How to Know if Your Dog Has an Ear Infection and What to Do About It

If your dog is shaking his head more than usual, scratching at his ears, and rubbing them all the time, then he may have an ear infection. While most ear infections are minor, they are also quite common and easily treatable. Read on to find out how you can tell if your dog has an ear infection and what you can do about it.

What Causes Dogs to Get an Ear Infection?

Yeast and bacteria in the ear canal are the usual causes of ear infections in dogs. While human ear canals are horizontal, dogs’ ear canals are mainly vertical. Unfortunately, that makes it easy for moisture to build up in the ear canal. All that excess moisture creates the perfect environment for the growth of yeast and bacteria.

Additional possible causes include ear mites, allergies, wax buildup, thyroid issues, or even a virus. Some dogs are just more prone to ear infections than others, especially dogs with big floppy ears, like spaniels and hounds or dogs that grow a lot of hair in their ear canal.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections

While it’s true that head shaking, ear scratching, and rubbing are the most common signs, there are other indicators as well. Be on the lookout for head tilting, redness, swelling, odor, discharge, scabs or crust, loss of hearing, and even loss of balance or walking in circles.

When Should You Go to the Vet?

It’s best to make a trip to the vet right away if you suspect that your dog has an ear infection. Ear infections can be incredibly painful. They can even spread, moving from the outer ear to the middle and inner ear, which can be much more severe and painful.

Your vet will take a complete history that includes recent behavior, activity, and diet. He or she will also examine the ear canal with an otoscope and touch the outer ear in an attempt to determine your dog’s pain level and the severity of the infection. A sample of any discharge in the ear will be tested for bacteria, yeast, or parasites.

How is an Ear Infection Treated?

Once you’ve consulted with your vet, the vet will determine the cause of the infection and the best course of treatment. Typically, treatment will involve a professional cleaning by a technician at your vet’s office followed by a course of medication you’ll administer at home. Since the causes of infections vary, so do the medications. In some cases, your dog will need an oral antibiotic, a salve, drops, or maybe a spray.

It’s important to remember that ear infections commonly recur, especially in dogs. Be sure to use all of the medication as prescribed, practice good preventive care by keeping your dog’s ears clean and dry, and follow up with the vet if the symptoms don’t improve.

To prevent infections in the future, keep your dog’s ears dry, clean them regularly to remove excess dirt and hair, be on the lookout for any common symptoms.