Dog Ear Infection: What You Need to Know

Dog Ear Infection: What You Need to Know

July 11, 2024

Dog ear infections are a common health issue affecting many dogs. They tend to occur when bacteria, yeast, or fungi invade the ear canal, causing inflammation and discomfort.

This makes them a common concern for pet owners because they can cause significant pain and irritation for their pets. If left untreated, ear infections can even lead to more severe health problems.

NOTE: The main symptoms of ear infections in dogs include redness, swelling, and a foul odour emanating from the ear. Different types of ear infections, such as bacterial, yeast, and fungal, require specific treatment methods.

In this article, we will guide you through everything you need to know about dog ear infections and how you can help your dog if they suffer from them.

Causes of Dog Ear Infections


Allergies to food, pollen, or dust mites can lead to inflammation in the ears.

When a dog has an allergic reaction, it triggers the body's immune response, causing redness and swelling in the ear canal.

This inflammation disrupts the normal barrier against infections, making it easier for bacteria and yeast to grow and cause infections.


Water trapped in the ear after swimming or bathing creates a damp environment.

This moisture can soften the ear canal's lining, allowing bacteria and yeast to thrive in these warm, wet conditions. Dogs with floppy ears or those who swim frequently are particularly at risk for moisture-related ear infections.

Wax Buildup

Excessive ear wax can create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

The wax provides a rich nutrient source for these microorganisms, allowing them to multiply rapidly.

Regular and careful cleaning can help prevent this buildup and reduce the risk of infection. Note that cleaning the ear too aggressively can also cause irritation and infection.

Foreign Bodies

Objects like grass seeds, dirt, or small insects can get lodged in the ear canal.

These foreign bodies can cause irritation and scratches, which can become infected if bacteria enter the wounded area.

It is important to check a dog's ears regularly and seek veterinary help if a foreign object is suspected.

Underlying Health Conditions

Conditions such as hypothyroidism or autoimmune diseases can affect the immune system.

For example, hypothyroidism can lead to changes in the skin and ear canal, making canine ear infections more likely.

Autoimmune diseases can also alter the body's ability to fight off infections, making dogs more susceptible to recurring ear infections.

Regular veterinary check-ups can help identify and manage these underlying conditions and reduce the risk of ear infections.

Symptoms to Look Out For

Recognising the symptoms of ear infections in dogs is crucial for early detection and treatment.

Try to look out for the following symptoms when it comes to ear infections.

  • Scratching at the Ears: Dogs with ear infections often scratch their ears vigorously. This behaviour is typically due to the intense itchiness and discomfort caused by the infection. Persistent scratching can lead to further irritation and even injury to the ear canal or outer ear.
  • Head-Shaking: Frequent head shaking is another common sign. Dogs shake their heads to relieve the discomfort and remove any fluid or debris in the ear. Continuous head shaking can exacerbate the condition and sometimes lead to aural haematomas, which are blood-filled pockets in the ear flap.
  • Redness: Inflammation and redness inside the ear are also typical symptoms of infection. The ear canal may appear swollen and red, indicating an ongoing infection. This redness is often accompanied by heat and sensitivity to touch.
  • Swelling: Swelling in and around the ear canal is a common indicator of infection. This swelling can make it difficult for the dog to move its ear normally and can cause partial ear canal blockage, leading to hearing difficulties.
  • Odour: A foul odour emanating from the ear is a telltale sign of infection. The smell is usually caused by the growth of bacteria or yeast, producing waste products with a strong, unpleasant odour. This symptom is often one of the first that pet owners notice, prompting them to seek veterinary care.

Early detection and monitoring of these symptoms are essential for effective treatment. 

Addressing the infection as soon as possible can prevent it from worsening and thus causing more severe health issues for your dog.

Prevention Tips

Preventing ear infections in dogs involves a combination of regular care and attentive monitoring.

These prevention tips can help keep your dog’s ears healthy and reduce the likelihood of infections.

Regular Ear Cleaning

Regularly cleaning your dog’s ears helps remove excess wax and debris that can serve as breeding grounds for infections. 

Use a vet-recommended ear cleaner and cotton balls or gauze to gently clean the outer ear.

Avoid using cotton swabs, which can push debris deeper into the ear canal and cause further damage. Regular cleaning is a vital component in maintaining ear health and preventing infections.

Keeping the Ears Dry

Keep your dog’s ears dry, especially after swimming or bathing, as moisture in the ears creates an ideal environment for bacteria and yeast to grow.

Gently drying the ears with a towel and using a drying solution recommended by your vet can help prevent moisture-related infections.

