Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment (2023)

health problems in dogs

Ear infections (otitis externa) in dogs are common and, if left untreated, can cause serious damage; you should do this

Written byCristina Kaplan

— Clinically reviewed byDr. Michelle Sirviente

updatedDecember 14, 2022

Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment (1)

infected ear


  • What is otitis externa?
  • look for signs
  • Possible Causes
  • Breeds prone to ear infections
  • How to clean the ears
  • prevention
  • common questions

the essential

  • Otitis externa is inflammation of the external auditory canal.— Which is usually caused by ear mites, bacteria and/or fungal infections
  • The ear canal may hurt or itch— Pet owners should be on the lookout for head shakes, bad odor, skin redness, swelling, scratching, and increased discharge. Severe ear infections can also cause hearing loss, head tilting and circling.
  • The main reasons for ear problems range from allergies to injuries. Dogs can get grass seeds in their ears, or pets that swim a lot are candidates for ear infections.
  • A veterinarian can help pet owners with cleaning and treatment. Learning how to properly clean your dog's ears is an essential skill and every pet owner should know the steps.
(Video) Dog Ear infections! The two most common causes of dog ear infections! Dr. Dan explains.

What is otitis externa?

outer ear infectionIt is defined as an inflammation of the external auditory canal, consisting of the pinna and the vertical and horizontal auditory canals up to the eardrum (eardrum). The ear can be divided into the outer ear, middle ear and inner (inner) ear. The inner ear has components that contribute to both hearing and balance.

Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment (2)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

outer ear infections(external otitis) and auricle (pinna) are the most common. Infections of the middle ear (otitis media) and inner ear (otitis interna) are more serious but not as common. A middle ear infection results from the spread of an outer ear infection through a perforated eardrum.

The dog's ear canal is L-shaped and slopes towards the eardrum. That makes dog earsprone to ear infectionsas they create a warm and humid environment. A dog's ear canals should always be clean. Dogs don't tend to build up wax like humans do.

👉If you see yellow or brown material in the ear canals, your dog may have an infection.

signs to observe

There are manySymptoms of an ear infection in dogs.pet owners should monitor. It's best to try to avoid ear problems, but there are breeds that are prone to problems. Regular cleaning can help prevent ear problems and eliminate some symptoms like itching, swelling and odor. However, ear cleaning does not treat an infection. One or both ears can also be affected.

  • itch
  • dor
  • scabs or scabs on the ears
  • swelling or redness in the ear canal
  • shake your head
  • scratch the affected ear
  • Pus or dark brown material in the ear canals
  • Odor

Main causes of ear problems

Due to the shape of the ear canal, the outer ear tends to retain fluid and ear infections can develop quickly. These are some of the most common ear problems in dogs:

  • u bacterialfungal infections (usually the cause). If you see your dog scratching and shaking its head, the reason could be an ear infection. Also pay attention to redness and swelling of the skin folds.
  • allergies (EssenÖenvironmental allergies).Dogs with food and environmental allergies are at higher risk for recurrent ear infections. Allergies can cause bacterial and/or fungal infections.
  • hypothyroidism.Recurring bacterial and fungal infections of the skin and ears often result from hypothyroidism.
  • mass in the ear canal.Pets with ear canal tumors include swollen, itchy, painful ears, persistent foul-smelling discharge (which may be waxy, pus-filled, or bloody), head shaking, and ear scratching.
  • water in the ear canal.When your dog showers or swims, water can get into the ear canal, which can lead to an ear infection.
  • ear mites and parasites.These tiny creatures live in the ear canals and feed on bits of skin. Mites are another common cause of infection, but they are more common in puppies and kittens. They cause severe itching in the ears.
  • Foxtails captured.Foreign objects in the ear canals cause irritation and then infection. If your dog is walking, always look for plants or weeds under the earmuffs.
  • wax buildup. Excess wax and moisture in the ear predisposes to a fungal infection. The discharge may be dark, thick, waxy and have an odor.
  • Wound.Any open wound in the ear or at the entrance to the ear canal can cause an infection.
(Video) How to Identify and Treat an Ear Infection in Your Dog

Breeds prone to ear infections

After an investigationCanadian Veterinary Medical Association, some breeds are more prone to ear infections, “Cocker Spaniels, Jura des Alpes, Brittany Spaniels, Golden Retrievers and West Highland White Terriers are overrepresented (5). Some older studies also show that Red Fox Lab Retrievers, Miniature Poodles, Afghan Hounds, Scottish Terriers, Fox Terriers,Maltese, jgerman shepherdsThey are also predisposed.

