Ear Infections in Dogs [Signs, Causes & More]

Ear Infections in Dogs

Today, we’re diving into a topic that’s all too common but often overlooked: ear infections in dogs.

Whether you’ve noticed your furry friend scratching their ears or shaking their head more than usual, it’s essential to understand the causes, symptoms, and most importantly, how to treat and prevent these pesky infections.

So, let’s get started!

What Are Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs, also known as otitis externa, occur when the external ear canal becomes inflamed and infected.

This condition is commonly caused by factors such as allergies, parasites, foreign objects, or water trapped in the ear.

Symptoms of ear infections in dogs may include itching, redness, swelling, discharge, and a foul odor.

Treatment typically involves cleaning the ear and administering medication prescribed by a veterinarian, which may include topical or oral medications depending on the severity of the infection.

Let’s break it down further…

Common Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs

The following are some of the most common causes of ear infections in dogs:

Bacterial Infections: Bacteria, such as Staphylococcus or Pseudomonas, can cause ear infections in dogs. These infections often occur secondary to other issues like allergies or foreign bodies.

Yeast Infections: Yeast, usually Malassezia, can overgrow in the ear canal and lead to infections. Dogs with floppy ears or those that swim frequently are more prone to yeast infections.

Parasitic Infections: Parasites like ear mites (Otodectes cynotis) or ticks (Otobius megnini) can infest the ears and cause infections. These infections are often accompanied by intense itching.

Allergies: Allergies, such as food allergies or environmental allergies, can cause inflammation, itching, and secondary infections in the ears.

Foreign Bodies: Objects like grass seeds, plant material, or debris can get lodged in a dog’s ear, leading to irritation, inflammation, and infection.

Moisture and Humidity: Excessive moisture or high humidity can create a favorable environment for bacterial or yeast growth in the ears, especially in dogs with long, floppy ears.

Autoimmune Conditions: Certain autoimmune conditions, like pemphigus complex or systemic lupus erythematosus, can manifest as ear infections in dogs.

Endocrine Disorders: Hormonal imbalances, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease, can weaken the immune system and make dogs more susceptible to ear infections.

Anatomy and Breed Predispositions: Some dog breeds, such as Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds, are more prone to ear infections due to their ear anatomy. Dogs with long, pendulous ears or narrow ear canals are more susceptible to moisture retention and infection.

Read more about the causes of ear infections in dogs.

Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs can manifest in several ways, and it’s important for dog owners to be able to recognize the signs.

Here are some common signs of ear infections in dogs:

Ear Scratching: Dogs with ear infections often scratch or rub their ears excessively. They may use their paws or rub their heads against furniture or the ground.

Head Shaking: Another common sign is frequent head shaking. Dogs may vigorously shake their heads from side to side in an attempt to relieve the discomfort caused by the infection.

Ear Odor: A foul odor emanating from the dog’s ears is a strong indication of an ear infection. The odor is usually caused by the presence of bacteria or yeast.

Redness and Swelling: Inflamed and red ears are often observed in dogs with ear infections. The ears may appear swollen or irritated.

Discharge: Dogs with ear infections may have discharge in their ear canals. The discharge can range from brown and waxy to yellowish-green and pus-like.

Pain or Sensitivity: Dogs with ear infections may display signs of pain or sensitivity when their ears are touched or manipulated. They may flinch, whimper, or resist having their ears examined.

Changes in Behavior: Ear infections can cause dogs to exhibit changes in behavior. They may become more irritable, restless, or withdrawn due to the discomfort they are experiencing.

Balance Issues: In some cases, ear infections can affect a dog’s balance. Dogs may show signs of dizziness, loss of coordination, or a head tilt.

Scaly or Crusty Skin: Chronic ear infections can lead to skin changes around the ears. The skin may become scaly, crusty, or thickened.

It’s important to note that these signs may vary depending on the severity and type of ear infection.

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, it’s best to consult a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and appropriate treatment.

Read more about the symptoms of ear infections in dogs.

Diagnosis of Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs can be diagnosed through a combination of physical examination and laboratory tests.

The veterinarian will examine the dog’s ears for signs of inflammation, discharge, or odor. They may also use an otoscope to visualize the ear canal and eardrum.

To confirm the infection, a sample of the ear discharge may be collected and examined under a microscope or sent to a laboratory for culture and sensitivity testing.

Based on the diagnosis, the veterinarian will determine the appropriate treatment, which may include cleaning the ears, administering topical or oral medications, and addressing any underlying causes.

Treatment Options for Ear Infections in Dogs

It is important to note that the specific treatment options for ear infections in dogs will depend on the underlying cause, severity of the infection, and individual patient factors.

Here are some treatment options for ear infections in dogs:


Antibiotics are commonly prescribed for the treatment of ear infections in dogs.

These medications are used to combat bacterial infections that may be causing the ear infection.

The specific antibiotic prescribed will depend on the type of bacteria present and the severity of the infection.

It is important to follow the veterinarian’s instructions and complete the full course of antibiotics to ensure effective treatment.

Antifungal Medications

In cases where the ear infection is caused by a fungal or yeast overgrowth, antifungal medications may be prescribed.

These medications help to eliminate the fungi or yeast and restore balance to the ear canal.

Antifungal medications can be administered orally or applied topically, depending on the severity of the infection.

Ear Cleansers

Ear cleansers are an important part of the treatment for ear infections in dogs.

These solutions are specifically formulated to clean the ear canal, remove debris, and help prevent the recurrence of infections.

