Ear Infection in Dogs

Ear infection in dogs can turn serious if left untreated and is a chronic problem for many breeds. In this post, our Flat Rock vets list the different types of ear infections and how they are treated and diagnosed.


What are ear infections in dogs?

Ear infections in dogs are fairly common. If your dog starts to exhibit symptoms, you’ll probably notice quickly. They may shake their head, whine or scratch their ear. Wax buildup or discharge may become a problem.

But what if your dog is asymptomatic, and what may happen if the infection goes untreated? Today, our Flat Rock vets share some insights about ear infections in dogs.

You may be surprised to learn there are actually three types of ear infections in dogs. They include:

Otitis Externa (Outer Ear)

Also known as “otitis externa” or “infection of the external ear canal”, outer ear infection is one of the most common types diagnosed in dogs.

Otitis Media (Middle Ear) and Otitis Interna (Inner Ear)

Outer ear infections that have gone undetected or untreated can often lead to infections in the middle and inner ear. These can turn very serious and may lead to vestibular symptoms, along with facial paralysis and deafness.

This is why it’s critical that outer ear infections are detected early and that every reasonable effort is made to prevent infection from occurring.

Which dog breeds are susceptible to ear infections?

Some breeds are more vulnerable to ear infections due to the shape of their ear canals. These include dogs with floppy, large or hair years such as Miniature Poodles and Cocker Spaniels. However, any breed can experience ear infections.

Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs

Aside from wax buildup and discharge in the ear canal, some dogs will not show any symptoms of ear infection and in others, serious symptoms can appear. Serious symptoms may include:

  • Pain
  • Itchiness
  • Redness or swelling in the ear canal
  • Crusting or scabs in the ears
  • Odor
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Head shaking
  • Dark discharge

Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs

More fluid tends to collect in dogs’ ear canals than humans, due to our furry friends’ L-shaped ear canal. This leaves them more vulnerable to infection.

Bacteria, yeast or a mix of both are common causes of infection. Other factors that can contribute to infections include:

  • Injury to ear canal
  • Allergies (skin diseases or food sensitivities)
  • Moisture, which creates an environment where yeast and bacteria thrive, causing bacterial ear infections in dogs
  • Wax buildup

Diagnosis & Treatment

If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, you’ll want to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible and have it treated quickly, to both alleviate immediate pain and discomfort and prevent infection from spreading to the inner or middle ear.

Prepare to brief your vet on your dog’s medical history, ear infection symptoms, recent activities, swimming, grooming and diet. The veterinarian will then perform a physical examination, including a close inspection of the ears.

A medicated ear cleanser can be used to clean your dog’s ears, before the vet prescribes a topical medication for at-home use. 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.

Surgery to remove the ear canal may be recommended in cases of severe chronic disease. This would eliminate diseased tissue and prevent infection from recurring.

What can happen if my dog’s ear infection is left untreated?

A qualified vet will need to treat your dog right away if he is showing signs of ear infection. An untreated ear infection or lapses in treatment can develop into severe infection and lead to serious issues.

If antibiotics are prescribed, ensure the full course of treatment is completed, even if your dog’s ear infection looks as if it’s cleared up before the antibiotics are finished. As mentioned above, untreated outer ear infections may lead to more serious middle and inner ear infections.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your dog may have an ear infection? Our vets have experience in diagnosing and treating many illnesses and conditions. in pets. Contact our Flat Rock vets at Western Carolina Regional Animal Hospital & Veterinary Emergency Hospital right away to schedule an appointment.

Ear Infections in Dogs, Flat Rock Vet

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