Dog breeds with floppy, large, or fluffy ears are also more prone to infections. Dropped and droopy ears reduce airflow and moisture in the ears. These breeds usually include:

  • cockerspaniel
  • Golden Retriever
  • A bottle
  • Red Fox Labrador Retriever
  • Bass

General treatment and diagnosis.

Your vet will run diagnostic tests and an ear exam. The first step is to determine the cause and, depending on the veterinarian's findings, various measures are taken to treat the ears.

  • otoscopic exam
  • Ear mite control and ear cytology (with the microscope)
  • Remove any foreign objects like a fox tail.
  • Clean the ears (see below) and treat them with topical or oral medications

To prevent your pup from getting ear infections in the future, your veterinarian will show you how to properly clean your dog's ears.

Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment (3)

It's time to clean those ears!

How to properly clean a dog's ears

Keep the following items handy so you can clean your dog's ears regularly. If you're at the vet for a wellness appointment, ask if your dog's ears need correction.clean regularlyand for a brief demonstration.

have materials at hand

Your veterinarian can help you choose an appropriate ear cleaner for your dog. Pet owners can use humane care tools including:

  • cotton balls
  • fabrics
  • cotton applicators
(Video) Does your dog have an ear infection - Symptoms of dog ear infection - Quick Guide for beginners

Step 1 -Set up a safe area for your dog to feel comfortable and relaxed while grooming or cleaning his ears.

Step 2 -Check the ear anatomy in the table above and ask your vet if you have additional questions. Again, clean only the outer ear.

Stage 3 -Hold the earplug upright and fill the ear canal with ear cleaning solution. To fill the channel, press the bottle directly into the channel for about 5 seconds.

Level 4 -Holding the ear flap out of the way, use your fingers to massage the base of the ear for about 20-30 seconds.

Step 5 -Cotton balls or cotton swabs can be used to gently clean the ear canal of earwax. Again, the wax you are removing must be visible.

👉Always speak to your veterinarian with questions about over-the-counter ear cleaners and all-natural hops cleaners when your dog has an ear infection.

Most dogs' ears only need cleaning every three to four weeks. However, if your dog is prone to ear infections due to his breed or allergies, it's best to clean his ears every two weeks for maintenance. Always clean your dog's ears after bathing or swimming with a routine ear cleaner that contains a drying agent.epioticIt is an over-the-counter cleaner that removes water from the ear canal and dries out the ear, making it less likely that an infection will develop.

👉Here is our everythingList of most popular ear cleanersFor dogs that don't have ear infections.

Our Vet's Favorite OTC Dog Ear Cleanser: Epi-Otic

Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment (4)

Tried, True and Trusted

Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner

Veterinarians over the years have not hesitated to recommend Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner to pet owners. The gentle solution is ideal for daily use and for dogs with chronic middle ear infections.

Compreh and Chewy

(Video) Why Is My Dog Shaking His Head SO MUCH? | Ear Infections In Dogs | Vet Explains | Dogtor Pete
Compreh and Chewy

This ProductIt is often recommended by veterinarians. Many customers use this cleaner on dogs that are known to have sensitive ears. The solution is non-irritating and works well, usually with ear drops or medications prescribed by the veterinarian.

Ingredients:The main ingredient is 0.2% salicylic acid. The main ingredients are water, ethoxydiglycol and hydrogenated PEG-40.

👉Be sure to work with your veterinarian on the ear cleaner they recommend. Ear cleaners are not intended to treat infections and should only be used to clean your ears.

Prevention to keep your dog away from the vet

Keep the ears clean of secretions and secretions.helps reduce irritation. Ask your vet for best practices and follow the cleaning steps above. Additionally, pet owners should be aware of and take care of chronically dirty ears, and any sign of discomfort warrants a visit to the vet.

