Why are my dogs ears floppy?
November 2, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

Unfortunately all the resources online are around keeping dogs at "breed standards" which isn't really our jam. She was full grown when we got her but her ears are completely different now! Why is this?

From my wife:

Some background: the husband and I adopted Rosie in Sept 2012. A local shelter found her on the street weighing only 6 pounds. She was about two years old (estimate), very underweight and quite timid. She was a bit of a special case- already been adopted out and then returned to the shelter once before. She looked every inch a chihuahua- huge ears pointing to the sky, slim build, chihuahua face. Now, two years later, she looks like a different dog. She's calmed down, gotten comfy and put on weight (some would call her plus sized). But mainly, her ears have completely flopped over! A few months after moving in with us her ears started to flop over after naps or a particularly good belly rub when she was really relaxed. Then they progressed to a permanent "bat ear" stage. Now they're at a complete flop. See photos for progression. (Buddy is the other dog)

My real question is this: why have her ears flopped? I have read often about puppies going from floppy to straight ears but never a full grown dog going from straight to floppy. Is it because she's fat now? Is she like an orca in captivity? Is the husband's hypothesis that she previously held up her ears through sheer force of will and, "She doesn't have anything to prove anymore," the answer??

I want to stress that we love Rosie just the way she is. We have no desire to return her to her "original look" or anything like that! She's much, much happier and healthier now!!
posted by Uncle to Pets & Animals (11 answers total)
She is such a cutie! I don't know why she's changed, but I do want to point out that not all chihuahuas have what I call "tortilla chip ears;" my little dude is purebred and he's been floppy since day one.
posted by Juliet Banana at 11:57 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Her markings are pretty unusual for a chihuahua. My guess is that she's part Jack Russel or maybe some other small dog breed with floppy ears. As to why the change, sadly I don't know enough about dogs and their ears to know. But maybe ask your vet?
posted by Sara C. at 11:59 AM on November 2, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can't answer your question, but what a cutie!
If you want them slightly less floppy, give her gelatin. That's what I did with my rescue, to help with her ear infections.
posted by Neekee at 12:43 PM on November 2, 2014

My Silky Terriers ears have done this as time has passed, I always assumed it was the cartilidge in the ears getting older or softer from getting some wear & tear. Much like the front of a new pair of leather shoes gets a crease across it after some wear. Of course this is just another hypothesis not an answer so make of it what you will.
posted by wwax at 1:05 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Piebald chihuahuas are actually very common. People try to tell me this little dude is a Jack Russell all the time....he's not. I know his parents and they're the tiniest little appleheads ever. Chihuahuas have greater genetic diversity than people give them credit for.

So, Rosie is a deer head, which means along with her elongated snout and Bambi-looking little face that her ears are farther apart and lower on her head, therefore more likely to flop.

My puppy, as pictured above with his floppy ears, CAN hold them up into pointy tortilla-chip position when he's on high alert, scanning for a noise. Maybe Rosie, due to her background, was stressed out and always on edge for a long time, and now that she's happy and secure she can relax more.
posted by Juliet Banana at 1:12 PM on November 2, 2014 [8 favorites]

Are her ears literally heavier since she put on weight? Could be hard to tell since ears aren't easy to measure and you don't have any before measurements to compare with... but it could just be a question of ear muscle vs ear weight.
posted by anaelith at 5:34 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'd say she's a Chi / Jack Russell cross. The ear flop (I doubt this is the technical term, but that's what we call it) is very very common with JRTs as they mature.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:22 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi! I'm the wife chiming in:

Thank you guys for the responses & compliments (and the bonus picture of a sweet little chi!!)! We think Rosie's the bees' knees. We're pretty sure she's mixed with something. We get Jack Russell a lot and with the weight gain she's looking more Pug-like. Plus her tail has gotten curly? Transformer dog, I'm telling you. Reading your responses, I'm wondering if it's a combination of both relaxation/softening of the cartilage. I've read that you can make your dogs ears floppy by massaging them. My heart hurts wondering if she just never got enough snuggles in her previous home/lack thereof to get them to flop? UGH- shaking that thought off. But maybe security/relaxation + regular rubs + ears getting heavier= Floptown, USA.

I get a little insecure about asking our vet these types of questions... we're those obnoxious urbanites who have dogs instead of kids and I always have a laundry list of insane queries at our visits. I'll move this closer to the top of the list the next time we go in!
posted by Uncle at 8:15 PM on November 2, 2014

My heart hurts wondering if she just never got enough snuggles in her previous home/lack thereof to get them to flop?

Rest easy; that's not how it works.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:32 PM on November 2, 2014 [1 favorite]

Please don't hesitate to ask your vet about the ear-flop thing, or about any other issue that you want more information about. I often have a long list of questions for our vet, and she has told me that she *appreciates* it, she wishes more people would be that mindful of their pets. If your vet makes you feel funny about addressing your concerns….well, maybe you need a new vet.

Your Rosie is adorable. :)
posted by Boogiechild at 8:53 AM on November 3, 2014

I had a chug and her ears started flopping more and being more relaxed after I'd had her a month or so.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 4:16 PM on November 3, 2014

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