Ear infections are fairly common in dogs as they have a wider ear canal than most pets. However, if they are not caught and treated, they can lead to serious health problems down the line. Here, our Southgate veterinarians discuss the symptoms of ear infection in dogs, what causes them, and how to get them treated.
Ear Infections in Dogs
In dogs, ear infections are fairly common and you’ll likely notice quickly if your dog begins to display symptoms, they may scratch their ear, whine or shake their head, and discharge or wax buildup may become an issue.
But what if your dog is asymptomatic, and what can happen if the infection is left untreated? Read below to find out.
The three types of ear infections are:
Otitis Externa (Outer Ear)
Also referred to as “infection of the external ear canal”, or “otitis externa”, outer ear infection is one of the most common types found in dogs.
Otitis Media (Middle Ear) and Otitis Interna (Inner Ear)
If outer ear infections aren’t detected or treated, they can often lead to middle and inner ear infections. These can turn very serious and sometimes lead to vestibular symptoms, in addition to deafness and facial paralysis. That’s why it’s critical that outer ear infections are detected early, and that every reasonable effort to prevent infection is made.
Which dog breeds are susceptible to ear infections?
Due to the shape of their ear canals, some breeds are more prone to ear infection, including those with large, hairy or floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Miniature Poodles. However, ear infections can happen in any breed.
Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs
Aside from wax buildup and discharge in the ear canal, some dogs will not show any symptoms of ear infection and in others, serious symptoms can appear. Serious symptoms may include:
- Redness or swelling in the ear canal
- Crusting or scabs in the ears
- Scratching at the affected ear
- Head shaking
- Dark discharge
Causes of Ear Infection in Dogs
More fluid tends to collect in dogs’ ear canals than humans, due to our furry friends’ L-shaped ear canal. This leaves them more vulnerable to infection.
Bacteria, yeast or a mix of both are common causes of infection. Other factors that can contribute to infections include:
- Injury to ear canal
- Allergies (skin diseases or food sensitivities)
- Moisture, which creates an environment where yeast and bacteria thrive, causing bacterial ear infections in dogs
- Wax buildup
Diagnosis & Treatment
If you suspect your dog may have an ear infection, you’ll want to visit your veterinarian as soon as possible and have it treated quickly, to both alleviate immediate pain and discomfort and prevent infection from spreading to the inner or middle ear.
Prepare to brief your vet on your dog’s medical history, ear infection symptoms, recent activities, swimming, grooming and diet. The veterinarian will then perform a physical examination, including a close inspection of the ears.
A medicated ear cleanser can be used to clean your dog’s ears, before the vet prescribes a topical medication for at-home use. Oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications may be prescribed for severe cases.
Surgery to remove the ear canal may be recommended in cases of severe chronic disease. This would eliminate diseased tissue and prevent infection from recurring.
What can happen if my dog’s ear infection is left untreated?
A qualified vet will need to treat your dog right away if he is showing signs of ear infection. An untreated ear infection or lapses in treatment can develop into severe infection and lead to serious issues.
If antibiotics are prescribed, ensure the full course of treatment is completed, even if your dog’s ear infection looks as if it’s cleared up before the antibiotics are finished. As mentioned above, untreated outer ear infections may lead to more serious middle and inner ear infections.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.