Dog Ear Infection – Recognizing And Treating The Signs And Symptoms

Ear infections are one of the most commonly seen conditions in dogs of all life stages. Luckily, if noticed on time, dog ear infection clears up easily with proper treatment.

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Generally, there are two types of ear infections that are seen in dogs, otitis media, and otitis externa. Otitis media affect the dog’s middle ear, and otitis externa is an infection of the outer ear canal.

Since these can be really painful and cause a lot of discomfort to your pooch, it is important that you are able to recognize the symptoms. Furthermore, if left untreated this condition can become very serious and lead to hearing loss.

The good news is that with proper care you can prevent the development of this condition and keep your pooch healthy. But in order to do that you first need to learn what are the most common causes of canine ear infections.

What Causes Dog Ear Infection?

Because of the different anatomy, dogs ears are more susceptible to debris and moisture to enter and stay trapped inside the ear canal. Unlike as and our horizontal ear canal, dogs have an “L” shaped vertical canal that is prone to dirt accumulation.
There is a variety of known causes of ear infection and these are some of them:

  • Bacteria
  • Yeast/ Fungus such as Malassezia and Aspergillus
  • Moisture
  • Viruses
  • Mites ( more often seen in puppies than adult dogs)
  • Allergies ( both environmental and food related)
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Excessive amount of ear hair
  • Wax buildup
  • Foreign object in the ear
  • Injury to the body
  • Presence of tumors or polyps in the ear canal

And although the bacteria is the most common cause of an ear infection, you can’t know for sure until you take your dog to the vet. It is very important to do so since an ear infection can be a symptom of a bigger problem.

What Are The Symptoms Of This Condition?

Depending on the severity the ear infection your dog is having, symptoms can range quite a bit. In some cases a dog can be fine and playful all day around and develop symptoms late at night, so you need to be prepared to take him to the emergency vet clinic. We strongly advise you to take your pooch to the vet immediately if you notice any of following symptoms:

  • Scratching of the ear or the area around the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody ear discharge
  • Ear odor
  • Swelling of the ear
  • Redness
  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Hair loss around the ears
  • Rubbing of the ear on the floor or furniture
  • Head shaking and head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

Depending on the cause of infection you can notice only one of these dog ear infection symptoms or several combined. Canine ear infections are extremely painful and if left untreated can cause great damage to the ear canal and inner ear. In some cases, the dog can lose his hearing ability.

What To Expect From Diagnosis And Vet Exam?

Once you take your pooch to the vet, be prepared to give a thorough medical history of your dog. This is especially important if you end up in an emergency vet clinic. Be prepared to answer all of the following questions:

  • The duration of your dog’s symptoms ?
  • What has your dog been eating ?
  • Does he has any allergies ?
  • Is your dog on any medication ?
  • How often do you clean your dog’s ears ?
  • Do you trim the hairs in his ears ?
  • Does your dog has a history of ear infections ?
  • Was your dog bathed/groomed/or been swimming in a past few days ?

Once you answered all of these questions the vet will proceed with the exam part. In order to prescribe the right dog ear infection medicine, your vet will examine the ear canal and eardrum with magnifying ear cone. If your dog shows signs that he is in pain, the vet will decide to either administer sedation or local anesthetic.

Furthermore, the vet will take a sample of ear discharge to find the exact cause of inflammation, and examine it under the microscope. This way he can know for sure what type of organism is causing the symptoms and prescribe the most effective dog ear infection medicine.

If during the exam your vet finds a foreign object, or dirt and wax buildup, he will probably sedate the dog in order to remove it. He will do a thorough cleansing of the ear and give you instructions how to do it at home.

Moreover, if the infection is found in the middle ear your dog will require additional tests since this type is harder to cure. The exam will involve a blood test, X-ray, and in some cases surgery. For this type of inflammation, the dog ear infection remedy needs to be applied up to six weeks.

What To Expect From The Treatment?

Your vet will clean your dog’s ears and pluck ear hair if your dog has them. This is an important step that will allow the medication to work properly.

Depending on the type of infection your dog has, you can expect to receive ear drops and oral medications (antibiotic, anti-fungal, or anti-inflammatory). You will also be advised how to properly use them and how long.

In most cases, the infection will resolve in 10 to 30 days. On the other hand, more serious cases can involve a hospital stay and take months to clear.