Avoid infections with squeaky clean ears

A pet's ear infection may need thorough treatment by a veterinarian. If symptoms are severe, your pup's ears may need a medicated cleaner. External otitis is an infection of the outer ear canal and there are many reasons why this can occur. Pet owners should refer to the list of common ear infection signs above to determine if their dog has a problem. Early treatment and medical advice are important because your vet can diagnose and treat the infection right away.

common questions

Is apple cider vinegar good for dog ear infections?

No. Apple cider vinegar is not recommended for treating an ear infection. It can bring moisture into the ears and make the infection worse.

(Video) Allergy Induced Ear Infections in Dogs

How can I relieve my dog's ear infection?

Cleaning your dog's ears as directed by your vet can help alleviate your dog's ear infection. The drugs used help to quickly resolve the infection.

Can you use white vinegar on a dog's ear?

Simple Vinegar &Home remedies are not recommended.. There are better desiccant ear cleaners and ear medications that are much more effective in cleaning and treating infections.

Can I treat my dog's ear infection at home?

NO! You must first consult a veterinarian to diagnose the reason for the infection. You can treat the infection after consulting with the vet, as the instructions are clear on what to do at home. Over-the-counter medications (like ear mite medications) won't work. It's best to let your local vet clear up the cause of the infection so the appropriate medication can be prescribed.


Ear Infections in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatment? ›

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.

What is the most common treatment for dog ear infection? ›

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.

How do I know if my dogs ear infection is serious? ›

Head Tilt and Shaking

They may also shake their head frequently in an attempt to loosen the pressure in the ear that is causing their pain. Head tilt and head shaking may also be signs of neurological problems in dogs. If this is the only symptom you notice, you should take your dog to the vet for a full checkup.

How can I treat my dog's ear infection without going to the vet? ›

In the meantime, there are some home remedies you can try to ease your pet's discomfort, such as a warm compress, vinegar or hydrogen peroxide ear flush, and the use of natural anti-inflammatory agents like coconut oil or aloe vera gel.

What causes ear infections for dogs? ›

Dogs are more predisposed to ear infections than humans due to the shape of their ear canals. The most common dog ear infections are bacterial infections or yeast infections. Sometimes ear infections can be caused by environmental allergies or endocrine issues.

How do I know if my dog's ear is bacterial or yeast infection? ›

Signs That Your Dog May Have A Yeast Ear Infection

If your dog has a yeast ear infection you may notice one or more of the following symptoms: Red or brown waxy discharge in the ear. Itching, scratching & pawing at the ear. A cheesy or musty smell coming from the ear.

Can I cure my dog's ear infection at home? ›

Never put anything in your dog's ear without veterinary instruction. Your veterinary team can help you find the ideal treatment to treat the infection and give your dog much-needed relief. Itchy, uncomfortable ears can be caused by everything from ear infections to allergies and ear mites.

How long does it take for a dog ear infection to clear up? ›

With treatment in the early stages, an uncomplicated ear infection will typically clear up within just a week or two. If your dog's ear infection is more severe or is caused by an underlying health condition, treatment may be more challenging and may take months to resolve.

What foods cause ear infections in dogs? ›

Sugar feeds the yeast that is naturally present in the dog's body, so when a dog consumes too much sugar, yeast overgrowth occurs in the body and around the ear folds or in the canal, causing infection.

How long is too long for a dog to have an ear infection? ›

With treatment, early-stage ear infections will usually clear up within a week or two. If your dog's ear infection is more severe or is caused by an underlying health condition, treatment may be more challenging and may take months to resolve.

What do vets give for ear infections? ›

Antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin-clavulanate, enrofloxacin, clindamycin, or cefpodoxime) will be used for a bacterial infection for a minimum of six to eight weeks. If the infection is fungal, an anti-fungal medication (most often itraconazole) will be prescribed.

Will Benadryl help my dogs ears? ›

If just the outer area of the ear (not the deeper area) is a little red, they are likely suffering from an allergy that can be remedied with an antihistamine such as Benadryl (diphenhydramine), Zyrtec (cetirizine), or a medicated ear cleaning treatment.

Is hydrogen peroxide good for dogs ear infection? ›

We do not recommend the use of alcohol or hydrogen peroxide to clean your dog's ears. These products can cause inflammation of the ear canal and further exacerbate infections.

What does a dog ear infection look like? ›

The ears often become red and inflamed and develop an offensive odor. A black or yellowish discharge commonly occurs. In chronic cases, the ears may appear crusty or thickened, and the ear canals often become narrowed (stenotic) due to chronic inflammation.

