the irritation.
It’s especially important to check your puppy’s ears more so when they are floppy because it could be canine juvenile cellulitis.
This is an infection and inflammation of the tissues beneath the skin of young dogs and it can affect their face and ears.
Allergies can also cause redness and itchiness of the ears triggered by environmental allergies to pollen and dust mites. An unsuitable diet, or insect bites from fleas, flies, and even mosquitos can also cause inflammation and a bad reaction.
Additionally, your dog’s ear could be droopy and look swollen and stiff because it hasn’t been cleaned properly. The buildup of dirt and hair within could cause an abscess.
I also want to add ear hematomas to the list because your dog’s floppy ear could also be swollen and filled with fluid on the inner surface of the ear flap.
Once again you can expect your dog to scratch and shake their head because of the itchiness in the area.
Since you can’t be sure what exactly is causing your dog’s droopy ear it’s important to take them to the vet to figure out the source of their irritation.
Reason 8: Their Ear Is Injured
A droopy ear could also be the result of a fight with another dog, or it could’ve been an accident.
Large and young energetic dogs can find it difficult to understand how powerful they can be, and small breeds can sometimes pay the price.
So, perhaps a dog could have bitten your pooch’s ear during play and that could have caused an infection.
Your dog could have also scratched his ear while running through a thornbush leaving a few painful scratches on the outer ear.
Such small scratches can go unnoticed when a dog is hairy, that’s why it’s important to check their ears closely. Even a small wound could lead to a serious infection.
If you see them constantly scratching their ear, pulling away from your touch, and barking and growling when being petted in that area then take them to the vet.
I also want to add that if you adopted a boxer with cropped ears and one of them is droopy then it could be the result of this procedure.
Is It Normal For One Of Your Dog’s Ears To Stick Up?
There are a few things we need to examine before we can be sure that your dog’s lopsided ears are a normal phenomenon.
It’s definitely not normal for breeds that have naturally lop ears to have one ear sticking up, and when that happens it’s usually a sign of a health condition.
When it comes to puppies that are part of a dog breed that would normally have erect or semi-erect ears then there’s a possibility that they will have mismatched ears.
However, you might have to wait for both ears to be fully developed before you know for sure. As your dog matures, you might notice the floppy ear stand up, or in some cases it will remain floppy throughout their whole life and that’s completely fine.
Of course, as seen above, lopsided ears could be caused by a health condition like an ear infection or inflammation especially when an erect ear suddenly becomes droopy.
What Should You Do If Your Dog Has A Droopy Ear?
While it’s important to understand the reason why your dog has lopsided ears, we can’t always be sure what is causing it, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do anything about it.
So, here are a few steps that can help you and your pooch out!
Take Your Dog To The Vet
If you want to make sure that your fluffy companion isn’t suffering from an ear infection or injury then the best thing you can do is take them to the veterinary clinic for a check-up.
The vet will be able to determine whether the ear floppiness of your dog is normal or not.
They might also be able to tell you whether their ears are still in the underdeveloped puppy stage, or you’ll discover that this is how your dog’s ears are supposed to look.
By checking your dog’s ears, the vet will identify any injuries, suspicious redness, and swelling. They might run some tests to see if there’s a parasite infection or a skin condition, and most importantly they’ll prescribe the right medication to help your dog get better.
Clean Their Ears Regularly
If your dog’s ear is floppy then it could be infected. According to Amy Flowers, DVM, “the insides of a healthy ear should be pink and clean, and also odor-free.”
“If your dog’s ears are swollen, red, smelly, or have any kind of discharge, something’s wrong and it’s time to talk to your vet,” she adds.
After the appropriate treatment, you will need to work on preventing ear problems in the future by keeping up with regular vet visits, properly cleaning their ears, and avoiding wetting your dog’s ears when they get bathed.
Don’t be afraid to ask your vet for tips on how to properly clean your dog’s floppy ear, after all this isn’t a skill we’re born with!
