Dog Ear Infections: Guide to Causes, Symptoms and Treatments in 2020

A Guide to Dog Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

You know how awful it is when you get an ear infection, or even just a really bad itch in your ears? For dogs, the feeling is even worse because they can’t express or do anything about it. The only thing they can do is try and scratch at the itch and hope that their owner notices.

So as dog owners, it is our responsibility to understand our pets and give them a healthy and happy life.

If you’re looking to learn a bit more about this canine health issue, Feedfond has you covered. Here’s a guide to all that you need to know about ear infections in dogs and how to go about treating them in 2020. 

All About Ear Infections in Dogs

All About Ear Infections in Dogs

Knowing the anatomy of a dog’s ear will help you to understand the severity of the different ear infections they may get. A dog’s ear can be divided into three parts – the outer, middle and inner parts. 

Infections in the outer ear are easier to spot and are more common than middle and inner ear infections. This is because outer ears are more exposed to water, bacteria, yeast and ear mites.

However, if these outer ear infections are not treated in time, they can spread to the middle and inner ear. What’s more, a dog’s ear canal is L-shaped, making it easy for moisture and other ear infections to settle there hidden from view.

Once the middle and inner ear has been infected, your dog may suffer from more serious problems like hearing loss, balance issues and neurological disorders such as facial paralysis.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections

Here are some of the warning signs of a canine ear infection:

  • Discharge from the ear that is yellow, brown or bloody in color
  • A foul-smell is a sure sign of an ear infection
  • Scabs, crustiness or flakiness in your dog’s ears
  • Itchy ears that are constantly being scratched and rubbed against furniture or floors
  • Frequent shaking, tilting or swinging of the head
  • Problems with maintaining balance or if you notice your dog walking in circles
  • Redness and inflammation of the ear
  • Unusual eye movement and pupils that are not equal in size
  • Your dog might not want to chew their food and opening their mouth is painful
  • Rapid ear hair loss
  • Not be listening to your commands due to hearing loss
  • Nausea or vomiting

Which Dogs are Vulnerable?

Ear infections are a very common health problem faced by all dogs, no matter the breed. However certain breeds with characteristics like long floppy ears, thick ear hair and more exposed ear canals are more vulnerable to infection. Dogs that are allergic to fleas are also more likely to get ear infections.

Some of the species more likely to get ear infections include:

  • Spaniels like Cocker Spaniels and Springer Spaniels
  • Retrievers like Labrador Retrievers, Portuguese Water dogs, and Golden Retrievers
  • Hounds like Beagles, Basset Hounds, and Dachshunds
  • Setters like Irish Setters and English Setters
  • Hairy dog breeds like Schnauzers, Poodles and Shih Tzus

However, the risk of ear infections also depend greatly on diet, ear cleanliness and the lifestyle of a dog, and not solely on breed. Treatment differs according to the cause of the infection. 

Related Read: Best Dog Ear Cleaners Review: Natural & Safe Choices

The Most Common Types of Ear Infections in Dogs

The Most Common Types of Ear Infections in Dogs

Here are some of the most common types of ear infections to look out for, along with their causes and the usual methods of treatment and prevention.

1. Ear Infections Because of Foreign Objects

Airborne particles, water and even ear wax itself can settle in your dog’s ears and cause a lot of damage. Just like humans, dogs are more vulnerable to certain types of infections during hayfever seasons like spring.


The most common culprits for dog ear infections are usually airborne allergens like pollen, mold, grass seeds and dust. Wax buildup and excessive moisture accumulation in your dog’s ears can also cause infections. Dogs can even develop ear infections due to ear drops drying up inside their ears!


To avoid infection, you should give your dog regular baths and wash away any accumulated dust and dirt from their paws. When it’s allergy season, be extra careful and try to keep your dog indoors. During walks, keep them away from grass and avoid forests. Instead, try and stick to concrete roads.


The only treatment for getting rid of foreign objects is to clean out your dog’s ears regularly. You should check your dog’s ears every day and make sure they are clean. Something as simple as a dead fly stuck inside your dog’s ears could be responsible.

