does your dog have an ear infection?

Dog shocked

Dog ear infections are smelly, irritating, and just no fun

Ear infections are one of the most common dog diseases, and they are really unpleasant for your BFF. They can also be dangerous to your pet’s hearing if not treated properly. In addition to itchiness, swelling, and goopy discharge, untreated ear infections can also lead to complete hearing loss over time.

If your dog’s ears look or smell funny, or they’re showing any sign of discomfort, we’re here for love, health, and ear infection treatment for your dogBFF’s adorable ears.

Make an appointment

Dog ear infections have a lot of the same symptoms as ear mites, which are most common in puppies and kittens — and incredibly contagious among pets.  If your pup has itchy ears, bring them in for an exam. 

Ear infection

Ear infection signs and symptoms in dogs

Common ear infection symptoms

  • Head shaking
  • Constant ear scratching
  • Foul ear odor
  • Black or yellow ear discharge
  • Greasy brown or gray discharge
  • Ear pain 
  • Whining
  • Rubbing ears against floors or furniture

Chronic and severe ear infection symptoms

  • Ear crusts and scabs
  • Hair loss around the ears from constant scratching 
  • Affected ear droops lower than the other
  • Thickened, swollen or narrowed ear canal
  • Hearing and balance loss
  • Strange eye movements
Your vet

What your vet can do

Your veterinary team will start with the basics, like:

  • What are your dog’s symptoms and when did they start?
  • Do they have any allergies? 
  • Is this their first ear infection?
  • Do you often clean their ears?
  • If you have, what kind of ear cleaner did you use?
  • Do they like to swim a lot?

Then your vet will examine your dog’s ears, check to see if their eardrum is intact, and take a sample of ear discharge so they can identify what’s causing the infection. 

Infected ears can be very sensitive, so your veterinary team may recommend a light sedative to help them get a good look or a sample.

ointment tube

Be here for the ears

Treatment for a dog ear infection involves cleaning their ears, then treating them with topical ear medication. How to treat dog ear infections

Your vet may do the initial cleaning and treatment before sending you home with at-home care instructions. Follow these instructions carefully. Even if their ears start to look better, make sure to give your dog the full course of treatment.

Doctor checking Dog's Ear

One ear, three kinds of infections

There are three types of ear infections in dogs, with different names depending on where the infection is located

  • Otitis externa, or outer ear infection
  • Otitis media, or middle ear infection
  • Otitis interna, or inner ear infection

Otitis externa is the most common, and it needs quick treatment so it doesn’t spread on down the canal and affect the middle and inner ear.

Yeast in the ear often causes infections

Your dog normally has a kind of yeast, Malassezia pachydermatis, that lives on their skin and in their ears. If the inside of your dog’s ear gets a little too moist, their ear canal becomes the perfect dark and cozy hollow for yeast to go wild and cause a full-blown ear infection. This is why many home remedies can actually make infections worse — most of them are mainly moisture-causing water.

See why you shouldn’t treat ear infections without a vet

Dog on doctor's Shoulder

Why do dogs get ear infections? 

If your dog seems to be an ear infection magnet, a few factors may be at play.

Dog on grass

Ear size, shape, and hairiness

Long, floppy ears that cover the ear canal, or excessive ear hair, can trap moisture and make the ear a very tempting home for bacteria and yeast.


Food allergies can increase the risk of ear infections. See more about food allergy symptoms 

Foreign material or ear masses

Something stuck in your dog’s ears, like grass or seeds, or a tumor or mass can lead to an ear infection.

How can you help prevent ear infections?

You can definitely help lower your dog’s risk of ear infection with a little TLC.

Dog with Doctor and Owner
  • Ask your vet how to properly clean your dog’s ears, and how often to do it 
  • Wipe your dog’s ears dry with a cotton ball or two after they go for a swim or have a bath. See tips on bathing your pet
  • If your dog has major ear hair, ask your vet how to deal with it, or ask your groomer to do as part of their regular routine
  • Properly manage any underlying conditions, like allergies, to help prevent future ear infections

In some cases, chronic ear infections require lifelong treatment and management.

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