Pet Health
min read

How to Tell if Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

Ear infections are common in dogs, so here is everything you need to know about whether your pet has an ear infection and may need to see a veterinarian.

Ear infections are no fun for anyone and dogs aren't an exception. If you notice your dog is scratching at his ears and acting differently than usual, it could be a sign that he has an ear infection. That said, there are many other causes of ear-related problems in dogs besides infections—in fact, it can be quite difficult to figure out exactly what specific type of problem is going on with your pup without taking them to the vet.

Some general symptoms of an ear infection in dogs include increased scratching and head shaking, redness or swelling around the base of the ear flap (the part that's behind your dog's jaw), dark brown discharge from one or both ears (which may smell bad), fever or lethargy if severe enough damage has been done

However, before rushing off to see a vet about an ear infection in your dog, we’re going to teach you everything you need to know about them. This includes sharing the most common symptoms that your dog might experience during an ear infection and ways you might be able to treat it at home. 

Can Dogs Get an Ear Infection?

Yes, your dog can get an ear infection. If you live with a floppy-eared or long-haired pet, your chances of seeing this problem increase. The most common type of ear infection in dogs is called otitis externa (outer ear), which refers to inflammation of the external canal.

Ear infections are very common in dogs with floppy ears, especially Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels because they have less protection against dirt being trapped inside the ear canal. Dogs who have long hair around their ears also tend to get ear infections more often than those with short hair since they're more prone to having debris build up there too.

What Causes an Ear Infection in Dogs?

There are many causes of ear infections in dogs, including:

Bacteria and Yeast Microorganisms

Bacteria and fungus get into the ear canal through natural day-to-day living, a weakened skin barrier due to allergies, or moist physical environments. A bacterial or fungal infection can also occur when a foreign object gets stuck in the ear canal, such as grass, seeds, or twigs.


Sensitivities to certain foods, grasses, and chemicals are another common cause of ear infections in dogs. That’s because these allergies may lead to inflammation and irritation that will result in an infection if not treated early.

Ear Mites

Not only can these cause itching of your pet’s ears, leading to inflammation and irritation, but an infection will also eventually surface if ear mites are left untreated for too long.

Wax Buildup

This is another common cause of dog ear infections. When there is too much wax buildup inside your dog’s ears it makes them more vulnerable to outside elements, such as dirt particles, which then become trapped in the canal and lead to infection. 

What are the Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Dogs?

To keep your dog healthy, it's important to know the symptoms that indicate an ear infection and when it’s time to see a vet. Some signs are more obvious than others:

  • Redness and swelling at the base of the ear (where it meets the head)
  • Pain or sensitivity in the ear area, especially when touched
  • Smelly discharge from their ears
  • Head shaking (this can be different than if they're trying to scratch a flea bite)
  • Loss of balance or disorientation (especially if there's no other explanation for why their walking is off)
  • Crusting or scabbing in the ear(s)
  • Rubbing ear on the floor

How to Treat Your Dog's Ear Infection at Home

You can attempt to treat a dog’s minor ear infection at home, but it will be difficult. If your dog has an ear infection, you really should not attempt to clean the ear without first consulting a veterinarian. This will minimize the likelihood of traumatizing your dog’s ear or inadvertently causing more damage. With a vet’s clearance, you should clean your dog’s ear once every few days until the infection has cleared. 

To clean and dry your dog’s ears, use a cotton ball or soft tissue to gently wipe away any excess discharge and dirt from inside the ear canal. Then pour a few drops of hydrogen peroxide into each ear canal and let it sit for several minutes before rinsing it out with warm water. After drying with another piece of soft cloth, apply an antiseptic or antibiotic solution specifically designed for dog ears to the inside of the ear canal. These solutions typically need to be prescribed by a veterinarian. 

When to See a Vet about an Ear Infection

If you suspect that your dog has an ear infection, call your vet. It's important to get prompt veterinary attention for an ear infection. Ear infections can be very painful and uncomfortable for dogs, so it's best to treat them as soon as possible. Your vet is the best resource for guiding you to effectively treat your dog’s ear infection. They’ll also help identify the different treatment options that are available for your pet.

Fursure Can Help You Pay for Veterinary Care

As our fur babies integrate themselves into our lives and hearts, more resources are emerging to help us support them. The Fursure card is one of these. Our debit card is designed with pet parents in mind and helps you pay your vet bills with everyday purchases, like those you might acquire while treating an ear infection. And, it’s the best way to budget for medical emergencies you might experience with your fur baby. Sign up for your free card, today!

Final Thoughts

Ear infections in dogs are more common than you might think. And, like humans, in dogs, they’re incredibly uncomfortable and potentially dangerous. It’s important to contact your vet if you suspect your dog might have an ear infection. 

Watch for signs that could indicate an ear infection, and help your pup keep their ears clean and healthy - especially those floppy-eared ones! But just remember, when illness does occur, treatment is always readily available, and more affordable than ever!

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