How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Unfortunately, many pups will get an ear infection in their lifetime. As your dog’s best buddy, it’s your job to protect them from the telltale signs of an infection.

Ear infections can cause dog pain and itchiness in the ear canal. This pain can cause them to scratch and hurt themselves or even experience deafness or facial paralysis if left untreated. Staying informed about the signs of an ear infection in dogs can help ensure your pet stays happy and healthy.

But how can you tell if your dog’s ears have an infection? It’s good to know the types of breeds at risk for infection.

These are some of the floppy eared breeds that are prone to ear infections:

  • Daschund
  • Cocker spaniels
  • Basset hounds
  • Shih Tzus
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Afghan Hound
  • Golden Retrievers
  • Poodles

How to tell if your dog has an ear infection

If your dog rubs their ears on furniture or has sensitive ears this may be your first sign of an ear infection. If they scratch at one ear often or if you see an excessive amount of head tilting or shaking, consider checking out their inner ear.

Once looking inside, an ear infection may have a dark discharge or a foul odor coming from the ear, redness or swelling of the ear canal, and crusting or scabs in the ear.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has an ear infection?

Talk to your vet as soon as possible. If your vet is unavailable, consider getting an Elizabethan Collar — popularly called a cone of shame. This will stop your pup from hurting their face while trying to scratch and relieve its itch.

If you suspect your dog’s ears have an infection, write some reminders about where they’ve been recently, what they ate, or when they last went swimming.  These can help your vet make an accurate diagnosis and come up with an effective early treatment.

What are the types of ear infections

There are three types of ear infections based on the infection’s location in the ear. Additionally, the cause of infection can impact your vet’s plan to remedy your pet. Vets will often find ear infections in three locations:


  • Otitis Externa — This is the most common type of ear infection. This type of infection affects the external portion of the ear. These infections can lead to more serious forms of infections.
  • Otitis Media — Otitis Media refers to an infection in the middle of the ear canal. This form of infection normally comes from an ear infection that spreads from the external ear.
  • Otitis Interna — This type of infection covers inner ear infections. This infection location, as well as otitis media, can result in deafness, facial paralysis or other complications.


Generally, allergies are the most common cause of ear infections in dogs. Once exposed, they may begin scratching and eroding the protective layer of skin on their ear. At this point, bacteria or yeast can infect their ear.

Ear mites cause ear infections as well, but not as common in dogs as in cats. These small mites look like coffee grounds lodged in a dog’s ear. They are best handled by your veterinarian. Ear mites are contagious, so don’t be the owner whose dog spreads ear mites at the dog park!

The dangers of an ear infection

An ear infection may start off as an uncomfortable itch, but if left unchecked they have the potential to cause larger, permanent complications.

Many ear infections can be remedied after a visit to the vet and consistent ear cleaning over the course of a few weeks. But if left unchecked, ear infections can cause partial facial paralysis and deafness in the ear or require surgery to remedy.

How to treat ear infections

There are several methods for treating ear infections but consult your veterinarian first. Visiting your vet can help you with educated instructions on how to clean your special pup’s ears and make sure you get all that gunk.

Ear cleaning with ear drops, cleaning solutions and oral antibiotics can be prescribed treatments. In a worst-case scenario, a vet will know if your pet requires a more complicated procedure like surgery.

How to prevent ear infections in dogs

Preventing ear infections in your pups is all about knowing what causes them — from their environment, food or even water.

After swimming or bathing, thoroughly dry and remove any moisture from their ear to prevent waterborne infections. Besides the occasional at-home ear cleaning, consider testing your dog for allergies to see if you can avoid exposing them to infections in the first place.

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