20 February, 2018

Dog Ear Infection: A Comprehensive Guide For Pet Owners

Dog Ear Infection: A Comprehensive Guide For Pet OwnersA dog ear infection is no fun. The itching and inflammation in their ear, the only way to be able to find relief is by shaking their head, rubbing against any object at hand, or constantly scratching; it all sucks.

Dog ear infections can also be a sign of something serious. It is important to get them diagnosed and treated quickly to prevent further suffering.

Learn about how to treat a dog ear infection and what you should and should NOT do!

Table of Contents

Causes of Dog Ear Infection: What’s Going on in that Ear Canal?!

Causes of dog ear infections can be related to bacteria, fungus, yeast, ear mites, allergies, tumors, polyps, physical trauma, and damage from foreign objects. 

Some breeds of dogs are also more susceptible to ear infections because of their type of ear flaps.

Floppy ears are undoubtedly adorable, just like upright pointy ears are perky and alert. But either type of anatomy has its advantages and disadvantages. Floppy ears that cover your dog’s ear canal can act as a barrier for foreign objects, but they make it especially dark and damp inside your dog’s ear.

Upright ears have the advantage of more natural air circulation, but flying insects and other small objects can make their way inside your dogs’ ear.

Unlike humans, the shape of a dog ear canal is more vertical than horizontal. That’s right; their ear canal is more straight up and down than at an angle that has natural drainage.  

Because your dog’s ear canal is more like an L-shape, it’s very easy for excessive moisture and debris to accumulate and build up inside their ear. As moisture and debris build up, infections can set in. Bacteria, yeast, and fungi multiply in exactly that kind of warm dark environment and moist conditions.

Dog Ear Yeast Infection

Yeast infections occur when yeast, which is a natural organism in a dog’s body (and ours) to keep the immune system working, gets out of balance and grows out of control.

The balance of yeast in a dog’s body and their ears can be affected by any medications they are taking, other illnesses, their diet, and their daily activity.

Dogs that enjoy a lot of swimming, running, and just lolling around out in the heat of the sun can have water and sweat gather in the nooks and crannies and creases in their ears that yeast loves to grow in.

Yeast also thrives on sugar, so any sugary treats or snacks can throw yeast levels out of balance too.

Disney Channel GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Inner Ear Infection in Dog

Inner ear infection in dogs can be a result of any bacteria and infection that has spread from their outer ear to their inner or middle ear areas. Inner or middle ear infections can also sometimes spread through auditory tubes from any oral or mouth infections.

Dog Ear Mites Vs Yeast Infection — Know What To Look For!

If your dog has ear mites or a yeast infection their exterior symptoms and behavior may look similar. There may be signs of irritation and dark flecks or substances.

Your dog may be itching and scratching around their ears and shaking their head a lot. Dog ear mites are barely visible to the human eye, unlike fleas.

These little parasites feed off your dog’s ear wax. An infestation of ear mites can lead to further bacterial infections. Yeast infections may look similar, but your dog’s ears will often have an odor or funky smell.

If you suspect your dog has ear mites or a yeast infection in their ears, a vet check is needed to establish the cause and treat properly.

Stinky? Inflamed? Dog Ear Infection Symptoms

There are many symptoms that can indicate your dog has an ear infection. These include:

  • Head tilting or leaning to the side of the affected area
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing of ears or rubbing ears on furniture or the ground (or begging you to do it for them!)
  • Scratching the ear and surrounding area
  • Discharge from the ear canal that is brown, bloody or yellow
  • Redness, inflammation, and swelling
  • Unbalanced movements or walking in circles
  • Hearing loss
  • Scabs or crusts around the ear
  • Odors from ear canal
  • Unusual eye movements or different sized pupils
  • Bald patches around the ears
  • Difficulty chewing

Yeast Infection Dog Ear Pictures

Possible yeast dog ear infection in a dog's ear.

Possible yeast infection in a dog’s ear.

Mites Dog Ear Infection

Mites Dog Ear Infection

Mites Dog Ear Infection

In this infestation of ear mites in a cat, you can see fine sooty or specks that look a little like finely ground coffee that suggests mites may be the cause of the problem.

dog ear infection

In this ear infection in a cocker spaniel, you can see the discharge.

If it’s inflamed, Visit Your Vets! Dog Ear Infection Medication

Always get your dog to your vet for a formal diagnosis and treatment advice if they are showing any signs of inflammation.

In vet speak symptoms of ear inflammation fall into two categoriesotitis externa and otitis media.

Otitis externa refers to inflammation of your dog’s external ear canal (the upright area of their L-shaped ear canal). Acute otitis media refers to the onset of inflammation in your dog’s middle ear (the inner part). Both areas need proper examination by a vet with the appropriate diagnostic tool(s) to establish what may be causing your dog’s inflammation and the best method of treatment and prevention.

