Dog Ear Infection: Signs, Causes, Treatments & Prevention

by Chloe Ma on May 27, 2021

Ear infections (officially known as otitis externa) are one of the most common ailments for dogs, especially in pups with long, floppy (and adorable) ears like Cocker Spaniels and Old English Sheepdogs. Your dog’s ears are prone to infection and inflammation for a lot of reasons, and while they may be difficult to prevent entirely, there are things you can do to keep your pup’s ears happy and healthy.

Read on to learn signs and symptoms of dog ear infections,= what causes them, when to see a vet, potential treatments, and ultimately how to prevent them.

Signs Your Dog Has An Ear Infection

While some dogs might not show any symptoms when they have an ear infection, many dogs will let you know they have an ear infection with the following symptoms:

  • Head shaking

  • Scratching around the irritated ear

  • Yellow or black discharge

  • Bad smell coming from the ear

  • Redness around the ear canal

  • Scaly skin, crusting, or scabs in the ears

  • Bleeding from the ears

  • Loss of balance


Dog Ear Infection Causes

Bacteria or yeast infection

Ear infections in dogs are usually caused by a buildup of bacteria or yeast in the ear canal.

Excess moisture/allergies

While an infection can show up in any dog — particularly pups with floppy ears as mentioned above — other factors, like excess moisture and allergies can also trigger an infection.

Wax buildup or injury to the ear canal

Other things that can cause ear infections in dogs are wax buildup or injury to the ear canal (whether by a foreign object being stuck there or not).

Autoimmune/endocrine disorders

Dogs with certain autoimmune or endocrine disorders like thyroid disease are also more prone to infections. 

Ear mites

Ear mites can also cause ear infection symptoms, specifically black discharge, scratching, and head shaking. Mites, however, usually occur in puppies, and a definitive diagnosis can only be made by your vet.  

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