Canine Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Canine Ear infectionEar infections are a common health issue that affects dogs of all ages and breeds. If left untreated, they can lead to serious complications, including hearing loss and damage to the ear canal and middle ear. In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms, and treatment options for canine ear infections.

What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

Canine ear infections are commonly caused by bacteria or yeast. However, there are several other factors that can contribute to their development, including:

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal and feed on your dog’s blood. They can cause intense itching and inflammation, leading to secondary bacterial or yeast infections.

Excessive Hair

Dogs with long hair around their ears are more prone to ear infections because the hair can trap moisture and debris, creating a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

Moisture or Wax Buildup

Excess moisture or wax buildup in the ear canal can also promote bacterial or yeast growth.

Foreign Bodies

Objects, such as grass awns or foxtails, can get lodged in your dog’s ear canal, causing irritation and infection.


Allergies to environmental allergens, such as pollen or dust, or food allergens can cause inflammation in the ear canal, leading to infection.


Dogs with hypothyroidism have an underactive thyroid gland, which can cause changes in the skin and coat, including the ears. These changes can increase the risk of ear infections.

How Can I Tell if My Dog Has an Ear Infection?

It’s essential to recognize the signs of an ear infection early on to prevent complications. The following symptoms may indicate that your dog needs to have their ears checked by a veterinarian:

  • Scratching of the ear or area around the ear
  • Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusts or scabs on the inside of the outer ear
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Rubbing of the ear and surrounding area on the floor or furniture
  • Head shaking or head tilt
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss

If you notice any of these symptoms, make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

How Are Ear Infections Treated?

Ear infections are treated with professional cleanings, followed by medication given at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical and/or oral medication, depending on the severity of the infection.

It’s important to complete the full course of medication prescribed by your veterinarian, even if your dog’s symptoms improve before the medication is finished. If you stop treatment too early, the infection may not be fully resolved, leading to recurrence.

When Is It Time to See the Vet?

If your dog shows any of the symptoms described above, they should be seen by a veterinarian as soon as possible. Ear infections can be excruciating and can harm both the ear canal and middle ear if left untreated.

If your dog is prone to ear infections, your veterinarian may prescribe a multiple-dose size ear wash for any future mild flare-ups. However, if the infections become common, your veterinarian may need to examine the ear canal and eardrum further to pinpoint the infection source. This may require sedation, especially if the dog is in a lot of pain.

A sample of ear discharge is examined, looking for bacteria, yeast, and parasites. If a bacterial infection is suspected, your veterinarian may send samples of the ear discharge to a laboratory to identify the bacteria causing the infection.

Because there are multiple causes and contributing factors that cause ear infections in dogs, your veterinarian must obtain an accurate initial diagnosis. This may involve ruling out other health conditions or allergies that may contribute to the infection. Your veterinarian may also recommend regular ear cleanings and inspections to help prevent future infections.

For additional information or questions, please reach out.