The Importance of Antibiotics for Dog Ear Infection

Your veterinarian may prescribe an antibiotic for treating a dog ear infection to kick-start the healing and pain relief for your pet. Antibiotics attack any bacterial infection present and help with the immediate relief of any inflammation. Vet prescribed antibiotics may be topical in the form of ear drops or given orally in capsule or tablet form.

Dogs can also be affected by methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, so it is important that the right antibiotic is used.

The Dog Ear Infection Home Remedy Guide For Pet Parents

dog ear infection hurts dog
Home remedies can be used for dog ear infections, but use with care on external areas only so you don’t upset the natural pH balance in your dog’s ear or apply anything that can cause your dog further harm.  Talk with your vet about natural remedies that may help with your dog’s recovery and how to keep your dog’s ears clean and healthy to prevent recurring ear infections.

Home Remedy for Dog Ear Infection—When will it Work and When it Won’t

Bacterial infections can be very difficult to cure with home remedies alone.

A course of veterinarian prescribed antibiotics or steroids is often required to kill the infection.

However, a combination of mild solutions in home remedy mixes applied gently and externally to your dog’s ears, together with a healthy diet, regular exercise and helping your dog keep their ears dry can go a long way towards prevention and alleviating symptoms.

Dog Ear Infection Home Remedies

Dog ear infection home remedies can be relatively inexpensive and offer a more natural approach to keeping ear infections under control.

Some of the many ingredients used in home remedy applications for dogs include vinegar (white or apple cider), coconut oil, calendula flowers and other herbs, olive oil, garlic oil or Vitamin E oil, tea tree oil, lemons, yogurt, Epsom salts, baking soda and green tea. Home remedies may also include ingredients such as boric acid and hydrogen peroxide.

Hydrogen Peroxide — Dog Ear Infection Home Remedy Peroxide

If your vet considers it appropriate for your pet, a mild hydrogen peroxide dilution can be effective in mild bacterial infections.

A hydrogen peroxide topical solution can help with removing any dirt and excess ear wax and dirt, but again, you have to be careful that you don’t apply too much and upset your dog’s natural balance of oils and waxes needed in their ears.

Dog Ears GIF by Disney - Find & Share on GIPHY

Dog Ear Cleaners Might Help Your Pooch!

Dog ear cleaners can be used on an occasional basis to remove any signs of debris and buildup and help prevent any infections recurring. Use a clean cotton pad or cotton ball to apply home remedies to the external areas of your dog’s ears only.

What To Avoid— Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections that Can Be Dangerous

Never, ever, try to put anything directly inside your dog’s ears unless your vet has directed it is safe to do so!!

That includes pouring in any liquids or trying to insert cotton buds or Q-tips. You may push bacteria further down your dog’s ear canal or damage their eardrum (tympanic membrane) or create a middle ear infection.

Also be wary of applying any home remedies to your dog’s ears if they have any sores, open wounds or open scratches. Some ingredients in home remedies, such as cider or white vinegar, can sting and hurt your dog.

Other ingredients such as gentian violet, boric acid, are dangerous to your dog if it enters their system through their bloodstream.  Ensure also that you don’t use any products that may result in further allergies.

Answering Some FAQs on Ear Infection Dog

What are the Common Dog Ear Problems?

The common types of dog ear problems include bacterial infections, yeast infections, mites, foreign objects, allergies (to foods and external factors like pollens and grasses).

Because one can lead into another – for example, an untreated mite infestation can end up with a bacterial or yeast infestation, seek a vet’s diagnosis to establish the primary cause for your pet if they have ear problems.

A dog furiously scratching their ear 24/7 isn’t normal. Learn more about the problems and solutions to an itchy ear here.

Does it Work? Is it Worth the Risk? Dog Ear Yeast Infection Home Remedy!

If your dog has a yeast ear infection, a home remedy, combined with a healthy diet can be effective in helping your dog’s system return to normal. Check with your vet on the method most suited to your pet for a dog ear yeast infection.

Should I use Essential Oil for Dog Ear Infection?

Essential oils such as tea tree oil and lavender oil are often included in home remedy recipes due to their anti-fungal and anti-inflammatory properties.

As essential oils are a concentrate – they are the essence of a plant – they are extremely concentrated in an undiluted form. Only ever apply essential oil dilutions externally, in quantities specified, and that are safe for animals.

Cleaning Dog Ears — How Often Should It Be Done?

Ears GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

When your dog’s ears are healthy they will mostly take care of themselves.

A cleaning solution can be applied externally occasionally, especially if there are signs of dirt. Otherwise, make sure your dog’s ears are dried properly after swimming or a bath, and wipe with dry cloths to remove any excess moisture.

Dog Ear Infection Home Remedies vs. a Visit to the Vet — What Should I do First?

It is recommended you visit a vet first if your dog is showing symptoms that suggest an ear infection.

Because many ear problems have similar symptoms a vet can properly diagnose the cause and best course of treatment, including home remedies appropriate to your dog/cat.

