The Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

The Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Every dog owner is aware of how common ear infections can be in our canine friends. Approximately 20% of dogs have some kind of ear disease with one or both ears affected. If you notice your dog whining, scratching, and shaking its head more than usual lately, signs are your four-legged friend may be suffering from an ear infection.

But why are dogs more prone to ear infections than people, you might wonder? Well, due to the unique shape of your dog’s ear canal, it is more likely to experience ear infections than most people.

Moreover, dogs that tend to swim frequently or possess long, floppy ears are also susceptible to frequent infections in their ears because of trapped moisture, which creates the perfect environment for harmful bacteria to live and thrive.

Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs

There are several reasons as to why your dog may have developed an ear infection. Sometimes, an underlying issue may prevent protective barriers in their ears from working efficiently. Or trapped moisture in ears may be providing a chance for harmful bacteria to grow.

Other causes of ear infections in dogs include:

  • Ear mites
  • Allergies
  • Excessive moisture in-ears from swimming or bathing
  • Hormonal imbalance such as hypothyroidism
  • Abnormal growth in the ear canal such as a polyp
  • Autoimmune disorders such as lupus
  • Ear injury
  • Improper ear cleaning

Types of Ear Infections

There are three types of ear infections in dogs:

  • Otitis interna which affects your dog’s inner ear
  • Otitis media which affects your dog’s middle ear
  • Otitis externa which affects your dog’s outer ear

Otitis externa – an infection that affects the outside of your dog’s ear is the most common type of ear infection found in dogs. Inflammation of the ear causes it to become red, painful, and tender with a foul odor. It is also common for a black or brown discharge to leak from your pet’s ears. These symptoms then result in the production of excessive ear wax, which increases the humidity and the pH of the external ear canal. This results in the growth of bacteria, and hence, an ear infection occurs.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs

If your furry friend has developed an ear infection in one or both of its ears, they are likely to feel pain and restlessness. And may display the following symptoms:

  • Scratching their ear
  • Brown or yellowish discharge
  • Redness inside the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Rubbing ear on the floor or furniture around the house

If left untreated, ear infections become severe, leading to more severe symptoms. For example, if your pooch has developed a severe ear infection, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Loss of balance
  • Walking in circles
  • Abnormal eye movements
  • Signs of deafness

Are Some Breeds More Prone to Ear Infections than Others?

Yes, some dog breeds may be more likely to suffer from ear infections. Especially dogs with long, floppy ears. Studies have also shown genetics to be a factor in some dogs developing frequent ear infections.

Dogs with ears that are long and floppy get more ear infections than other dogs because they have a higher number of glands that produce ear wax. These include Beagles, Cocker Spaniels, Basset Hounds, and more.

Some dog breeds with a narrower ear canal also tend to be prone to ear infections due to a higher chance of inflammation and infection. These include Chow Chows, Bulldogs, and some others.

Another factor that may be making your dog prone to frequent ear infections is allergies, as allergies directly affect the ears. And while any dog can experience allergies from pet food or the environment, some breeds are more prone to experiencing them. These include Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers, Shih Tzus, and Boston Terriers, among others.

There is a belief that dogs with white and lighter-coloured coats are more susceptible to ear infections than those with dark fur. The reason is that their ear canals are not as deeply inset, allowing the sun to heat up the sensitive parts of the ear more quickly.

The result is more bacteria living in those hotter areas at a faster rate. However, this has not been proven yet; your brown dog can be as susceptible to an ear infection as your white dog!

Did you just get a new brown dog? You might be interested in our article for brown dog names.

How to Detect an Ear Infection in Your Dog

If your vet is showing symptoms of an ear infection, it’s time to visit your vet. The vet will take a sample of the ear discharge for testing and test it for ear mites, yeast, bacteria, and any inflammatory cells that may be present.

In case there is excessive ear wax, the vet may have to clean out your dog’s ears properly. This may be done by sedating your pooch, so they do not feel pain.

The vet may also order some bloodwork to rule out certain medical conditions.

Will my Dogs Ear Infections Go Away on its Own?

Most cases of ear infections do not clean up on their own and require medical attention and treatment to get better. Moreover, if left untreated, they can lead to an eardrum rupture which can be serious and complicated to treat.

Chronic or long-term ear infections also take time to clear up, even with treatment and medications. It’s essential to take the medications for however long they are prescribed, even if symptoms go away after a few doses.

Ear Infections Treatment

1.            Medicines

Your vet will most likely want to ensure your dog’s ears are properly and medically cleaned. They may prescribe an ear cleanser for you to apply to your dog’s ear at certain times of the day. Moreover, antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines may also be prescribed to help clear up the infection.

2.            Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA)

This is a procedure performed to manage severe canal or middle ear infections in dogs. It is done by removing the affected or infected ear canal and leaving the inner ear in place. Note that the inner ear, which is the hearing organ, is not removed during the surgery. So, your dog will still be able to hear after the surgery. However, it may significantly reduce hearing sensitivity.


So, whether your dog is a breed that’s prone to ear infections or not, it’s important to be aware of the symptoms and know how to treat them if they occur.

If you think your pup might have an ear infection, take him or her to the vet as soon as possible. In most cases, ear infections will clear up with antibiotics, but it’s always best to get professional help in order to avoid any further complications.

Do you have a favourite canine ear infection remedy that we didn’t mention? Let us know!


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