Check Them For Parasites
Since dogs can get themselves in all kinds of messy situations, you need to also check your dog’s ears for parasites, or even better let your vet check them for you.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, you need to use the appropriate preventative that will keep parasites such as ticks and fleas.
You should also keep a close eye on your dog’s ears, coat, and skin any time you groom them. This is an even more crucial step during the flea and tick season, or if you’ve been walking in wooded areas.
If you notice any abnormalities, then you should consult your veterinarian and get the right treatment.
Improve Their Diet
Dogs, especially puppies need a healthy diet that will help them develop into strong and healthy adults.
Since ears are made of cartilage then food that’s high in protein and nutrients is essential for their development.
According to Ryan Llera, DVM, “feeding your dog according to its stage of life (puppy, adolescent, pregnancy, adult, senior) is now recommended by respected nutritionists to maintain your dog’s overall health and well-being and improve both the quality and the quantity of your dog’s life.”
When it comes to puppies specifically, they also add that “because of their rapid growth, any nutritional mistakes made during puppy-hood will have more severe, even irreversible and lifelong, consequences.”
If you’re unsure what diet will suit your puppy or adult dog, their breed and size then make sure to consult your dog’s veterinarian or a dog nutritionist.
Appreciate Their Floppy Ear As It Is!
While there could be a serious reason why your dog has one floppy ear, you also need to accept the fact that some dogs are just born with mismatched ears and that’s simply adorable.
I have never seen a doggy with floppy ears look bad, that being said I have never seen any dog that looks bad.
But my point is that dog ears are perfect no matter what shape or form they are, even if one doesn’t look like the other.
So, just embrace this quirky trait and love your floppy-eared puppy regardless if it’s just a phase or not!
When Will My Dog’s Ears Stand Up?
If your puppy is a breed that has pointy ears like a German Shepherd then they’ll usually stand up by the time they’re about four months old.
As you can see with Luna, only one of her ears is still slightly folded at the tip, so she’s almost there!
Of course, this time can differ from one breed to another, and even between the puppies of the same breed.
But generally speaking, a puppy’s ears should be standing up after they’ve finished teething, which usually ends at six months according to AKC.
During this development time, it might seem that your doggy will end up with mismatched ears until suddenly their both erect.
It’s also possible that sometimes both ears will stand up and then will flop back down interchangeably, but as the muscles strengthen this should happen less and less.
Puppies that have particularly large and heavy ears can also struggle to keep both ears upright, the same goes for dogs with wider spaces between their ears.
Your dog might also be more reluctant to hold their ears up if they are in an environment where their ears are mistreated like if other puppies keep biting them or owners keep handling their ears, but even though that could delay the process it’s only to a small degree.
What Dog Breeds Have One Ear Up And One Ear Down?
Not every breed is going to end up with one floppy ear, and while this is not a predominant characteristic of certain dog breeds here’s a list of those that may end up representing the floppy ear style more than others even into their adulthood:
- Jack Russel Terriers
- Border Collie
- Shetland Sheepdog
- Yorkshire Terriers
As we’ve talked about before, dogs with pointy or semi-pointy ears are more likely to end up with one floppy ear.
It’s also possible that mixed dogs or dogs that have a parent with one pointy and one floppy ear could end up having mismatched ears.
However, dogs with lop ears like a cocker, a poodle, and dachshund among others, should never have one of their ears sticking up.
If that ever happens this could only mean that your doggy is suffering from a health condition and you need to take them to the vet.
Mismatched ears are usually an unexpected phenomenon, and many parents are surprised to see their puppy grow into a beautiful adult dog with one ear sticking up and the other one droopy.
Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having a lopsided pup, but because you can never be sure if that one floppy ear is not caused by a health issue, a vet visit can help you solve this mystery and treat your dog if necessary.
But if it’s just part of their aesthetic then you can love them for their unusual and artistic floppiness!
So, what about your dog, are they part of the lopsided ears committee, or have they outgrown this phase?