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5 Most Common Dog Ear Infections [with images] & What To Do

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dog scratching ear with paw

Ear infections are very commonly seen in dogs: in our veterinarian practice, I see about 5 dogs each day with ear infections.

Many times these can be due to allergies, infection, or hair and dirt getting trapped in your dog’s ears. Keeping your dogs’ ears clear of debris, and monitoring your dog for signs of allergies can help prevent many ear infections.

How Do I Know if My Dog Has an Ear Infection?

The most common signs that your dog has an ear infection is when they shake their heads or scratch their ears.

It is very easy to know if your dog has an ear infection. First, look in their ears to see if there is debris or discharge:

  • Black to brown dog ear wax debris is usually a sign of yeast infection in your dog’s ears. See our dog ear wax color chart.
  • A very light tan to yellowish goopy discharge coming from your dog’s ears is a sign of a bacterial infection. 
  • Many times your dog has both a yeast and a bacterial infection.

Another way to know if your dog has an ear infection is by smelling their ears. If their ears smell very bad, they most likely have an infection in their ears.

Other symptoms of ear infections in dogs include:

  • Redness inside the ear
  • Crust or scabs inside the ear
  • Whining

5 Most Frequent Types of Dog Ear Infections (With Images)

There are many different reasons that your dog may have an ear infection. These are some common types of dog ear infections:

1. Dermatitis Ear Infection

Dermatitis is an inflammation and infection in your dog’s skin. The main sign of dermatitis in dogs is red, inflammed and itchy skin.

Dermatitis Ear Infection

Dogs with dermatitis will benefit from Zymoz ear cleaner and solution. Zymox ear solution and ear cleaner on Amazon:

2. Ear Infection Due to An Allergy

Allergies are very commonly seen in early spring to late fall.  When new plants are blooming, and pollen is in the air, most dogs will show signs of seasonal allergies.  A typical presentation for allergies in dogs is an ear infection

Most dogs who have allergies will have very red and itchy ears. They may not have any waxy debris in their ears but will constantly be scratching their ears.

dog ear infection due to allergy
Redness inside the ear is a sign of allergies

Zymox ear solution contains hydrocortizone which will help decrease your dog’s itching. Also giving your dog Benadryl twice a day will help decrease the itching and inflammation in your dog’s ears. However, make sure you always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any new medication.


WATCH: 3 Important Tips To Care For an Old Dog [VET VIDEO]


3. Ear Mite Infection

Dogs with ear mites will have black crusty debris in the ears. Pets who have ear mites will be itching their ears a lot. While there are some over-the-counter ear mite treatments (such as this Adams Ear Mite Treatment), they may not work as well as veterinary prescription treatments and we recommend checking with your veterinarian.

Ear Mite Infection
Ear mite infection in dog

4. Dog Ear Infections from Fleas or Ticks

Dogs who have ear infections to fleas and ticks you can visually see fleas and ticks near your dog’s ears. Your dog may also be itching their ears too.

There are over-the-counter flea and tick medications such as Frontline or Advantage that can be given to your dog, just make sure that you purchase the correct size for your dog. If these products do not work, there are more effective products offered at your vet’s office.

5. Dog Yeast Ear Infections

Yeast ear infections can lead your dog to experience the following symptoms: red, yellow or brown wax discharge, itching, or scratching, head tilt, loss of balance, a cheesy smell or a red or irritated ear (note that bacterial ear infections can also show similar symptoms so it’s important to get your vet’s assessment to determine the right diagnosis and treatment).

Bad yeast and fungal infection on a dog‘s skin

For dogs with a yeast infection in their ears, you will need an antifungal ear cleaner. This Pet MD ear cleaner is a great ear cleaner that contains an antifungal agent that will help decrease yeast infections. It’s important to keep in mind that your dog’s yeast ear infection can also be a sign of another health condition that needs to be addressed. Ear cleaning may help make your dog more comfortable but a visit to your vet is still needed.

** Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any treatment **

What Can I Do to Help my Dog’s Ear Infection at Home?

At home, there are many different things that you can try to help clear your dog’s ear infection:

1. Clean your dog’s ears

cleaning the dog's ear at home

The best thing that you can do is to clean your dog’s ears twice a day. You can find many different ear cleaners at your local pet store, online, or even at your vet’s office to clean your dogs’ ears. Cleaning will help get rid of the infection in your dog’s ears. My favorite products include the following:

Other great ear medications that you can find at your local pet store or online are:

** Always consult with your veterinarian before giving your dog any medication **

You can also read our guide to dog ear cleaning with more product recommendations.

How to Clean your Dog’s Ears

When you clean your dog ears make sure you have ear cleaner, someone to help, and some cotton balls.

  1. Fill the ear canal with ear cleaner.
  2. Place a few cotton balls over the openin of the ear
  3. Gently massage the base of your dog’s ear
  4. Remove the cotton balls and use clean cotton balls to wipe away any excessive debris.
  5. Continue this process until you not longer have dirty cotton balls
  6. If your dog’s ears start to bleed – stop cleaning and do not clean again for a few days.