How do I know if my dog has an ear infection or allergies? ›

If you notice your dog scratching their ears or shaking their head more often than usual, dragging the side of their face along the carpet or furniture, smell a bad odor from the ear, or see redness on their inner ear flap or in their ear canal, they could have an ear infection.

What kills yeast infection in dogs ears? ›

For yeast infection, I frequently recommend an ear-cleaning product that contains ketoconazole. Alternatively, for mild yeast infections I will recommend a homemade mixture of 1- part white vinegar to 2-parts warm water as a nice cleaning solution.

How to tell the difference between ear mites and yeast infection? ›

You might notice these physical symptoms as well: swelling, reddish ear wax, and redness. These symptoms are similar to yeast infections, but a significant difference is the dark granules in your dog's ears that resemble coffee grounds. These granules are ear mite discharge.

What is the brown stuff in my dog's ears? ›

Dark brown or black—This type of earwax is commonly associated with yeast and/or bacterial ear infections. It's a good idea to consult with a veterinarian if earwax is this color. Brown—Light brown earwax is normal and expected. If the wax is accompanied by odor or inflammation, it can be a sign of infection.

How much does it cost to treat a dog ear infection? ›

The cost of ear infection treatment varies depending on your location and veterinary practice — but otitis externa treatments, which usually include the exam, ear cleaning and medicine, typically cost between $100 and $175.

Why wont my dogs ear infection go away? ›

Chronic ear infections in dogs can be caused by a variety of reasons, the most common being allergies. However, they can also be caused by foreign material such as grass or dirt, parasitic causes such as ear mites, and ear canal masses and polyps.

What kills bacteria in dogs ears? ›

Wet a soft cloth with warm water. Use that warm and damp soft cloth to wipe down the outer part just inside your pup's ears. Drop warm liquid coconut oil into your dog's ears every two to three hours during the day and before bedtime. Coconut oil will help to kill bacteria causing an infection.

What is the best dog food for dogs with recurring ear infections? ›

If your dog has an ear issue, your veterinarian may suggest a change in your dog's food. In some cases, your veterinarian may recommend a therapeutic hypoallergenic dog food to help limit exposure to potential allergens. Such dog foods may include Hill's® Prescription Diet® brand dog foods.

Does chicken give dogs ear infection? ›

Symptoms of Chicken Allergy in Dogs

Symptoms could include red or itchy skin (especially on the paws, abdomen, groin, face, and ears), rashes, fur loss, or hives. Skin and ear infections commonly occur.

How many times a day should I clean my dogs ear infection? ›

Helpful Dog Ear Care Tips

In general, once per month is a good rule of thumb. Breeds with long, floppy ears or dogs who swim frequently may need to have their ears cleaned every other week, or even weekly. After bathing or swimming, be sure to properly dry your pup's ears.

What point should I take my dog to the vet for ear infection? ›

It's best to see your veterinarian as soon as you notice symptoms because ear infections won't go away on their own. Your veterinarian will take a swab of the ear discharge and look at it under a microscope to see if it's mites, yeast, or bacteria, and then prescribe the appropriate medication.

How do you clean a dog's ear infection? ›

Massage the ear canal between your finger and thumb. Then allow your pet to shake his head to help loosen debris that lies deeper in the canal. Do not use cotton swabs - they may puncture your pet's eardrum. To clean, use small pieces of cotton or tissue to wipe out the ear.

Can I bathe my dog if he has an ear infection? ›

If your dog has ear infections, you do not want to get his ears wet. You can clean his ears outside of the tub without water, but while he is in the tub, protect his ears from getting wet. Wet down your dog with a cup and warm water or use a handheld shower to get your dog wet and ready for washing.

How much Benadryl can I give my dog for an ear infection? ›

According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, the safe dosage is 2-4 milligrams of medication per kilogram of weight, or 0.9 to 1.8 milligrams per pound. This amount can be administered two to three times daily, depending on your dog's symptoms.

Can I put apple cider vinegar in my dog's ear? ›

Apple cider vinegar helps by acting as a cleanser and an anti-fungal and antibacterial agent. Dabbing this into your dog's ears sparingly can help to clean out the inside of their ears and treat the infection.

