Dog Ear Infection

Updated on January 18, 2016
Whitney05 profile image

Whitney has over 10 years of experience in dog training, rescuing and dog healthcare.

Many different dogs and dog breeds are prone to ear infections. Breeds differ in the shape of the ear and the ear canal; in the amount of hair in the ear canal; and in their tendency to allergies.

Breeds Prone to Ear Infection

  • Basset Hounds (pendulous ears)
  • Boxer (allergic inhalant dermatitis)
  • Chow Chows (narrow ear canal)
  • Cocker Spaniels (pendulous ears)
  • English Springer Spaniels (pendulous ears)
  • German Shepherds (increased glandular tissue in the ears)
  • Irish Setter (allergic inhalant dermatitis)
  • Labrador retrievers (increased glandular tissue in the ears)
  • Poodles (hair in ear canals)
  • Schnauzers (hair in ear canals)
  • Shar Peis (narrow ear canal)
  • Shih Tzus (allergic inhalant dermatitis)
  • West Highland Terrier (allergic inhalant dermatitis)

Neither dogs with long ears nor dogs with short ears are predisposed to ear infections. Yes, some studies have shown that long-eared dogs can have more humid conditions in their ear canal, which can lead to an infection. Nevertheless, the breed of the dog is more important than the size or shape of the ear, or whether the ears are hanging or erect, in determining whether a dog is prone to ear infections.

Causes of Infection

There is no single cause of ear infection in dogs. Common causes include:

  • Something trapped in your dog's ear
  • Bacteria or yeasts
  • Ear mites
  • Tumors
  • Food allergies
  • Other underlying illnesses such as scaling, hormonal issues, and immune system problems
  • Puppy strangles (swollen lymph nodes)

Signs of Infection

Because an ear infection can cause a great deal of pain, discomfort, and stress for your dog, you should know what the signs are so that you can watch out for them and have your dog diagnosed and treated early.

A dog with an ear infection may shake his head or ear more than usual; some will scratch and paw at their ears, or rub the sides of their head on the ground or other objects.

You may notice a smell, or a yellow or black discharge coming from the ear. You may also notice swelling or redness on or around the ear flap and canal.

You may also notice a change in your dog's behavior; because an ear infection can be painful, your dog may become depressed or irritable.

Does Cropping Ears Prevent Ear Infection?

Some people believe that ear cropping will prevent ear infections by keeping water from building up between the flap of the ear and the ear canal.

But cropping the ears actually leaves the dog more susceptible to water and irritants that can easily get into the ear canal, potentially causing deafness.

Paying a vet to crop your dog's ears can lead to 1) an unsightly crop job, as cropping is an art form; 2) unnecessary pain; 3) potential harmful side effects.

Yes, there have been cases where cropping the ears benefited dogs with chronic ear infections, but other options work better. Cropping your dog's ears will not save you from continuing to have to clean your dog's ears.

Cropping should never be thought of as a medical procedure. If your dog has never had an ear infection, or has had only one or two, and your vet recommends he have his ears cropped to avoid infection, you need to find another vet!

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Treating Dogs with Ear Infection

Other treatment options for dogs with ear infections include:

  • Medicinal drops or ointment prescribed by a vet.
  • Treatment of the underlying condition that caused the ear infection.
  • Removal of any foreign body that caused the infection, plus an antibiotic.
  • Treatment for mites or parasites.
  • Various homeopathic and natural treatments.

If you're looking for an all-natural ear infection treatment, your conventional vet may not have much to tell you, as he went to school for conventional medicine, not alternative treatments. But, that doesn't mean there aren't options.

You can help alleviate the pain by using tea tree oil, chamomile, marigold, and myrrh, which have properties beneficial to animals suffering pain, irritation, and inflammation. You can find natural herbs with anti-bacterial and anti-microbial properties, as well.

You can also try using apple cider vinegar to clean out your dog's ears, or as a drink. The vinegar will help prevent the infection from worsening. Use about two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar with a cup of water; make sure the dog drinks it twice a week.

Another natural treatment for ear infection uses two cloves of garlic macerated in olive oil. Let the mix sit for two weeks, strain it, and put about 2-3 drops of the warmed mixture into your dog's ears until the infection is fully healed.

Just remember that if you're not sure, you need to ask a veterinarian familiar with natural remedies.

Cleaning Dog Ears

If you know that your dog is prone to ear infections, you need to pay close attention to his ears. You want to make sure that you clean them frequently to remove debris.

Apply a good ear cleaner to your dog's ears (one at a time) and massage the base of the ear for about 20 to 30 seconds to soften and release the debris. Then take a dry cotton ball and wipe out the fluids and debris. Keep repeating the procedure until you don't see any more debris being wiped up by the cotton ball.

It is a good idea to check your dog's ears at least once a week; it's recommended to clean them as often as needed. Some dogs need their ears cleaned up to three times a week, but each dog is going to be different.

The Dog's Ear Canal

Dogs have L-shaped ear canals in which debris can build up and cause infections.
Dogs have L-shaped ear canals in which debris can build up and cause infections.

Disclaimer: Please be aware that the advice in this article should in no way replace that of a licensed veterinarian. The methods outlined above may or may not work for your pet. If you have any concerns, you should consult a veterinarian.

Questions & Answers

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      • nancynurse profile image

        Nancy McClintock 

        3 years ago from Southeast USA

        Great article Thanks for sharing voted up

      • profile image

        Monica 

        6 years ago

        I. just posted about the two yorkie pups

        I took them about a month ago to vet and that is what the vet said it was. I have ear drops for them. i have pet ins but it doesn't cover ears being tested. I just really need some ideas or ways I can get this under control.

        thank you and I hope yo hear from someone. :)

      • Klondike0723 profile image

        Klondike0723 

        7 years ago

        Good Hub.

        My dog actually had an ear infection a few weeks back and was prescribed some sort of medication, not sure specifically what some kind anti biotic maybe. Anyhow it was a drop that you had to put in their ear. Cleared it up nicely within a few weeks.

        My dogs breed is American Eskimo. (Profile Picture)

      • DOGS 101 profile image

        DOGS 101 

        7 years ago from Planet Earth

        What a thorough job you have done with this subject. Dogs will appreciate you information. I'm barking with delight!

      • Mrs. J. B. profile image

        Mrs. J. B. 

        7 years ago from Southern California

        Baby my 3rd pitbull always has ear infections we use Mometamax. She is also allergic to the sun, grass, dog food you name it. We even have to bathe her in shampoo our vet wants. It is called MalAcetic. She also takes Prednisone along with Amoxicillin and oh lets not forget TrizUltra/KetoFlush.....

      • profile image

        Jeff and Ranay 

        7 years ago

        We have a Golden Retriever / Shepard mix. We battled ear mites for months with her. One thing that really helped was a product from R-7 that helped keep the outer ear flaps and ear canal dry. This was a very informative Hub and the diagram of the ear was particularly helpful.

      • Barbara Kay profile image

        Barbara Badder 

        7 years ago from USA

        We had a Springer Spaniel and allergies and ear infections were a constant battle, even though we cleaned her ears constantly. Once they have an infection going you need to take them to a vet. After our experience, I think I'll pass up all dogs prone to ear infections.

      • profile image

        TopUniverse 

        7 years ago

        Good hub. I am surprised that some dogs need their ears cleaned up to three times a week.

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