A Look At How To Treat Dog Ear Infection

If you suspect your dog as an ear infection, to treat it you have to know what the cause of the infection is.  Because there can be many factors involved such as allergies, illness, bacteria, fungal infection and so forth, a vet is the best person to accurately diagnose canine ear infection and suggest the best possible treatments that will suit your dog.

A vet may prescribe antibiotics, steroids, other medication, or recommend you buy an over the counter commercial product or give advice on using a natural or homeopathic treatment method.

Common Dog Ear Infection Remedy

Some of the common dog ear infection home remedies involve dilutions of vinegar or essential oils in water. Always mix and apply as directed, and take care not to flood your dog’s ear with excessive fluids or apply any substances that may sting open scratches or wounds.

Dog Ear Infection Medicine – What You Need To Try!

Look for dog ear infection medicines that are vet recommended or endorsed by veterinary professionals. These include cleaning solutions and suspensions and medicated wipes and swabs.

How To Treat Dog Ear Infection Without Vet?

It is strongly recommended you consult a vet for treating a dog ear infection.

Especially chronic ear infection – i.e. if your dog repeatedly seems to be suffering from ear problems.

Shiba Inu Dog GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

However, if you are unable to get to a vet look for a gentle treatment that will alleviate your dog’s symptoms until you can get a professional diagnosis of the cause. Cleaning around the outside of your dog’s ear and applying hot compresses can also help with their discomfort.

Dog Ear Infection Treatment Over the Counter

There are a number of commercially prepared medicines and over the counter treatments that can help with your dog’s acute and chronic ear infections. Dog ear infection treatments include medicated swabs and pads, antibiotics, cleansing solutions, homeopathic medications, and natural remedies.

Dog Yeast Infection Ear — May be Difficult To Treat At Home

Yeast infections in your dog’s ears can be difficult to treat at home. Yeast imbalances can be caused by a number of things – diet, allergies, other diseases or hormonal problems, or types of activity.

Vist Your Vet — Dog Ear Infection Medication At The Vets!

Visit your vet for professional advice on the best type of dog ear infection medication.

Many vets’ nowadays incorporate drug therapy with natural approaches and will be able to recommend the best course of treatment and medication to suit your dog and cat, particularly if they are on any other types of medications or treatments.

Prevention is Key — How To Clean Dogs Ears

The old adage is true, prevention really is key.

If your dog’s in an overall healthy condition, there shouldn’t be a need to clean their ears very often. The process takes care of itself naturally.

Do always make sure you dry the exterior of their ears properly after you have bathed them, or they have been for a swim. When you do need to clean their ears just wipe gently around the outer area and in any creases and flaps to remove any dirt.

Look For Dog Ear Cleaning Solutions, Dog Ear Wash, and Dog Ear Drops

Dog ear cleaning products available on the market include solutions, washes, and drops. These have been formulated to clean your dog’s ears while maintaining the correct pH balance needed to keep their ear canals healthy.

Ears GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Homemade Dog Ear Cleaner for You To Try

Apple cider vinegar is commonly used in home remedies for dog ear infections.

Bacteria and yeast growth can be killed by the acetic acid in vinegar. Remember though, not to use any vinegar on your dog’s ears if they are red or have open sores – the vinegar will sting and be painful for them (and they’ll be reluctant to let you try anything other treatments ever again!).

  1. Dilute the apple cider vinegar with an equal amount of water.
  2. Soak a cotton pad or cotton ball in the 50/50 solution.
  3. Gently dab the external areas and flaps of your dog’s ear to clean any debris.

DIY Dog Cleaners That May Not Work For An Infection

DIY dog cleaners and home remedies may not work for an infection for a few reasons.

For one, bacterial infections can be pretty hard to get rid of – sometimes an antibiotic will be the only thing that will do the trick.

Ear infections can also be the result of a bigger problem with you’re the dog immune system, so a topical DIY may help with the symptoms, but not the underlying cause.

Best Dog Ear Cleaners On The Market!

  • Epi-Otic – Epi-Otic is a gentle alcohol-free ear cleaner solution containing an antiseptic to help with the prevention of air infections. It’s formulated to be pH neutral so it doesn’t alter the balance of oils and enzymes in your dog’s ear.
  • Pet MD Ear Wipes  – Pet MD Ear wipes include aloe-vera and eucalyptus to gently clean debris and dirt from around your dog’s ears. These veterinary formulated wipes are alcohol-free, soothing and deodorizing for dog ear cleaning.
  • Zymox Otic – Zymox Otic Solution is used for treating bacterial, viral and yeast infections in the outer ear. It comes in an easy to use bottle and contains hydrocortisone to help reduce inflammation and swelling.

Dog Ear Infection — It Can Get Serious If Not Dealt With!

Ear infections, left untreated, are very serious stuff.

Untreated ear infections that spread to the inner ear can result in permanent deafness, eye problems, loss of coordination and balance and facial paralysis. Therefore, it is recommended you seek out a vet to confirm the cause and the best way to treat ear infections and overall pet health.