The Root of the Behavior
Since Basset Hounds fall second only to Bloodhounds when it comes to scent detection work, their sense of smell is incredibly powerful and invaluable to the serious hunter. So too are his ears. But this still doesn't explain why Basset Hounds sometimes chew their ears. There are several explanations that could help pinpoint the reasons behind this strange phenomenon in Basset Hounds. While this particular behavior is not directed at ears alone, Basset Hounds are a breed that are prone to chewing in general. People who are new to the breed are often surprised by this fact because Basset Hounds are not known to be excessively energetic. However, Basset Hounds do require mental and physical stimulation, and if it is not provided for them by their owners, they will create their own distractions. These distractions could range from snacking on your grandmother's antique dining set to turning your favorite t-shirt into a kitchen sieve, or yes, chewing on their own ears. Dogs are quite opportunistic. In the absence of something else to chew on, their ears might seem just as good a thing as any to sink their chompers into. Boredom is a very strange thing indeed!
Encouraging the Behavior
Of course, there is always the possibility that your Basset Hound has an ear infection. Ear infections are itchy, smelly, and painful, and your dog's chewing of his ears might be his attempt to find relief from the irritating condition. Ear infections generally are also accompanied by head shaking in an effort to rid your dog's ears of any fluid or bacteria that is causing him discomfort. If left untreated, ear infections can lead to deafness or aural hematomas. Aural hematomas develop from trauma to the ear and cause the ear to become misshapen and appear to be filled with fluid. The condition is not painful for your dog and will subside in time; however, it will most often leave your dog with what is known as "cauliflower ear." Cauliflower ear is just simply a gnarled looking ear reminiscent of what a boxer might sustain from years devoted to the thrashing he takes in the name of his sport.
Other Solutions and Considerations
Typically when a dog's ear contains a foreign substance, there will be dark, waxy debris in the outer ear which shows evidence that the ear is irritated for one reason or another. Never attempt to remove a suspected foreign body on your own or to do any exploration within the ear canal. The ear is a delicate and sophisticated body part. Only your veterinarian can provide proper treatment, care, and relief if your dog has something lodged in his ear. In general, dogs sometimes simply chew because something is itchy or sore. The source of your Basset's ear chewing habit may come down to something as simple as that. Unfortunately, though the motivation might be simple to detect, the treatment can be more challenging. A thorough examination of your dog by your veterinarian can help you systematically rule out potential problems to get to the root behind the behavior then help you to treat it.