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Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Floppy eared dogs are prone to ear infections, so you'll want to keep an eye out for these symptoms to protect your pup.

Floppy eared dogs are prone to ear infections, so you'll want to keep an eye out for these symptoms to protect your pup.

The Ear Infection and the Dog

When dogs have an ear infection, they exhibit distinctive signs that cannot be ignored. Typically, the ear infection so clearly irritates the dog that their owners promptly schedule a vet appointment just to spare their canine companion from another miserable day.

Whether the source of the infection is bacterial, viral, or due to the presence of yeast or ear mites, the range of symptoms is always the same.

6 Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections in dogs may affect the outer ear canal (otitis externa) or the inner middle ear (otitits media). Infections affecting the outer canal are generally less severe than the infections affecting the middle ear. However, left untreated, outer ear canal infections may spread to the middle ear, creating complications. Following are signs of both types of ear infections in dogs.

1. Scratching

Dogs affected by ear infections tend to feel discomfort in their ears and may therefore scratch and paw at their ears. In some cases, dogs may even rub their ears against furniture or the floor. Many times, the scratching may be continuous, becoming quite frustrating to watch. This may lead to tissue damage and a complication known as ''aural hematoma''.

2. Head Tilt

Ear infections are quite painful and often dogs will exhibit a distinctive head tilt. This is done in an effort to try to remove from their ears something that is bothering them. In some cases, there may be something trapped in the dog's ears (like a fox tail) however, this is a typical symptom of ear infection.

3. Foul Odor

In some cases, the dog's ears when affected by an ear infection will assume quite an unpleasant odor. This may be due to a bacterial or yeast infection. This odor should go away once treatment has started.

4. Discharge

Infected ears may also produce a higher than normal discharge. The discharge may appear dark, resembling coffee grounds when affected by ear mites, or it may be yellowish brown. The discharge is the ear's way of protecting itself and attempting to get rid of the foreign invader.

5. Aural Hematoma

As mentioned earlier, the constant head shaking and scratching may cause visible swelling of the ear flap. This complication is known as aural hematoma and it is caused by bleeding from the ear's blood vessels which fills up the dog's ear flaps making them look like big marshmallows.

6. Vestibular Disease

When the middle ear is affected, dogs may exhibit signs of vestibular disease. Such signs include lack of coordination, dizziness, back and forth eye movements, circling and falling to one side. Such symptoms are often confused for a stroke. Middle ear infection can be a complication of dogs with a history of recurrent and untreated ear infections.

Most cases of ear infections will go away with ear drops and a round of antibiotics. However, some dogs may be prone to repeated ear infections such as dogs with droopy ears like Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds. Ear cleaning, the use of cotton balls when bathing and a thorough inspection of the ears is key to keeping this problem at bay.

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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2010 Adrienne Farricelli


Adrienne Farricelli (author) on May 02, 2012:

It's hard to say without seeing it. It could be a tick, skin tag, dirt, or an infected area. If the ear area is swollen it could also be an aural hematoma.

Kim on May 01, 2012:

My dog just loss his appetite these few days. Yesterday night I found out that his left ear got red and there's a brown lump or particle in it. Is that ear infection? After his bath I use ear gel to remove his stubborn stain in his ear and I assume I clean it too hard and hurt his ear. Please help! What can I do?

Adrienne Farricelli (author) on March 15, 2012:

thank you, he makes the hub on dog ear infections look nice!

rachel mcferran on March 15, 2012:

this is a cute dog !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11

BIG DOGGY on February 04, 2011:

There is another remedy for ear infections and ear mites. Its called Dr.Dogs Ear Oil. A friend told me about it I tried it and it works great!! you can get it at I hope it works for you as good as it did for me =-)

Darlene Sabella from Hello, my name is Toast and Jam, I live in the forest with my dog named Sam ... on January 26, 2010:

Great article, when my dog starts scrating her ears I know it is time to pull those hairs out. Or she will get an infection. Thank you so much for loving the wonderful children.

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