Ear Infections In Dogs

You may have observed that your dog has been itching as of late and has been scratching itself, particularly near the ears. Constant ear scratching is a symptom of an ear infection. You would be surprised to know that ear infections are actually common conditions, particularly for dog breeds which have floppy ears such as cocker spaniels. However, any dog can develop an ear infection regardless of age, breed or medical history.

Types of dog ear infection

There are three types of infections, depending on which part of a dog’s ear is affected.

  • Otitis Externa: inflammation of the outer ear canal
  • Otitis Medina: inflammation of the middle ear
  • Otitis Interna: infection of the inner ear. This is a serious condition that can lead to permanent damage.

The most common type of dog ear infection is the Otitis Externa. It is however, better to take your dog to the vet if you suspect an ear infection as the infection can spread deeper into the ear canal and cause nerve damage, equilibrium issues and hearing loss.

Symptoms of dog ear infections

Some dogs will not show any symptoms. However, for other dogs, ear infections cause discomfort. Watch out for the following symptoms:
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching affected ear
  • Odour
  • Redness and swelling of ear canal
  • Itchiness
  • Pain
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Crusting, hair loss or scabs in the ears
  • Loss of balance
  • Reluctance to chew

Causes of dog ear infection

There are several causes of ear infections in dogs. Common factors that contribute to the infection include excess hair in the ear canal, buildup of earwax or too much moisture.

Usually though, ear infections are linked to an underlying cause, such as:

1. Dog ear mites

Ear mites are a pretty common parasite. The mites are microscopic and look like tiny white dots which you can barely see. Ear mites live on the skin of the ear canal and feed off ear wax and skin oils, causing your dog’s ears to itch.

Ear mites also produce wax, irritation and cause dry and black ear discharge. Your dog’s ears may look red and inflamed.

2. Allergies

Allergies leading to secondary infection is actually one of the main causes of ear infections. If the ear infection is treated but the underlying allergy is not, it is likely the ear infection will return eventually. Consult with your veterinarian to identify the source of allergy. Testing for contact, inhalant and food allergies must be carried out so that the source of the problem is eliminated.

3. Hormone imbalances

Hormone imbalances are also another underlying cause of dog ear infections. Further testing has to be carried out to determine why your dog is getting persistent ear infections.

4. Dog diet

Diet is a major factor in the cause of ear infections, especially if your dog is on a processed diet like kibble. Kibble is high in refined carbs, preservatives and processed ingredients, which feed natural yeast into your dog’s body.

The yeast will grow into larger colonies in the gut, causing inflammation in your dog’s body, including the ears. This is why it is always important to ensure your dog gets a fresh and raw diet as it is healthier. Petcubes’ range of raw dog food is made from the best ingredients and very convenient for you to prepare and feed.

Other causes of dog ear infections may include tumors or polyps, foreign bodies present in the dog’s ear or physical trauma.

Treatment for dog ear infections

Treatments for dog ear infections will vary according to the type of infection and causes. It is best to consult your veterinarian for the best course of treatment. It is common for your dog to receive an immediate ear cleaning at the vet as earwax and discharge can interfere with topical medications given.

Vets will also usually prescribe medicated ear drops or topical treatments. However, some dogs simply do not allow direct treatment of their ears. In this case, an injection of ivermectin is highly effective, especially if the ear infection involves dog ear mites.

You can also use natural remedies for dog itchiness and infections such as coconut oil for dogs, apple cider vinegar and baking soda to relieve the itching.

Preventing dog ear infections

As the saying goes, prevention is better than cure and this is applicable towards dog ear infections.

To prevent ear infections in dogs, always check your dog’s ears for debris and wax buildup. Keep its ears dry and well ventilated, especially after a bath or swimming. You should also take special care to trim excess ear hair when you send your dog for grooming.

Needless to say, regular check ups at your local veterinarian is a must so that ear infections can be prevented in dogs.


Dog ear infections are not fun for you or your dog. If you observe your dog itching, especially around the ear area, an ear infection may be a cause. Solving the underlying causes of ear infections are essential so that it does not recur, which is why it is best to talk to your vet.

Reviewed by: 

Dr Francis is one of the top wildlife nutritionists in Asia. Originating from Montreal, Canada, he left at 21 to pursue his Masters and subsequently a PhD in wildlife nutrition at Oxford Brookes University. Instead of taking the path of common animal science to learn about farm animals, or through the veterinarian space and taking a certificate in nutrition, he took the road less travelled to dive deep into the world of animal ecology, metabolism and nutrition.