2. Food Allergy-Related Ear Infections

Dogs can be allergic to a lot of food and have a pretty bad reaction to it. But be aware that food allergies are not the same as food intolerance. They’re basically a hostile immune reaction to a protein that releases histamines or other substances that cause allergic reactions in your dog.

Along with the usual symptoms of ear infections and yellow or brown discharge, your dog may show other signs of a food allergy as well such as frequent vomiting and diarrhea. If ear infections are a common health problem for your dog, it’s probably because of a food allergy.


The most likely food allergens for dogs are meats like beef and chicken, corn, wheat, dairy and, eggs. Gelatin found in oils and additives like artificial coloring, flavors, and chemicals is also likely to cause an ear infection.


There’s not much you can really do to prevent a food allergy in your dog. However, you should make sure that your dog has a well-balanced diet with the right amount of nutrients for a healthy immune system. Giving your dog Omega 3 oils, vitamin C and probiotics is also a good way to strengthen their immune system.


The only effective and long-lasting treatment for a food allergy is to change your dog’s diet. Allergic ingredients are not only found in dog food, but also in dog treats. You should start your dog on an elimination diet, cutting out different foods to identify what is causing the allergy. Once the allergen is found, it should be removed from your dog’s diet completely.

Usually, the next course of action would be to introduce your dog to a new protein like rabbit, kangaroo or fish meat. You could also try a hydrolyzed diet in order to neutralize the effects of the allergen.

Related ReadCan Dogs Eat This? Foods You Can and Can’t Share With Your Dog

3. Bacterial Ear Infections

Ear canals are susceptible to breeding grounds for bacteria. If your dog’s ears have a light brown, yellow, green or even bloody discharge, it’s probably a bacterial infection. Puppies and senior dogs are more likely to get bacterial infections as they have weaker immune systems.


The common culprits for these infections are:

  • Staphylococcus bacteria, which give off a light brown ear discharge
  • Pseudomonas, which give off a black watery discharge
  • Proteus mirabilis, which gives off a yellow discharge


When you bath your dog, make sure that no moisture gets into your dog’s ears. Placing cotton balls in your dog’s ears is a good way to keep the water away from the ear canals. Regularly giving your dog Vitamin C supplements can actually boost the immune system and prevent bacterial infections as well.


The first thing to do in such cases is to give your dog antibiotics. Other treatments include the use of chlorhexidine shampoos and bleach to eliminate the bacteria. 

4. Yeast Ear Infections

Yeast infections are pretty similar to other dog infections, but they’re characterized by intensive itching, flaking, and redness, along with overheating of the ears. There might also be a smelly, waxy discharge from the ears. Long-eared dogs are more vulnerable to yeast infections than other breeds.


The uncontrollable growth of the Malassezia yeast is usually responsible for yeast infections in your dog’s ears. Yeast infections might also arise from allergies when an excessive amount of oil is produced or when a dog’s ears have accumulated excessive moisture. These wet conditions are perfect for the yeast to thrive.


To prevent yeast infections, allergies should be treated properly and as early as possible. Your dog’s ears should always be kept dry. And if your dog has hair growing out of their ears, make sure to regularly pluck them.

If your dog swims a lot, then you should take some preventive measures to keep their ears dry. Spray a solution of one cup of water, two cups of vinegar and one tablespoon of rubbing alcohol on the outer part of your dog’s ear canal before and after a swim.


As for treatment, topical antifungal creams will treat yeast infections within two to three weeks. Dietary changes like avoiding sugar will also get rid of yeast faster, and stop them from multiplying.

5. Parasitic Ear Infections

Ear infections due to parasites like ear mites are characterized by a ground coffee-like substance in your dog’s ears, along with itchiness, irritation, and inflammation. Puppies tend to become infected with ear mites more frequently than adults.

Ear mites feed on your dog’s ear wax and oil secretions and can cause inflammation and infection. Infections caused by ear mites tend to have a visible brown discharge. If you notice that your dog is showing signs of an ear infection, and they have a dark brown sticky or crumbly coating inside the ear, it’s probably because of ear mites.


Ear mites are pesky little creatures that can seriously annoy your dog. They feed on the wax and oil in your dog’s ear. They are more common in cats than dogs but are easily spread among animals. This is why dogs who share a space with cats are more likely to suffer from ear mites.