Ear cleansers may contain ingredients such as antibacterial or antifungal agents, as well as soothing agents to alleviate discomfort.

Topical Medications

Topical medications, such as ear drops or ointments, are often prescribed for the treatment of ear infections in dogs.

These medications are applied directly to the ear canal and help to eliminate infection-causing bacteria or fungi.

They may also contain anti-inflammatory agents to reduce swelling and alleviate discomfort.


In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat severe or chronic ear infections in dogs.

This can involve procedures such as ear canal ablation or lateral ear resection, which aim to remove the affected tissue and improve the overall health of the ear.

Surgery is typically considered when other treatment options have been unsuccessful or when there are underlying anatomical issues contributing to ear infections in dogs.

Preventing Ear Infections in Dogs

Preventing ear infections in dogs is essential for their overall health and well-being.

Here are some tips to help prevent ear infections in dogs:

Regular Cleaning: Clean your dog’s ears regularly using a veterinarian-approved ear cleaner. This helps remove excess wax and debris, preventing the buildup that can lead to infections.

Avoid Moisture: Keep your dog’s ears dry, as moisture can create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. After swimming, bathing, or exposure to rain, make sure to thoroughly dry your dog’s ears.

Proper Grooming: Regular grooming is important for preventing ear infections. Trim the hair around your dog’s ears to improve airflow and reduce the risk of trapping moisture and debris.

Check for Foreign Objects: Regularly inspect your dog’s ears for any foreign objects, such as grass seeds or ticks. These can cause irritation and lead to infections if left untreated.

Avoid Irritants: Limit your dog’s exposure to irritants, such as cigarette smoke, chemicals, or perfumes. These can cause inflammation and increase the likelihood of ear infections.

Prevent Allergies: Identify and manage any allergies your dog may have, as allergies can contribute to ear infections. Consult with your veterinarian to develop an appropriate allergy management plan.

Avoid Over-Cleaning: While regular cleaning is important, excessive cleaning can disrupt the natural balance of the ear and lead to irritation. Follow your veterinarian’s recommendations for cleaning frequency.

Regular Vet Check-ups: Schedule regular check-ups with your veterinarian to monitor your dog’s ear health. They can detect early signs of infection or underlying conditions that may contribute to ear infections.

Proper Diet and Nutrition: Providing your dog with a balanced diet and proper nutrition can help support their immune system and overall health, reducing the risk of ear infections.

Read more about preventing ear infections in dogs.

Effects of Untreated Ear Infections in Dogs

Untreated ear infections in dogs can have several negative effects on their health and well-being. Here are some potential consequences of untreated ear infections in dogs:

Chronic Pain and Discomfort: Ear infections are often accompanied by inflammation, swelling, and irritation of the ear canal. If left untreated, these infections can become chronic, leading to persistent pain and discomfort for the dog. This can significantly impact their quality of life and overall well-being.

Hearing Loss: Ear infections can affect the structures of the ear, including the eardrum and the middle ear. If the infection spreads or becomes severe, it can cause damage to these structures, leading to hearing loss in dogs. Untreated ear infections can potentially result in permanent hearing impairment.

Secondary Infections: Ear infections can create a favorable environment for the growth of bacteria and yeast. If left untreated, these infections can spread and lead to secondary infections in other parts of the body, such as the skin, paws, or even the respiratory system. These secondary infections can be more challenging to treat and may require more intensive and prolonged therapy.

Behavioral Changes: Dogs experiencing chronic pain and discomfort from untreated ear infections may exhibit changes in their behavior. They may become irritable, aggressive, or show signs of depression and lethargy. They may also scratch or rub their ears excessively, which can further exacerbate the infection and cause additional discomfort.

Damage to the Ear Structures: In severe cases, untreated ear infections can cause damage to the structures of the ear, such as the ear canal or the ear drum. This can result in permanent structural abnormalities, which may require surgical intervention to correct. In some cases, the damage may be irreversible, leading to long-term complications.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can ear infections in dogs be contagious to other pets or humans?

No, ear infections in dogs are not contagious to other pets or humans. They are typically caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast that is already present in the dog’s ear canal.

Are certain dog breeds more prone to ear infections?

Yes, some dog breeds are more prone to ear infections due to their ear anatomy. Dogs with floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds, are more susceptible to infections as their ears provide a warm and moist environment that promotes bacterial or yeast growth.

Can I treat my dog’s ear infection at home?

Mild ear infections can sometimes be treated at home with veterinarian-approved ear cleaners and medications. However, it is always best to consult with your veterinarian for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan to prevent the infection from worsening or recurring.

When should I seek veterinary care for my dog’s ear infection?

It is recommended to seek veterinary care if your dog’s ear infection persists for more than a few days if your dog shows signs of pain or discomfort, or if there is excessive swelling or discharge from the ear. Your veterinarian will be able to provide proper diagnosis and treatment options for your dog’s specific condition.

Read more about ear problems in dogs.


In conclusion, ear infections in dogs are a common and often overlooked issue that can cause discomfort and pain for our furry friends.

Pet owners must be aware of the signs and symptoms of ear infections, such as excessive scratching, head shaking, and a foul odor.

By staying vigilant and seeking prompt veterinary care, we can ensure our dogs’ ears stay healthy and infection-free, allowing them to enjoy a life full of ear-scratching bliss!

By Samuel Steve

Samuel Steve has more than 12 years of experience with cats and dogs his the founder of Pet Creeks and currently living with 2 different breeds of cats and a dog, Samuel Steve is here to write and share his years of experience with pets.