Ear infections are common in dogs, and can affect one or both of your dog’s ears at any one time.
They can affect your dog’s middle ear or outer ear canal, and can vary in severity. However, once the cause of the ear infection has been identified, they will normally clear up easily with the right course of treatment.
What causes ear infections in dogs?
Some breeds of dog will be more prone to developing ear infections than others. This normally includes breeds with long or floppy ears, or those with excessive hair growth inside the ear. These factors can restrict air flow and trap moisture in the ears, making them the perfect breeding ground for yeast and bacteria.
Ear infections are more common in the following breeds of dog:
- Afghan Hound
- Basset Hound
- Bull Mastiff
- Coon Hound
- Cocker Spaniel
- Cavalier King Charles
- Golden Retriever
- Great Dane
- Miniature Poodle
- Portuguese Water Dog
- Saint Bernard
- Shih Tzu
- Springer Spaniel
However, ear infections are not always caused by the build-up of bacteria or yeast in the ear. Foreign bodies, such as seeds or plant material, can easily become lodged in the ear canal, while parasites, such as fleas, lice, mites and ticks, can cause irritation and lead to inflammation and infection if left untreated. Allergies, including environmental allergies (such as mold or dust mites), food allergies or flea allergies, are also a common cause of ear infections, as well as growths, tumors and abscesses.
Your dog’s age, as well as their breed, may also play a role in the likelihood of them developing an ear infection. A build-up of wax in the ear is a common cause of ear infections in older dogs, while recently vaccinated puppies can be more susceptible to ear infections as their immune systems will be compromised.
How can I tell if my dog has an ear infection?
If your dog experiences any of the following symptoms, then it may indicate they have developed an ear infection:
- Head shaking, scratching or rubbing ears against carpets or furniture
- Dark colored discharge
- Abnormal odor
- Redness or swelling
- Hair loss or scabs around the outer ear
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
The symptoms of an ear infection will be extremely uncomfortable for your dog, so be sure to visit your veterinarian to obtain a proper diagnosis and seek advice around the best course of treatment for your pet.
How is an ear infection diagnosed?
Your veterinarian will be able to determine whether your dog is suffering from an ear infection. They will normally take a small sample from the affected ear to find out whether any bacteria or fungi are present, as well as look for out for any lumps or bumps, sores or parasites. Once they have found out what’s causing the infection, they’ll advise you on the best way to treat it.
The dangers of not seeking veterinary advice for your dog's ear infection
As there are many different causes of ear infections in dogs, it’s important to always visit your veterinarian and obtain a proper diagnosis. Using the wrong type of treatment may cause the infection to worsen and could even lead to deafness, so even if your dog has suffered from ear infections in the past, always speak to your veterinarian for advice around the best course of treatment for your pet.
How to treat ear infections in dogs
Your veterinarian will normally prescribe a course of oral antibiotics or topical drugs and will clean the affected ear(s) thoroughly. They will normally schedule a check-up for a couple of weeks later to see if the infection has cleared fully. If the infection was caused by your pet’s allergies, your veterinarian may advise making changes to your pet’s environment to prevent any future ear infections occurring.
How to prevent ear infections in dogs
Ear infections are common in dogs, particularly in high-risk breeds or those who suffer from allergies. While there is often nothing you can do to prevent ear infections entirely, there are several precautions you can take to help minimize the chances of your dog developing an ear infection:
- Check your dog’s ears regularly for signs of redness or discharge. The sooner the infection is diagnosed, the easier it will be to treat.
- If your dog has excessive hair growth inside its ear, it’s a good idea to have it removed. Your local groomer or your veterinarian will be able to do this, or can show you how to remove it safely yourself.
- Dogs who frequently swim or bathe, or live in more humid climates, are also more prone to developing ear infections. Always ensure your dog’s ear are clean and dry after swimming or bathing, as this will help prevent the growth of bacteria or yeasts in the ears.
- Clean your pet’s ears regularly, as recommended by your veterinarian.
How to clean your dog’s ears
Keeping your dog’s ears clean helps keep your dog healthy and can help prevent ear infections. However, dog’s ears are sensitive, and cleaning them in the wrong way or cleaning them too frequently can cause serious damage, so it’s important to speak to your veterinarian before adopting an ear-cleaning routine for your dog.
Here’s our guide to cleaning your dog’s ears safely and effectively but always check with your veterinarian first:
- Fill your dog’s ear with a good amount of cleaning solution. Your Veterinarian can make a recommendation.
- Hold a ball of cotton wool over the opening of your dog’s ear before massaging the base of the ear to loosen any debris.
- Stand back while your dog shakes their head to remove the majority of cleaner from their ear.
- Wipe away any excess dirt or liquid from the outer ear with another clean cotton wool ball or tissue.
- Allow your dog’s ears to dry before administering any drops or ointment which may have been prescribed by your veterinarian.
- Repeat as often as recommended by your veterinarian.