Ear infections can be distressing for both dogs and their owners. These painful conditions can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life, and recurrent or severe infections can cause long-term damage to the ear canal.

What causes ear infections in dogs?

Ear infections typically result from an overgrowth of bacteria or yeast within the ear canal. There are several underlying factors that can increase the risk of ear infections:

  • Skin allergies: Dogs with allergies are much more susceptible to ear infections. Allergies can lead to inflammation and other changes in the ear environment, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.
  • Ear mites: These tiny parasites infest the ear canal, causing irritation and inflammation.
  • Excessive ear cleaning: Too much cleaning can disrupt the natural balance of the ear, making it more prone to infection.
  • Excess earwax: A buildup of earwax can create a favourable environment for bacterial growth.
  • Skin growths or tumors: Abnormal growths within the ear can obstruct proper ventilation and drainage, leading to infections.
  • Swimming: Regular moisture in the ear canal changes the ear environment

Signs your dog has an ear infection

Recognising the signs of an ear infection is crucial for early intervention. Look out for the following symptoms:

  • Head shaking: Frequent head shaking is a classic sign of discomfort.
  • Scratching at the affected ear: Dogs may scratch their ears vigorously due to itching and pain.
  • Discharge: Any ear discharge is a reason for concern. When an ear infection is present, the discharge will usually be dark or yellow/creamy in colour.
  • Redness and swelling: Inflamed ear canals appear red and swollen.
  • Unpleasant odour: A foul smell emanating from the ear suggests an underlying issue.

How to tell the difference between normal ear discharge and ear infections

While some earwax is normal, excessive or abnormal discharge is a sign of infection. Here’s how to tell the difference between normal and abnormal ear discharge:

  • Normal earwax: Light brown earwax is typical. It serves as a protective barrier within the ear.
  • Abnormal discharge: Dark-colored, smelly, or excessive discharge may indicate an infection.

How to treat a dog’s ear infection

Prompt treatment is essential to alleviate your dog’s discomfort and prevent complications. Consult your veterinarian if you suspect an ear infection and they’ll recommend the best treatment option for your dog.


The treatment of an ear infection may involve:

  • Medicated eardrops: These contain antibiotics, antifungals, and/or anti-inflammatories to combat infection and reduce swelling. Your vet will recommend a specific product to treat your dog’s ear infection.
  • Ear cleaning: Proper ear hygiene is crucial. Follow your vet’s instructions for safe and effective cleaning.
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief: If your dog experiences significant pain, your vet may prescribe them pain relief medication.
  • Oral antibiotics: Severe infections may require oral antibiotics; however, topical treatment is usually preferred.

Remember, never use cotton buds to clean your dog’s ears. They can push debris deeper and cause harm.

By understanding the causes, recognising the signs, and seeking treatment promptly, you can help your beloved canine companion overcome ear infections. Regular check-ups and proper ear care are essential for maintaining your dog’s ear health.

If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, don’t delay. Book an appointment with your local Greencross Vets.