Learn What Causes Ear Infections So You Can Stop Them Before They Start

Written by: Ally Nesmith

October 13, 2015

WARNING: None of these pics are offensive or harmful, but some are just plain gross!

Ear infections are often the #1 reason dogs are taken to the vet so maybe you’ve seen (and smelled!) the signs before. As smart as our pups are, they can’t just tell us when something is bothering them, making it imperative that we pay attention and act on the nonverbal cues they give us.

Pug Meme

Recognizing The Problem:

It usually starts with the head shaking and rubbing on the carpet. These behaviors, while pretty adorable, can indicate a big problem in your dog and require closer inspection. Some common indicators of ear infections include:

  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Odor in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling
  • Crusty or scabby skin on the near ear flap
  • Hair loss around the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Hearing loss


    Ear infections are almost always due to an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast which could be caused by any of the following:

  • Ear mites
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Excessive ear wax
  • New hair growth (ingrown)
  • Tumor or foreign body in the ear canal
  • Trapped water left after swimming/bathing
  • Improper ear cleaning
  • Food, seasonal, or topical allergies

    And just in case you were wondering what an ear mite looks like…


    But in real life you wouldn’t be able to see them because they’re microscopic. Whether you see them or not, though, the effects they’ll have on your pup’s health could be disastrous (and at the very least they’ll cause your dog great pain).


    Also good to keep in mind is that dogs with floppy ears (Spaniels, Golden Retrievers, Poodles, etc.) and breeds that grow hair inside the ear canal (i.e. Schnauzers) are especially prone to ear infections.


    Preventing The Problem:

    Now that you know how gruesome ear infections can be for your dog, it’s time to take precautions to minimize their chance of ever having to go through it.

  • Inspect your dog’s ears regularly for any swelling or unusual discharge/odor.
  • After swimming or bathing, always dry your dog’s ears thoroughly.
  • Perform regular cleanings to keep your dog’s ears in tip-top shape (Note: It’s important not to clean too deeply or too frequently as this can also lead to infection). Check out the video below courtesy of the ASPCA to learn proper technique!
  • If the problem persists, you should talk with your vet about ear-drying products specifically formatted for dog’s who suffer from chronic infections.

    Treating The Problem:

    If your pup does develop an infection, take them to the vet immediately; chronic or untreated ear infections are not only extremely painful for your pup but can also cause permanent hearing loss.

    In most cases, your vet will perform or recommend a thorough cleaning of the entire ear canal and a follow-up regimen of regular cleanings. Depending on the severity of the infection, they may also prescribe topical and/or oral medication to keep your dog infection- and pain-free.


    If your poor pup is unfortunate enough to suffer from repeat infections, it is very important that you do NOT use leftover medications or cleansers without consulting your vet first. If your dog’s eardrums are ruptured, some medications can cause deafness or vertigo.

    It’s also necessary that you get your pup checked out each time you notice symptoms to ensure that their ear drums are intact, that the source of the infection is the same as before (bacterial versus viral), and that the head-tilt isn’t indicative of something even more serious, such as a stroke.

    Check out this video for some helpful tips on keeping those floppy ears clean!

    Featured image via @brody_chichi /Instagram

    Source: ASPCA

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    Written by: Ally Nesmith

    October 13, 2015

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