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Ear infections in dogs are common and worrisome and most dogs suffer from this painful condition sometime in their life. Most dog owners get frustrated by how hard it can be to get rid of chronic ear issues. But there’s a reason ear infections are so hard to get rid of and keep away. That’s because chronic ear infections are usually a sign that something else is wrong. The ear infection is her body’s way of alerting you that her system is under stress.

Scratching and rubbing at the ear(s) and head shaking are common signs. You may also notice an abnormal odor from the ear or see redness or swelling. Most ear infections in adults are caused by bacteria and yeast, though ear mites are a common cause in puppies

Your dog’s ear consists of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Infections within the middle and inner ear must be treated quickly to prevent recurrence and possible permanent damage to your dog’s ear or nerves within the face on the affected side.

How do Canine ear infections happen?

The inside of your dog’s ear tapers down into a long, narrow tube, or ear canal, which extends into the base of their skull, where their ear drum is found. The canal produces wax, which works its way up the canal and removes debris as it goes.

This canal can become inflamed, and the canal will thicken and produce excess wax. Bacteria and yeast can then flourish, causing more inflammation – and usually pain, discomfort and the ear may even start to smell or ‘weep’. This is when your dog may also start to rub at their ear or shake their head to alleviate the discomfort and/or itch.

All dogs are prone to ear infections; however, there are specific breeds that are more prone to middle and inner ear infections. Dogs with drooping ears such as the Beagle, Dachshund, Basset Hound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel need to have their ears closely monitored for signs of infection. Dogs with narrow ear canals, such the Cocker Spaniel and the Shar-Pei, and dogs with hairy inner ear canals, such as the Poodle and Schnauzer, can also be susceptible to middle and inner ear infections.

Types of Dog Ear Infections

After the ear canal sits the eardrum, then the middle and inner ear deep inside the head. Otitis is the inflammation of the ear. The Otitis is divided into three types based on the location of a dog’s ear infection:

  • The Otitis externa: inflammation of the ear canal,
  • Otitis media: inflammation of the middle ear,
  • Otitis interna: inflammation of the inner ear

However, Otitis externa is the most common of these three infections because this is the part of the ear most exposed to external factors. Ear infections can be acute (with a quick onset) or chronic and recurrent. Dogs can also have an infection in one or both ears.

Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs

These are some of the most common causes of ear infections for dogs.;

  • Yeast Overgrowth – Yeast exists naturally in healthy ears, but can get out of balance. If your dog’s ears are yeasty-smelling with a dark brown discharge, it’s often yeast overgrowth. Yeasty ears may be itchy but are usually not painful.
  • Bacterial Infection – Your dog can also get bacterial infections in her ear. You may notice a bad-smelling yellow or greenish discharge if your dog has a bacterial infection.
  • Foreign Bodies – Your dog can pick up grass seeds or foxtails, a bug, water from swimming, or even dirt in her ears. It will usually cause her to shake her head to get rid of the debris. If she’s unsuccessful, she may develop irritation and bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
  • Aural Hematoma – If your dog shakes her head or scratches it too hard, she can cause an aural hematoma. This is a type of bruise that forms a pool of blood between the skin and the ear flap cartilage. Most vets will recommend surgery for this condition. Don’t rush into it! There are gentler treatment options.
  • Ear Mites – Ear mites are a parasite infection and a type of mange. Dogs with ear mites will often shake their heads and scratch at their ears. Young dogs often get mites and they’re very contagious, so you’ll want to treat them fast. You can usually identify mites by the “coffee-ground” discharge they leave in the ear. The outer ear may also have reddish crustiness.

But an ear infection is rarely just an ear infection. Like other skin conditions, ear problems are often a symptom of an underlying disease. A lot of the time you’ll need to look a lot deeper than the ears to help your dog overcome her problems.

Symptoms of Infections in your dogs ear

Among the most common signs of dog ear infections are whining, shaking the head, and pawing at the ears. After all, those ears hurt and your dog is trying to stop the pain. As you inspect the ears, however, you may find they smell or have a discharge. That’s common with ear infections. Typical symptoms include:

  • Whining and shaking the head
  • Pawing at the ears
  • Odor
  • Brown or yellowish discharge
  • Redness
  • Scabs or crusty ears

More extreme symptoms include hearing loss, loss of balance, and strange eye movements.

How are Dog Ear Infections Treated?

Your veterinarian will thoroughly clean your dog’s ears using a medicated ear cleanser. Your vet may also prescribe an ear cleanser and a topical medication for you to use at home. In severe cases, your vet may prescribe oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications.

Most uncomplicated ear infections resolve within 1–2 weeks, once appropriate treatment begins. But severe infections or those due to underlying conditions may take months to resolve, or may become chronic problems. In cases of severe chronic disease where other treatments have failed, your veterinarian may recommend surgery such as a Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA). A TECA surgery removes the ear canal, thus removing the diseased tissue and preventing the recurrence of infection.

It is important to follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely and return to the veterinary hospital for any recommended recheck appointments. Lapses in your dog’s treatment may lead to the recurrence of the infection. It is especially important that you finish the full course of your dog’s medication, even if your dog appears to be getting better. Failure to finish the full course of treatment may lead to additional problems such as resistant infections.


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