This study aimed to better characterise the gross anatomy of the normal ear canal, and to compare histological features of the normal ear canal to those affected by chronic otitis externa. In 40 normal ears from 20 dogs, the length of the annular and auricular cartilage was 1.2 +/- 0.2 and 4.1 +/- 0.9 cm, respectively; overall length of the external ear canal was 5.3 +/- 1.0 cm. The maximal internal diameter at the distal end of the external ear canal, the proximal opening of the auricular cartilage and the proximal end of the annular cartilage was 5.8 +/- 1.5, 0.7 +/- 0.2 and 0.5 +/- 0.1 cm, respectively. Body weight correlated positively with the overall length and diameter of the distal end of the ear canal (r = 0.78, P < 0.001; r = 0.42, P < 0.05). Morphometric evaluation was carried in 28 clinically healthy ears of 14 dogs, and 15 otitic ears of 13 dogs. Histological features of this integument revealed that the density and distribution of sebaceous and ceruminous gland tissue exhibits marked variation between individuals. Nevertheless, general patterns were observed; sebaceous tissue increases gradually from the proximal to the distal parts of the ear canal, whilst ceruminous gland tissue by contrast decreases. In otitic canine ears, the distribution of sebaceous and ceruminous glandular tissue was similar to normal ears but the glands became larger and hyperplastic (P < 0.05). Density of hair follicles was not different between healthy and otitic ears (P = 0.16), but the hair follicles became hyperplastic in otitic ears.