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Causes & Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs

Updated on January 19, 2015

Dogs with floppy ears are more susceptible to ear infections

Prevent ear infections in dogs

Dogs that are groomed well and well-kept will rarely be exposed to many types of diseases; therefore the overall health of a dog is typically in your own hands. If you know how to look after your dog correctly you can keep them strong, active and happy for many years.

The best way to prevent ear infections in dogs is to make sure that they are frequently groomed. Dogs with floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels will especially need grooming often. As air circulation to the ears is minimal with these types of dog, it means their ears are literally closed and the risk of wax building up is high.

Dogs with floppy ears also have hair follicles which grow inside their ears. Air is prevented from entering the ear even more because of the small strands of hair. It is important that regular ear checks are carried out on your dog say they are both well-kept and in good health.

Proper grooming of your dog's ears

The ears do not need cleaned unless earwax is present on the outer ear area. Dog’s ears have a natural ability to clean themselves; therefore you should refrain from touching your dog’s ears every day. If you must touch your dog’s ears used rolled cotton buds instead of Q-tips as these can actually harm dogs ears, so you should always refrain from using them.

Another tip on how to prevent ear infections in dogs is to keep your pets ears dry when you give them a bath. This is because water that gets trapped in the inner ear is very likely to cause an infection. The infection will also worsen if it is combined with bacteria.

You should also ensure that your dog is free of fleas and mites at all times, as mites are also known to cause ear infections. Anti-flea powders and anti-mite products can be bought over the counter, and should be sprinkled onto your bed after they have been bathed. Theses powders protect your pet due to special formulas created to keep parasites away.

Infections of the ear can also be caused if a foreign object is in your dog’s ear. Foreign objects could be anything such as stones, ticks and leaves.

An ear infection in a Cocker Spaniel

Dangers of ear infections in dogs

The dangers of ear infections of dogs are vast, and if they are not treated quickly, they can result in more complex health problems.

For instance, sarcoma can be caused from a simple infection of your dogs ear. Sarcoma needs surgery for it to be removed as it is a tumor which forms in the dog's ear canal. Different types of tumors such as malignant melanoma and hemangiosarcoma can also develop.

  • Bad cases of infections can cause facial nerves problems also. As dog's ears are part of their head, there is a possibility that infection can affect the facial nerves. This condition is scientifically known as Otis media. Otis neoplasms can develop due to ear infections in dogs especially those with floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels.
  • Deafness is also a complication commonly associated with ear infections in dogs. This usually starts with minor ear infections in your dog, however if owners neglect the problem the inner ear of your dog could become damaged and if that is why deafness occurs. Most dogs who have hearing issues, at one stage in their life suffered from an ear infection. Deafness is one condition that is not easy to reverse.
  • If a dog is suffering from ulceration of the cartilage in their ears or from an acute ear infection it will be very obvious. Ulcerations are however rare unless your dog has been in a fight with another. There may also be lacerations in the conchal cartilage which can be a cause of deafness.
  • In very rare circumstances your dog may develop bacterial meningitis. This is caused by bacteria locating an ascending route from your dogs ear to the brain. The bacteria are caused by abbesses forming in the brain and are unfortunately very difficult to treat.

Symptoms of ear infections in dogs

As dogs are unable to tell you what is causing them problems, there are symptoms that you can look for in your dog to diagnose them yourself. This is particularly common regarding ear infections; one of the most common symptoms of ear infections in dogs is unnatural movements which indicate they have some problem.

Head-shaking is a common symptoms of ear infections in dogs. If your dog seems to be shaking its head often, it could be a sign of a problem such as an object trapped in their ear or it may be a result of water trapped in their ear from their recent bath. You should simply take a quick look in your dogs ear to check there is nothing inside.

Additional symptoms of ear infections in dogs include cocking of the head. If your dog is tilting their head unusually it could very well be an ear infection, such as a build-up of wax. Your dog will be tilting its head in an attempt to unblock their ears.

If your dog is scratching itself in one spot frequently it could be a sign they have a skin disorder, mites or a bacterial infection. These problems are common causes of an ear infection so should be treated quickly.

Symptoms of ear infections in dogs that are more serious include an issue with their balance. Mild ear infections rarely result in trouble with balance, so if this is occurring you should visit your vet immediately.

Indications that your pet has skin problems include redness of the skin, inflammation and tenderness which usually only occurs if your dog has been wounded or cut. There are several reasons why erosions of the skin occur in dogs and they should always be treated straight away, as they can result in severe ear infections. You can prevent these problems by taking your dog to the groomers frequently.


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    • Team Wiseman profile image

      Team Wiseman 

      3 years ago

      Very good Advice on how to groom a dogs ears, I had always used a Qtip, thanks


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