Common Ear Infections in Dogs

dog ear infection - VetMed

Ear infections are common in dogs and puppies, and owners may quickly come to see their tell-tale symptoms. In this article we’re looking at ear infections in dogs, what causes them, how to treat them, and how to prevent future occurrences. 

Unlike people, dogs have very different ear structures, with a long J or an L shaped canal. This shape traps dirt and water more easily, which can easily lead to infections.

 The three types of ear infections are otitis externa, otitis media, and otitis interna.

  1. Outer ear infection: Otitis externa which affects the outer area of the ear canal.
  2. Middle ear infection: Otitis media which affects the middle ear canal.
  3. Inner ear infection: Otitis interna which affects the inner ear canal.

While otitis externa is the most common ear infection seen in dogs, the inflammation may spread to become otitis interna and media. Otitis interna and media may result in deafness and facial paralysis among other symptoms if not treated quickly and effectively enough.


Some dogs may show no symptoms of an ear infection other than wax buildup. However, if you are concerned that your pup has an infection, here are a few things to be on the lookout for:

  • Itchiness and scratching at their ear
  • Wax buildup 
  • Bad smell
  • Pain or discomfort 
  • Redness in the ear canal 
  • Shaking their head
  • Hearing loss 
  • Problems with balance


There are a number of things that can cause an ear infection in dogs. These underlying causes need to be addressed so that a possible recurrence is prevented. 

  • Mites
  • Bacterial infection
  • Allergies from food or the environment 
  • Foreign bodies such as grass seeds
  • Moisture, which can encourage the growth of bacteria and yeasts
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Endocrine imbalances 
  • Injury to the ear 
  • Wax buildup

Certain dog breeds also have a predisposition to developing ear infections, particularly those with long floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, as well as breeds like Labradoodles and Shar Peis. 

Generally, ear infections in dogs are not contagious, but there are a few exceptions here. An ear infection due to ear mites is one of these cases. Treat all pets for ear mites at the same time, and wash bedding and toys as well. 


If you suspect your dog has an ear infection, the first port of call is to visit a vet. Your vet will check your pup’s ears thoroughly and may take a swab for further diagnosis. Your vet will clean out Fido’s ears if an ear infection is identified, and may prescribe anti-inflammatory and antibiotic medications. Most ear infections can be sorted within two weeks, provided it’s not a complicated case and that the right steps have been taken. Severe cases may take up to 6 to 8 weeks to resolve, particularly if there are underlying causes that need to be investigated or if the ear infections are chronic.   

Remember, it’s always important to follow your vet’s directions regarding treatment and medication. 

Preventative care

As with all other conditions, prevention is better than cure. 

  1. A good ear cleaning and ear maintenance routine is highly recommended. 
  2. If your dog enjoys swimming, be sure to gently but thoroughly dry their ears after swimming. We also recommend this in the cases where dogs have been bathed. 
  3. If your dog is prone to recurring ear infections, work with a vet to pinpoint the underlying cause.

How to clean your dogs’ ears

  1. Apply VetMed Ear Rinse to your dog’s ear canal. 
  2. Massage the ear canal from the outside. 
  3. Using clean, absorbent gauze, wipe the canal gently to clean the excess liquid away.
  4. Gently clean your dog’s outer ear canal and ear flaps.
  5. If your vet has prescribed medication, apply as directed.

A few tips:

  • Do not use hydrogen peroxide or rubbing alcohol. The inside of your dog’s ears are very sensitive and these agents can potentially cause more harm than good.
  • Cotton balls, a clean cloth, clean gauze are all great options for cleaning ear crevices, and the outer ear.  
  • You should never stick cotton swabs into your dog’s ear canal as it can cause damage to the eardrum or push wax and dirt further into the ear canal.
  • Do not use paper towels to clean the inside of your dog ears. Paper towels often leave behind fibers that could become an irritant in your dog’s ears.

The main takeaway here is that while ear infections are common in many dogs and may not be fatal, it is important to address the underlying issue. Have your pup treated quickly to stop the infection from spreading, and to minimize any pain and discomfort your pooch may be experiencing. 

If you would like to learn more about VetMed Ear Rinse, click here. You can also learn about understanding dog paw care and dog eye care on our blog section