Dog ear infections are most caused by bacteria or yeast. Thick hair in the ear, ear mites, trapped water, a tumor or foreign body in the ear canal can cause this overgrowth of bacteria or yeast. Infections may also develop when allergies or an excessive amount of ear wax are present. Frequent bathing and swimming can also lead to infections. Since a dog’s ear canals plunge downward and then horizontally from the ear opening, it is difficult for caught debris or water to be released as it must work its way upward to escape and this makes dogs especially susceptible to ear infections.
Symptoms of a possible Ear Infection:
- Ear scratching
- Smelly ears
- Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
- Crusted or scabby skin on the near ear flap
- Hair loss around the ear
- Wiping the ear area on the floor or furniture
- Head shaking or head tilt
- Loss of balance
- Unusual eye movements
- Walking in circles
- Hearing loss
Are certain breeds more prone to ear infections?
Dogs who have floppy ears can be especially vulnerable. These include cocker spaniels, golden retrievers and poodles. Dogs who tend to grow hair in the inner ear canal, such as schnauzers, are also susceptible to ear infections.
How Are Ear Infections Diagnosed?
A veterinarian can usually diagnose an ear infection by examining the ear canal and ear drum. This may be done during a routine consultation but may sometimes require sedation or full anesthesia. An ear smear of the ear discharge may be examined to look for bacteria, yeast and parasites. Our vets may also suggest bloodwork and allergy tests to determine the root causes.
It’s important not to self-diagnose ear problems, as improperly treated infections may lead to chronic pain or deafness in dogs. Please always allow your vet to determine the cause of your dog’s symptoms.
How Are Ear Infections Treated?
Many ear infections can be treated with a professional cleaning followed by regular cleaning and medication given at home. Your veterinarian may prescribe topical and/or oral medicine.
How Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?
- Check your dog’s ears regularly for discharge, odor, swelling and other symptoms of infection.
- If his ear canal appears dirty, clean with a cotton ball dampened with a solution suggested by your vet—but don’t clean too often or deeply that you cause irritation.
- After baths and swimming, be sure to dry your dog’s ears as thoroughly and carefully as you can.
- If your dog grows hair in or around the opening of his ear canals, request that your vet/groomer removes some of this hair.
- Inner-ear skin is delicate, so ask your vet to demonstrate the proper method for maintaining your dog’s ear health.
When Is It Time to See the Vet?
If your dog is showing any of the symptoms described above, see the vet as soon as possible. Please also bear in mind that even though dogs in pain don’t always show it with outward signs, a sudden increase in aggression can be an indicator of physical pain. Such behavioral changes should also prompt a veterinary exam.