It is crucial that you follow your vet’s instructions by the letter and take your pooch to all follow-up appointments. Also, if you notice that the medication isn’t working or if your pooch is getting worse, take him to the vet.

During this period you should also limit your dog’s contact with the water and limit his activities. If there is an absolute need for a bath, try a dry shampoo or use cotton balls as earplugs.

Are Some Dogs More Prone To Ear Infections?

Although all dogs develop ear infection at least once during their life, some dogs are easily affected. When it comes to these dogs it is important to treat the underlying issue in order to prevent the recurrence of ear infection.

Dogs With Allergies

Allergies cause inflammation of the skin and overgrowth of bacteria and yeast, and are a prime cause of frequent ear infections. Your pooch may have dietary sensitivities or environmental allergies that are caused by pollens and grasses.
When it comes to foods, grains and sugar are causes of dog ear yeast infections, since the natural-occurring yeast is feeding on sugars. This results in a dark colored and nasty smelling ear buildup that needs to be treated with medication.
If this is the cause of your dog’s ear infections, you can solve it by placing your dog on an elimination diet. Hence, you will find the culprit and fix your pooch’s problems with allergies and ear inflammation.

Some Certain Breeds

Breeds with non-erect outer (floppy) ears are more prone to develop ear infections. This is because the dirt is easily trapped inside and the ear flap doesn’t allow the air to dry the inner ear, causing moist environment.
Furthermore, breeds that have hair growing from their ears like Miniature Poodles and Schnauzers have frequent ear problems. They need to have their ear hairs plucked regularly to prevent wax and dirt buildup.
Swimming breeds like Labradors, Golden Retriever, and Poodles are also at risk of frequent ear problems. If your pooch loves to swim, you need to completely dry and clean his inner ear after every dip.

How To Prevent Ear Infection?

With a regular and proper grooming care, your dog’s ear infections can be the thing of the past. And once you determine what is the underlying cause of the problem you can move forward with the preventative care.

Bacterial and fungal infections usually result from your dog’s activities like too much swimming, rolling in the dirt, or inadequate grooming. If the cause is a medical condition, you will need your vets help to deal with the underlying cause and stop recurring infections.

Still, there are things you can do at home to completely prevent or make frequent ear infections the thing of the past.

Proper Care

Cleaning your dog’s ears should be a part of your regular grooming routine. For most dogs, this includes once a week ear cleaning.

Still, there is no need to overdo it, if the ears don’t seem dirty you can clean them less frequently. But we advise you to check them at least once a week in order to keep them in prime health.

Safety First

Buy only safe ear cleaners that don’t contain chemicals and toxins. If you aren’t sure what product to buy, ask your vet since he will know what will work best for your dog.

Clean Properly

Use only cotton balls or gauze to clean the ear, and do it gently. Never use ear swabs or try to push too deep into the ear. This can jam the dirt deeper or damage and injure the ear.

Keep The Ears Dry

Every time you bath your dog, take him to the groomer, or he is back from swimming it is important to dry his ears completely. Use a towel to pat the external part of his ears, and a cotton ball to soak the moist from the inner ear.

Tweeze, Cut The Hair

This goes for breeds that have ear hair and is essential for keeping the ears clean from wax buildup. Talk with your vet about how to properly do it, or tell your groomer to tweeze the hairs.

Talk With Your Vet

Your vet will tell you how to clean your dog’s ears properly, but if you have any additional questions don’t be afraid to ask. Furthermore, if you notice any changes in your dog’s ears call the vet and schedule an appointment.
Ear grooming may seem like a hard thing to do, but it is fairly easy, fast, and has long lasting benefits on your dog’s health. Furthermore, when your dog realizes that it isn’t such a big deal, this will become fun and bonding activity for both of you.


Dog ear infection is a common health problem that affects dogs of all life stages. In some cases, it is just a symptom of a more serious underlying issue so it is important to take your dog to be examined by a vet.

Symptoms like ear scratching, head shaking, and tilting are the most common symptoms of ear infection and should not be ignored. If left untreated this condition can lead to permanent deafness, facial nerve paralysis, and ocular issues.

Luckily, with proper care and regular ear grooming, you can prevent the development of ear infections and keep your pooch in perfect health. Just make sure to buy a vet-approved ear cleaning product, be gentle, and don’t apply to much pressure while grooming the ear.

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