Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear Infections in Dogs

Every pet owner wants their pet to be healthy and happy, but sometimes it isn’t that easy. Dogs are prone to a lot of different ailments, and one of the most common is an ear infection. Ear infections in dogs are most often caused by dirt, bacteria and yeast that get trapped in the ear canal. Hair, ear mites, moisture and other debris can cause bacteria or yeast to build up in the ear. Allergies, excessive ear wax and hypothyroidism are also common culprits.

Does your dog spend a lot of time in the water? If so, then he or she is probably more prone to getting an ear infection. Dog’s ear canals go downward, so it is hard for water or other things that get into the ear canal to work its way back out. This is why dogs get ear infections so often.

Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs


There are a few symptoms that are common across the board for dogs with ear infections. If you notice any of the following symptoms, then your dog may need to take a trip to the vet:

  • scratching their ears
  • discharge that is either brownish, yellowish or bloody
  • foul odors
  • redness
  • swelling
  • crusty skin around the ears
  • hair loss in and around the ears
  • wiping their ears on things (furniture, floors, etc)
  • tilting or shaking their head too often
  • lack of coordination or balance
  • unusual eye movement
  • circular walking
  • loss of hearing

If you notice any of these symptoms, it is a good idea to call your veterinarian right away. Without proper treatment, it is difficult to get rid of an ear infection. If left untreated, it could lead to a wide variety of problems- some of which can even be long term.

Are Certain Dogs More Prone to Ear Infections?

Yes. There are certain breeds that are more prone to ear infections than others. Dogs that are at risk for allergies are also at a higher risk for ear infections. Floppy ear breeds, such as golden retrievers, cocker spaniels and poodles, are also extremely vulnerable. You also have to consider breeds that have excessive amounts of hair growing in their ear canal, such as the schnauzer. These are all characteristics that make dogs more susceptible to getting an ear infection.

Diagnosing Ear Infections in Dogs

The only real way to diagnose an ear infection is to take your pup to the vet. Your veterinarian will be able to diagnose it by examining the inside of the ear canal and the ear drum. They have a tool that is a lot like the tool that doctors use to look inside of human ears. Depending on the amount of pain that your pup is experiencing, it may require a local anesthetic or sometimes even sedation to really be able to see clearly.

Sometimes, your vet may also get a sample of the discharge that is coming from the ear so that it can be tested for yeast, bacteria or parasites. They may also look into lab work and allergy testing to get to the root cause of the problem.

You never want to self diagnose your dog with an ear infection. If you don’t treat it properly, it can lead to severe long term pain, and can even cause deafness. If you have a concern, definitely take a trip to the vet so that you don’t cause more severe problems down the road.

Treating Your Dog’s Ear Infection

Once your veterinarian diagnoses your dog with an ear infection, they will likely set them out on a course of treatment. Many times, the vet will start by professionally cleaning your dog’s ears. Then, they will send some medication home with you for them to take. You can treat them with either oral medicine or topical ear drops. For really severe ear infections, flushing the ear may be necessary. Sometimes, surgery is even necessary. This is something that your vet will be able to determine once they get a good look inside of your dog’s ear canal.

Preventing Ear Infections in Dogs

One of the best things that you can do to help ensure that your dog is healthy is to take regular preventative measures. Here are a few tips that will help to prevent severe ear infections that may lead to permanent ear damage:

  • Check your dog’s ears often to ensure that there is no odor, swelling, discharge or other sign of infection.
  • Clean your dog’s ears carefully with a dampened cotton ball. Just don’t do it too often, and be very gentle with it so that you don’t cause any irritation.
  • Dry your dog’s ears after they get done bathing or swimming to prevent moisture from building up in the ear canal.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about drops that you can put into your dog’s ears that will help to dry up any remaining moisture. This is especially good for dogs that are prone to ear infections.
  • Take your dog to the groomer regularly and make sure that they are grooming the hair in and around their ears to ensure that it doesn’t lead to infection.
  • Talk to your vet about any other preventative measures that may be breed specific to your dog.

We discussed the importance of keeping your dog’s ears clean, but it is really a good idea to follow a step by step guide to ensure that it is done correctly. Here are a few tips to make sure that you are doing it properly.

  • Talk to your vet about a safe ear cleaning solution that you can use to effectively clean your dog’s ears.
  • Have all of your supplies handy before you get started, because your dog is likely to not cooperate with you very well.
  • Wash your hands to ensure that you don’t add more bacteria and germs to their ears, which could lead to infection, or better yet- use gloves.
  • Have treats on hand for positive reinforcement. This will make your job a whole lot easier.
  • Try to have a second person on hand to help you out, and make sure that you are closed in a small room, such as the bathroom. Again, this is going to make your job easier.
  • Start from the outside and work your way in cleaning areas that you can easily reach.
  • Using a moistened cotton ball, only clean until you reach resistance. Don’t try to go further, because this can cause damage to their ears.
  • If you notice a lot of dirt and debris, talk to your vet. It may be time for a professional cleaning.
  • NEVER use cotton swabs in your pet’s ears, because it can be very dangerous.

When to Take Your Dog to the Vet

While you may not always know when it is the right time to take your dog to the vet, you don’t want to play around with an ear infection. Dogs that show any sign of ear infection should be taken to the vet right away. Keep in mind that you may not always know that your dog is in pain because they may not have signs of pain. If you notice that they become suddenly and increasingly aggressive, then it may be an indicator that they are in pain.

If you see any changes in their behavior that may make you feel that they are in pain, it is a really good idea for you to talk to your vet about getting them in as quickly as possible. Pain should always be seen about right away, because it is typically an indicator that something is wrong. While ear infections are not always painful, if left untreated they will lead to severe pain and discomfort. Just because you don’t think your dog is in pain, it doesn’t mean that you should ignore any of the other warning signs.

As you can see, ear infections in dogs can be quite serious. It is always a good idea for you to pay close attention to your pup. This will help to ensure that you notice physical changes and signs associated with ear infections, and you will also be able to pick up on behavioral changes. If your dog is acting out of the norm, it may not be an ear infection, but you still want to make sure that you visit your vet to get to the bottom of what is causing the changes in the way that they behave. Don’t let your pup’s symptoms go untreated, because you never know what serious condition may be causing them to have the symptoms they are experiencing. Has your dog ever had an ear infection? Do you have any other helpful tips for prevention? If so, share your story with us!



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I've been a dog lover since the day I was born but it's the current four legged love of my life, Phoebe who inspired me to create the Munch.Zone.

We moved together from Israel to New York in 2013, love hiking together, and never pass up a trip to the dog park. Watching her over the years sparked so many questions about dog behavior and health needs, and it wasn't always easy to find answers. Thus, the Munch.Zone was born.

On any given day you'll find me watching Netflix originals, eating popcorn, and thinking about how to get into house flipping.

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