Monitoring for Signs of Allergies

Be vigilant about signs of allergies in your dog, such as itching, redness, or recurrent ear problems. Allergies can lead to inflammation in the ears, making infections more likely.

Identifying and managing your dog’s allergies with the help of your veterinarian can reduce the risk of ear infections.

Treatment Options

Treating dog ear infections involves understanding and implementing various methods depending on the type and severity of the infection.

It is essential to consult a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment plans. A vet can determine the most appropriate treatment based on the specific type of infection and your dog's overall health.

Different treatment options include the following.

Topical Treatments

Topical treatments, such as ear drops or ointments, are commonly prescribed to treat ear infections.

These medications are applied directly to the affected area and kill the bacteria or yeast causing the infection. It is important to follow the veterinarian's instructions carefully to ensure the effectiveness of the treatment.

Oral Medications

In more severe cases, oral medications may be necessary. These include antibiotics or antifungal drugs that help eliminate the infection from within.

Oral medications are often used in conjunction with topical treatments for a more comprehensive approach to treatment.

Natural Remedies

Some pet owners opt for natural remedies, such as apple cider vinegar or coconut oil, to treat mild infections.

While these can provide relief, they must be used with caution and under the guidance of a veterinarian.

NOTE: Natural remedies are not always effective and may not address the underlying cause of the infection.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dog's Ears?

When and how you clean your dog’s ears will depend on many factors, including the following.

  • Breed: Some breeds, especially those with floppy ears like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, are more prone to ear infections and may require more frequent cleaning. These breeds typically need their ears cleaned weekly to prevent buildup and infections.
  • Activity Level: Very active dogs, especially those that swim frequently or play in muddy areas, may need their ears cleaned more often. Regular cleaning helps remove moisture and debris that can lead to infections.
  • Ear Shape: The shape of a dog's ears can also influence how often they need to be cleaned. Dogs with ears that hang down or those with narrow ear canals may require more frequent cleaning to ensure proper ventilation and prevent the accumulation of wax and moisture.

Considering these factors, you can determine an appropriate cleaning schedule to keep your dog's ears healthy. Regular maintenance tailored to your dog's needs is a must to help prevent ear infections and ensure their well-being.

When to See a Veterinarian

Knowing when to seek veterinary care for your dog's ear infection is crucial. Signs that indicate it is time to visit a veterinarian include the following.

  • Persistent Symptoms: If your dog’s ear infection symptoms, such as redness, swelling, or discharge, do not improve within a few days of home treatment, it is time to consult a veterinarian. Persistent symptoms can indicate a more serious underlying issue that requires professional medical attention.
  • Severe Discomfort: If your dog shows signs of severe discomfort, such as constant crying, pawing at the ears, or refusing to eat, seek veterinary care immediately. Severe discomfort can indicate a deep or serious infection that needs prompt treatment to prevent complications.
  • Recurring Infections: If your dog experiences recurring ear infections, it is essential to see a veterinarian. Recurring infections may indicate an underlying health problem, such as allergies or a compromised immune system, that needs to be addressed to prevent future infections.

Professional medical advice is crucial for persistent or severe cases of ear infections.

A veterinarian can accurately diagnose the issue, prescribe the appropriate treatment, and provide guidance on preventing future infections, ensuring your dog’s long-term health and comfort.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Let us discuss the most common questions about dog ear infections.

What are the Best Antibiotics for Dog Ear Infections?

The best antibiotics for dog ear infections include amoxicillin-clavulanate, enrofloxacin, clindamycin, and cefpodoxime, which are typically prescribed for six to eight weeks.

For fungal infections, antifungal medication such as itraconazole is most often used.

Can a Dog’s Ear Infection Go Away on Its Own?

In most cases, dog ear infections do not go away independently and require prompt veterinary treatment to prevent complications such as hearing loss, chronic issues, or surgery.

If you notice symptoms of an ear infection, it is best to see a veterinarian immediately.

How Do You Treat a Dog’s Ear Infection Without Going to the Vet?

Home remedies like cleaning your dog’s ears with hydrogen peroxide and coconut oil or using a solution of apple cider vinegar and water can provide temporary relief.

However, it is crucial to visit a veterinarian for proper diagnosis and treatment in order to address the infection effectively.

Key Takeaways on Dog Ear Infection

Summarising the key points discussed, it is clear that prevention, early detection, and professional veterinary care are essential in managing dog ear infections.

Regular ear cleaning, keeping ears dry, and watching for symptoms can help prevent infections, while timely veterinary visits ensure effective treatment.

When in doubt, diligently monitor your dog's ear health and seek veterinary advice at the first sign of trouble. Staying proactive about ear health can help ensure your dog's well-being and comfort.