Other tips to clean your dog’s ears?

  • Use Ear Wipes: Ear wipes are great at helping keep your dog’s ears clean.  This is something that you can use every day to just wipe out any dirt or debris from your dog’s ears.  
  • Keep Hair Short: When you take your dog to the groomer, try to keep your dog’s hair free of extra hair and keep the hair around the ear short.  This will help keep their ears dry and free of any infection.

2. Remove any excessive hair from ears

If you have a breed of dog that is known for having a lot of hair growing in and around their ears, remove this hair from their ears. You can learn to do this at home or many groomers can do this for you when your dog is getting groomed.

3. Consider over-the-counter ear medication

There are medications that you can order online to help your dog with an ear infection (after first talking to your veterinarian about it). Many of them do require a prescription from your veterinarian but there are a few over-the-counter that may help for mild infections. My favorite over-the-counter ear medications are from Zymox Brand. The best options include the following products:

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your local veterinarian for health decisions. Learn more.

Can a Dog’s Ear Infection Go Away on its Own?

If you caught the ear infection early and start cleaning your dog’s ear at home, the infection may go away without veterinary care. If you do not do anything to an ear infection, it will get worse most of the time. In any case, the problem is NOT likely to just go away with it, and we recommend seeking help from your veterinarian.

The Importance of Veterinary Treatment

We always recommend consulting with your veterinarian if you suspect that your dog has an ear infection. This is because an ear infection can get worse over time, expand inside your dog’s ear canal and make life very uncomfortable for your canine friend.

Early treatments will yield the best results and help ensure your dog remains comfortable. While you wait for your veterinary appointment, there are a number of steps you can take at home to help your dog.

When to See a Vet

vet treatment for dog ear infection

If you have tried cleaning your dog’s ears at home with no improvement for a few days it is best to see your vet as soon as possible. If your dog’s ear have pus like material coming from them, these will most likely need a prescription ear medication to help, so you should not delay veterinary treatment.

When you take your dog to the vet with an ear infection, your vet will thoroughly clean your dog’s ear and prescribe them antibiotic and antifungal medication to go into their ears, as described in the next section.

How are Dog Ear Infections Treated at the Vet

Many vets will clean your dog’s ears at the veterinary clinic and apply medication to your dog’s ears that last a week or two. Some of these treatments need to be repeated and others will clear the infection after only one treatment. If your dog has a really bad ear infection, you vet may even send you home medication to put into your dogs ear each day.

Depending on the type of ear infection, veterinary treatments may include:

  • antibiotics
  • anti-inflammatory medication
  • topical medication

What are the Results and the Costs?
The cost for an ear infection can differ depending on where you live and how bad your dog’s ears are. Typical costs can be $200 to $700. Your vet can give you an estimate with a breakdown of the cost for treatment before they start treating your dog ears.

How Long is the Treatment?
Most simple dog ear infections typically heal in a few days, sometimes up to two weeks.

Expert Tips to Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs

If your dog keeps having ear infections, it would be best to try to clean their ears at least once a week. By cleaning their ear very frequently, you will help prevent any buildup of infection and possibly even prevent them from ever having an ear infection. 

Sometimes dogs have ear infections due to allergies.  You can try to give your dog Benadryl to help with their allergies.  A typical dosage that most vets use is 1mg per pound. So, a 50-pound dog would need two adult Benadryl tablets twice a day.  

Are Certain Breeds Prone to Ear Infections?

Yes, there are certain breeds that are more common to develop ear infections than others. These breeds are:

1) Breeds with Excess Hair in the Ear Canals: Dogs such as poodles or shitzus who have hair that grows in the ear canal will have more ear infections than dogs that do not have hair in their ears. The hair in these dogs’ ears will trap moisture and debris making it a perfectly dark environment for bacterial and yeast growth.

2) Dog Breeds Prone to Allergies: Dogs who have seasonal allergy issues or food allergies will have chronic ear infections. Giving your dog allergy medication or switching their diets to an allergy diet will help decrease the number of ear infections your dog has to endure.

3) Small Ear Canals: dogs with very narrowed ear canals will be more prone to ear infections. These are canals do not have a large enough opening for light and air to get into your dog’s ear to help keep them free of infections

4) Long, Floppy Ears: Dogs with long and floppy ears will be very prone to infections. These ears will create a very dark environment in your dog’s ear which bacteria and fungus love to grow in.

Read More About Dog Ears:

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Author

  • Dr. Ochoa earned her Doctorate in Veterinary Medicine from St. George University and completed her program with excellent scores. She has been working as a veterinarian since 2015 for Whitehouse Veterinary Hospital in Whitehouse, TX.

Disclaimer: This website's content is not meant to be a substitute for veterinary care, diagnosis, or treatment. Always consult with your veterinarian to determine the best course of action. Read More.

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