What are the three types of ear infections in dogs? ›

Dogs can experience three types of ear infections, known otitis externa, media, and internet. The most common is otitis externa, or an outer ear infection, which happens when there is inflammation in the outer ear canal. Otitis media and interna refer to infections of the middle and inner ear canal, respectively.

How can a vet tell if a dog has an inner ear infection? ›

Diagnosis of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

While it is fairly easy to diagnose an outer ear infection, it can be trickier to identify a middle or inner ear infection. Veterinarians will examine the ear canal and can usually identify if inflammation is present within the ear canal.

Will Benadryl help ear infection? ›

Do allergy medicines help ear infections? No. Allergy medicines — such as antihistamines and decongestants — are often used to dry out excess fluids in the body. The latest clinical guidelines from the American Academy of Family Physicians do not recommend using antihistamines or decongestants for ear infections.

What's the difference between ear mites and ear infection in dogs? ›

Ear mites are much more treatable than they used to be, thanks to topical medications like Revolution®. Ear infections can look like ear mites from the outside, but on the inside it is a whole different story. The infection is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria and/or yeast in the ear.

What is the first line treatment for ear infection in dogs? ›

Neomycin should be a first-line treatment. Aminoglycosides and fluoroquinolone antibiotics should not be used unless absolutely required for successful treatment, but they are the most common ingredients in topical otic medications.

Can you buy dog ear infection medicine over the counter? ›

Our choice for the #1 Best Overall ear drops for dogs is Zymox Ear Solution for Dogs & Cats. Most over the counter dog ear drops are designed to clean your dog's ears to help prevent infections. There are some choices that are medicated and cheaper than prescription drops.

What is the one time treatment for dogs ears? ›

Claro® (florfenicol, terbinafine, mometasone furoate) Otic Solution. Claro is the first FDA-approved, veterinarian-administered, single-dose treatment regimen for canine otitis externa. Just one dose per infected ear, administered by you, removes the uncertainty of client compliance.

Do dogs always need antibiotics for ear infections? ›

Oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for severe cases. While most uncomplicated infections will clear up within 1 to 2 weeks, severe symptoms or underlying conditions may lead to chronic ear infection or take longer to be resolved.

What do vets give dogs for ear infections? ›

Antibiotics (e.g., amoxicillin-clavulanate, enrofloxacin, clindamycin, or cefpodoxime) will be used for a bacterial infection for a minimum of six to eight weeks. If the infection is fungal, an anti-fungal medication (most often itraconazole) will be prescribed.

What antibiotics can I give my dog for ear infection without vet? ›

Best Over-The-Counter Medicated Treatments
  • Most Popular: Zymox Pet King Brand Otic Enzymatic Cleaner. View on Chewy. ...
  • Best Value: Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Ear Therapy. View on Amazon. ...
  • Best Medicated Ingredients: Vetnique Labs Oticbliss Medicated Ear Flush. View on Amazon.

How long does it take to cure dog ear infection? ›

With treatment in the early stages, an uncomplicated ear infection will typically clear up within just a week or two. If your dog's ear infection is more severe or is caused by an underlying health condition, treatment may be more challenging and may take months to resolve.

What is a home solution for dog ears? ›

Olive oil works as a cleaner for dog's ears; do not use an excessive amount. Put a few drops in the ear while massaging it and then use a cotton ball to remove the debris. Dab a cotton ball with hydrogen peroxide and add drops of coconut oil for your dog's ears; it is an effective cleanser.

What happens if you ignore a dogs ear infection? ›

Ear infections can be very painful if left untreated, and can also cause permanent damage to the ear canal and middle ear if ignored. Redness, swelling, a bad smell or discharge are all cues for you to call the vet.


1. Ear Infections In Dog: How to Treat & Prevent Them
(Dog Pet Guide)
2. Dog Yeast Ear Infections: Great OTC Home Remedy
(Veterinary Secrets)
3. Your Dog Has Ear infection? Let's Talk About It.
(Doc Ferds Recio)
4. 5 Dog Ear Infection Myths
(Veterinary Secrets)
5. Dog Ear Infections: DIY Remedies That Work
(Dogs Naturally Magazine)
6. Ear Infections in Dogs
(Heron Lakes Animal Hospital)


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