Reviewed and updated on July 27, 2020 by Justine Alderman, DVM
Dog ear infections are one of the most common canine health problems, but the treatment isn’t so simple. While they may seem like quick-and-easy issues to deal with, they can actually lead to some serious health complications for dogs.
Here are a few tips for what you can do if your dog has an ear infection.
Chronic dog ear infections can lead to permanent alterations in the anatomy of a dog’s ears, making future infections more likely and more difficult to treat.
Consult with a veterinarian quickly when you see these typical signs of a dog ear infection:
Scratching at the ears
Redness on the underside of the ear flap
Discharge and a foul odor from your dog’s ears
While it may be tempting to try to clean your dog’s ears, this can actually cause more damage or be very painful for your dog.
Go to your veterinarian and allow them to properly and safely clean all of the “gunk” out of your dog’s ears. In severe cases, a veterinarian may need to sedate your dog to thoroughly flush out their ears down to the level of the eardrum.
Once clean, your veterinarian will then thoroughly examine the eardrum to determine the the root cause of your dog’s ear infection.
Your veterinarian will prescribe the most effective dog ear infection treatment for your dog. Dog ear infections that involve structures behind the eardrum will require more aggressive treatment.
If you veterinarian has prescribed medications for your dog’s ear infection, follow the instructions exactly. You should never use products in your dog’s infected ear that you have not discussed with your veterinarian beforehand. Certain topical medications can cause deafness when used on pets with ruptured eardrums.
If your veterinarian has recommended that you clean your dog’s ears, use the product they have recommended. Do not dig down into your pet’s ear canal with cotton swabs or other objects, as this will simply push the material deeper and possibly lead to a rupture of the eardrum.
Follow these steps for cleaning your dog’s ears:
Lift the earflap up to make the ear canal visible.
Completely fill the ear canal until it overflows with the cleaner prescribed by the veterinarian.
Fold the earflap over the ear canal.
Gently massage the earflap until you hear a squishy noise.
Then stand back and let your dog shake their head vigorously.
Allowing your dog to shake their head is important because it will bring deeper material to the surface where it can be wiped away.
Healthy adult dogs with “normal” ear anatomy almost never get ear infections. In most cases, a pet’s ear infection should be viewed as a symptom of an underlying condition.
Many people think ear mites might be to blame, but almost every case of ear mites I’ve diagnosed has been in a kitten. Puppies can also get ear mites, but if you have an adult dog or cat that has not been in contact with kittens or puppies with ear mites, the chances that they have mites is very small.
A few things that can cause dog ear infections include:
Environmental allergies (like pollen, molds, and dust mites)
Foreign material within the ear
Chronically damp ears
If you suspect that there is something wrong with your dog’s ears, your vet is going to be your best source of help.