Dog Health

Guide to Dog Ear Infections

Guide to Dog Ear Infections

A Guide to Dog Ear Infections

If you’ve ever had an ear infection, you know they can be a very unpleasant experience. Unfortunately, dogs are even more susceptible to these painful infections than humans and most dogs will experience at least one in their life. 

The prevalence of ear infections means that they are a condition all dog owners should be aware of. Here, Pedigree® gives you the essential facts, so you can recognise ear infections in your dog and know when to seek help from your vet. 

Types of Dog Ear Infection

Dog ear infections are classified according to the area they affect. The three main types are:


  • Otitis externa – located in the external portion of the ear canal
  • Otitis media – an infection that affects the middle portion of the ear canal
  • Otitis interna – found in the very inner portion of the ear canal

Otitis media and interna both usually result from an external infection spreading inwards. 

What Causes Dog Ear Infections?

Dog ear infections are normally caused by an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast in the ear canal. This can occur for several reasons.

If your dog suffers from allergies, hormone imbalances, or hypothyroidism, this can create disfunction in their immune system. When this occurs, the bacteria or yeast found naturally in your dog’s ear can grow more than usual and disturb the delicate balance. This causes an ear infection.

Water and Ear Infections

Ear infections are also commonly caused by increased moisture in the ear. Canine ears are structured with L-shaped ear canals, which can cause water to become trapped inside. This creates a hospitable environment for microorganisms to grow and so dogs commonly contract ear infections after bathing or swimming.  

This occurs even more frequently for dogs with long, floppy ears as they also help to trap water inside the ear canal.

What are the Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections?

Canine ear infections are not always painful and sometimes the only symptoms are a build-up of wax and discharge in the ear; however, other dogs frequently exhibit other signs of infection. These include:


  • Head shaking
  • Scratching the infected ear
  • Odour
  • Inflammation of the ear canal
  • Pain
  • Crusting or scabbing inside the ears

If your dog is presenting with any of these symptoms you should seek advice from a vet.

How to Prevent Ear Infections

It is always better to prevent an ear infection than treat it. Ensure that you always dry your dog’s ears thoroughly after they bathe or swim. 

You should also clean your dog’s ears regularly, although be careful how you do so. Always use a cleaning solution designed for treating canine ears and remove it using absorbent gauze, rather than materials that may leave irritating fibres behind.

Diagnosing Dog Ear Infections

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, you should contact your vet immediately. It is important that you tackle the disease as quickly as possible and prevent it spreading further into the ear if possible. 

Your vet will want a range of information, including how long your dog’s symptoms have persisted, if you have cleaned your dog’s ears and if your dog has been swimming or had a bath recently. Your vet will then perform a physical inspection to determine if your dog has an ear infection and possibly take samples to test.

How to Treat Dog Ear Infections

Ear infections can generally be cured within two weeks of beginning effective treatment. This will normally start with a vet treating your pet’s ears using a medical cleaner and will be continued by you at home, using a prescribed cleaner. In severe cases, a vet may also prescribe oral antibiotics. 

If your dog is suffering with chronic or frequently recurring infections, your vet may recommend surgery to remove the ear canal. This is only necessary in extreme cases. 


Although ear infections can be a painful and scary condition, remember they are not usually serious, if handled quickly and effectively. If your dog exhibits any symptoms of an ear infection, stay calm and seek immediate advice from your vet.