You should regularly clear up any debris in your dog’s ears. Never use Q-tips as they might push the debris further inside the ear. Stick to cotton balls dipped in olive or baby oil and navigate the ear canal very carefully to remove the debris.


If your dog’s ears have a low ph level, it is less likely to develop ear mites. Anti-parasitic medicine, as well as dog-friendly ear cleansers and topical creams, are common treatments for these bugs. Complete elimination can take around 10 to 30 days. 

Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections

Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections

Ear infections aren’t always a serious matter and treating these minor health issues by a vet can be expensive. However, you shouldn’t leave them untreated as they can get worse and won’t just go away on their own.

So, what’s the solution? Well, there are some homemade remedies for these infections that are mild enough not to require a vet visit. These remedies not only treat the infection itself, but they also alleviate the symptoms that are bothering your dog.

The first thing you should do, before trying out any homemade remedy is to clean out your dog’s ear with water. This will clear out the ear canal and allow your remedy to be more effective.

1. Warm compress

If your dog has an infected ear, a warm compress will do wonders in getting rid of the pain and swelling, as well as the redness. Simply wet a towel with warm water, wring it out to get rid of the excess water and place the towel on the infected ear.

2. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a wonderful ear cleaner for your dog, but a painful option if their ears are already red and swollen. However, if the infection isn’t that bad yet, apple cider vinegar can actually serve as a good antiseptic and anti-inflammatory to soothe discomfort.

The trick is to take equal amounts of apple cider and water and apply a bit of this mix to the ear with a syringe. Make sure to add 10 drops to the infected ear daily. You could also dip a cotton ball in the mixture and gently clean out your dog’s ears. Continue this treatment for two weeks to completely cure the infection.  This works for chronic ear infections as well.

3. Macerated Garlic

This remedy is simple and effective but takes time to formulate. It involves steeping two or three garlic cloves in olive oil for 14 days. When the steeping is done, strain out the solution and keep it in a jar. Use a dropper to apply two or three  drops in your dog’s infected ear every day, until the infection is gone

4. Green Tea

For this remedy, you have to soak two green tea bags in boiling water for 10 minutes and then let the tea cool down. Apply 10 drops of this mixture with a syringe or dip a cotton ball and apply it to the ear twice a day. This is great for relieving the pressure of inflammation and sore ears.

5. Mullein

Mullein is great at tackling bacterial ear infections because of its antibacterial properties. A mixture of five to six drops of mullein oil added to garlic oil should get rid of a bacterial infection in about 10 days. You could also put some mullein leaves in a jar, add one or two cloves of garlic and some oil, and allow it to rest for two to three weeks.

After warming the mixture, you should strain and apply it using a cotton ball or dropper. Your dog’s ears will be healed in no time! 

6. Aloe Vera Gel

Aloe vera has wonderful healing powers, especially for ear infections. All you have to do is warm the store-bought aloe gel and put it on your dog’s ears two to three times a day. This is a very good ear cleaner and gets rid of inflammation, redness, and pain.

7. Coconut Oil

Coconut oil works magic not only for humans but for dogs as well. Warm two tablespoons of coconut oil on low heat and add one or two garlic cloves to the solution. You should apply this remedy to your dog’s ears with a dropper or cotton ball twice a day, for at least seven days.

8. Baking Soda

Baking soda is an excellent solution for getting rid of fungal infections. Add one teaspoon of baking soda to a liter of water. Mix and place this in a bottle, and spray or pour it onto the affected area. Continue doing this for a week and you will be sure to see results. 

Important Read: 7 Benefits of Turmeric for Dogs and How It Should be Fed

Final Thoughts

Ear infections can make your dog’s life a living hell, with a constant sense of discomfort, itchiness, and pain. And if left untreated, they might have some pretty serious and permanent health consequences as well. 

This is why it’s extremely important to always check your dog’s ears and keep them clean. The first time you suspect an ear infection, the best thing to do is to visit the vet and identify exactly what is causing the problem.

Sometimes ear infections can be red flags for more serious underlying problems. However, for milder infections, you can follow the home remedies we’ve shared above. Now you are prepared to prevent, and even deal with any ear infections coming your dog’s way.

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