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Ear Infection (Otitis Interna) in Dogs

Otitis Interna in dogs Inflammation of the inner ear, and it is most often caused by an infection. The infectious agent is most commonly bacterial, although fungus (otherwise known as yeast) can also be implicated in an inner ear infection

Otitis Interna results in damage to the hearing apparatus and oftentimes deafness and neurologic signs. In severe cases of otitis interna, life-threatening otogenic intracranial infections and meningitis can result via passage of infectious organisms from the inner ear to the brainstem through the nerves and vessels located in the internal acoustic meatus.

Dogs with long, heavy ears seem to be predisposed to chronic ear infections that can ultimately lead to otitis interna. Spaniel breeds, such as the Cocker Spaniel, and hound breeds, such as the Bloodhound and Basset Hound, are the most commonly affected breeds.

Otittis Media

Otitis media, an inflammatory disease process affecting the middle ear, is a frequent ailment recognized in small animal veterinary practices in both canine and feline patients. It results in damage to the tympanic membrane and bulla and a variety of clinical signs ranging from pain to vestibular signs.

Otitis media can stem from either primary or secondary factors. In canine patients, otitis media typically results secondarily from chronic otitis externa that extends through the tympanic membrane. Untreated or improperly treated otitis media can lead to otitis interna

Causes of Otitis Interna in Dogs

  • Bacteria is the main cause of these conditions – because the ear is warm and protected, it is an ideal place for bacteria to breed
  • Trauma to your dog (car accident) may contribute or cause an ear infection episode
  • Growths in the ear of your pet such as a tumor or polyps within the ear structure
  • Seeds or any foreign object in the ear
  • Mites in the ear
  • Yeast agents

Symptoms of Otitis Interna in Dogs

Some dogs show no symptoms of ear infection aside from a buildup of wax and discharge in the ear canal. But ear infections often cause significant discomfort and affected dogs may show signs such as:

  • Head shaking
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Dark discharge
  • Odor
  • Redness and swelling of the ear canal
  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Crusting or scabs in the ears


Your veterinarian may diagnose otitis interna when the eardrum is ruptured, either by a foreign object or longterm inflammation. It is difficult to diagnose if the eardrum is not ruptured, which is the case more than 70% of the time. Otitis Interna has been found to be present in more than half of the dogs with longterm, recurrent inflammation of the external ear.

Otitis interna may be diagnosed based on similar signs with the addition of loss of balance. Examination using an otoscope and x-rays of the round bone behind the ear may confirm the presence of simultaneous middle and inner ear inflammation.


Treatment for otitis interna requires long term use of systemic antibiotics to treat the infection. In severe cases, surgery may be required to mechanically remove the debris and infection from deep within the ear. Follow-up appointments are critical to the resolution of otitis interna.


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