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Dog Ear Infections Explained

Ear infections are common in dogs. According to the AKC, dogs are more prone to external ear infections than humans because of the shape of their ear canal. Dogs with long, floppy ears, such as a Basset Hound or Cocker Spaniel, are even more susceptible to developing an ear infection. 

The cause of a dog’s ear infection can range from moisture after bathing or swimming, bacterial, or fungal infections, and even allergies. Allergies are the main cause of most ear problems in dogs. 

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The Different Types of Canine Ear Infections Explained

Infections in the Outer Ear

An outer ear infection, often referred to as otitis externa, is the most common type of ear infection in a dog. 

Infections in the Inner Ear

Although inner ear infections are less common, they are very serious. Dogs with an inner ear infection are at an increased risk for a ruptured ear drum and even hearing loss. Dogs with otitis interna may struggle from sudden loss of balance as well as the other common signs of ear problems.

Signs of an Ear Infection

Just like with people, dog ear infections are painful and will lead to an ear ache. Dogs often react to ear pain in the following ways:

  • Frequent head shaking
  • Digging and scratching at their ears
  • Increased sensitivity and crying out when ears are touched
  • Rubbing their head and ears on furniture

There are certain telltale signs that your dog’s ear may be infected. By knowing the indicators of canine ear pain and other ear problems, you’ll be better prepared to get your pet the care they need.

Other changes you may see in your dog’s ear include:

  • A red or irritated ear
  • A crusty looking ear with thickened and narrowed ear canals
  • Black, brown, white, green, or yellow ear discharge draining from the ear
  • A foul smell coming from a dog’s ear

Importance of Treating Your Dog’s Ears

It’s always important for your dog to be treated when there is an infection. Since a dog with an ear infection is in pain and will dig at their ear, they are at an increased risk of permanently damaging their ear or going deaf. Constant head shaking can cause the blood vessels in the ear to break and form an aural hematoma. Aural hematomas can lead to painful ear swelling and often require surgery. If you notice the signs of an ear infection, call your veterinarian as soon as possible.

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Guest Author:
Sarah J. Wooten DVM, CVJ

Dr. Sarah J. Wooten DVM, CVJ is a small animal veterinarian, writer, public speaker and established leader in veterinary medicine. Her passion in writing and speaking from the heart on client communication and service.

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