Dogs and Ear Infections

ear infections in dogs

A swollen or red ear canal is a sign of ear infections in pets

Most people could probably count on one hand how many ear infections they’ve had. Ear infections for people seem to happen at a low rate, or at least not consistently. Unfortunately, for dogs, that’s not always the case. In general, dogs get infections at a high frequency, and depending on the dog; ear infections are incessant. Today, we’re going to go over the causes of ear infections, signs, and symptoms, as well as treatment and maintenance that will help prevent otitis (an ear infection). 

Causes and Factors That Lead to Ear Infections

What makes one particular dog more susceptible to an ear infection than the other depends on a few factors. The shape of the ear canal is a factor that comes into play as well as several conditions that may be causing an abnormal buildup of ear wax. A dog’s ear structure is distinctly different than that of humans. A dog’s ear canal is both horizontal and vertical while a human’s ear canal goes straight in. This difference matters because due to the “J” shape of the dog’s ear canal, debris has to go upward instead of straight out. When ear wax has no way out, it builds up tenfold. An infection can begin when ear wax accumulation, skin oil, and other debris feeds bacteria and fungi. 

Anything that can cause ear wax buildup could result in an ear infection. For example, in the case of a Shar Pei, this breed has such a narrow ear opening, which can hamper ear drainage. A dog’s ear canal could also be irritated after a bath, or an underlying disease could be the cause of earwax buildup. Allergic skin disease is the top cause of increased ear wax and an ear infection. Other causes include foreign bodies in the ear (e.g., grass awns or foxtails), ear mites, or excessive hair in the ear canal (common in schnauzers and poodles more than other breeds of dogs). Too much wax can lead to bacterial growth, a rapid increase in the growth of yeast, and even pus development. For these reasons, you want to address an ear infection in its early stages. 


  • A Yeasty Smell
  • Excessive Scratching 
  • Abnormal Head Shaking
  • Red or Swollen Ear Canal
  • Waxy Buildup
  • Scratching of the Ear, Smelling of the Paw, and Then Licking the Paw
  • Hearing deficits (if the infection moves into the inner ear)
  • Dizziness and Walking in Circles
  • Head tilt
  • Nystagmus (unusual eye movements)


Treatment differs based on what part of the ear has an infection:

  1. Middle Ear Infections: Oral antibiotics
  2. Outer Ear Infections: Involves a thorough cleaning of the ear, followed by applying antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory medications

As far as prevention goes, we have several ear cleansers that benefit dogs based on their different needs. Make sure to dry your canine companion’s ear thoroughly after you bathe them or go for a swim. We also suggest that you address your pet’s allergy issues if they have any, as well as keep up on their vaccinations. 

Here at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital, We’ll Treat Your Pets Like Family!

Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, June 19th, 2020 at 5:14 pm. Both comments and pings are currently closed.