Dog Ear Infection: Symptoms, Causes, And Natural Remedies

dog ear infection
dog ear infection

Ear infections are a common canine problem. Almost every dog once in its lifetime suffers from ear infections. If you see your dog scratching his/her ears all the time, or rubbing the ears on furniture, then there is a problem. An ear infection might be bothering your four-legged friend. The first thing you need to do in such cases is, take your dog for an examination. But do not worry. Ear infections are quite common, and with the right treatment, your dog will be fine in a few days. Know all about dog ear infection from this write-up.

Ear infections in dogs happen when sebum, wax, hair, moisture, and debris build up in the ear canal. These provide a perfect breeding ground to the yeast and bacteria.

Clinical Signs Of Dog Ear Infection

If your dog is suffering from an ear infection, then he/she will behave in a different way. If he/she is showing any of the following symptoms, then take your dog to a vet for confirmation.

  • You will see your dog frequently shaking his/her head. This happens because of the irritation in his/her ear.

  • You might also notice that your dog is tilting his/her head or leaning to any side. This particularly happens while walking. Usually, the dog tilts his/her head on the side of the infected ear.

  • If your dog has an ear infection, then you will notice strange odors coming from his/her ear canal.

  • If the infection gets worse, then your dog’s skin can turn scaly. This happens near the affected ear. Bald patches around the affected ear might also be there.

  • Whining and itching the affected ear is also quite common. You will notice your dog itching or pawing the infected ear as well as the surrounding area. Also, your dog will rub his/her ear on furniture, carpet, or other rough surfaces. Sometimes, he/she might end up cutting the affected ear that eventually starts to bleed.

  • The affected ear will turn red and swell up if there is an ear infection.

  • Further, you might notice brown, red, or yellow discharge from your dog’s ear canal. This discharge is, most of the times, smelly.

  • A constant itchiness will bother your dog in case of an ear infection.

  • Inflammation of the affected ear and surrounding area.

  • Imbalance while moving and walking in circles at times. Since ears help in maintaining the body balance while walking, thus imbalanced movements are quite common during ear infections.

  • In the worst cases, your dog might suffer from hearing loss.

  • Unusual eye movements and irritation.

  • Difficulty in chewing and in some cases, refusing food.

How Does A Dog Ear Infection Look Like?

If your dog has an ear infection, then there will be some visible changes. You are likely to notice some of the following symptoms:.

  • Brown, yellowish discharge mixed with blood.

  • Patchy or scaly skin.

  • Bad odor coming from ear canals.

  • Swelling and redness of the affected ear.

  • Scabs or crusts inside the ear.

Now, other than ears, the infection can end up affecting the eyes as well. So, look for unusual eye movement. Especially, check the size of the pupil. If the eyes are also affected, then the infection is a lot more serious.

Types Of Dog Ear Infection

All dog ear infections are not the same. There are three basic types of canine ear infections namely, otitis externa, media, and internal. These types depend on the causes of the infection and the affected area.

A dog’s ear is divided into three parts, outer, middle, and inner ear. The outer ear includes pinna and the ear canal. The pinna is shaped to funnel in the sound. The middle ear consists of the eardrum and three bones (hammer, anvil, and stirrup). Finally, the inner ear has the cochlea (the organ responsible for hearing) and the vestibular system (the organ that helps keeping balance). Now, the three types of infections happen in three different parts of the ear. Let’s know about these in details.

Otitis Externa

Otitis externa is the type of canine ear infection where the external ear gets inflamed. This inflammation usually happens in the ear canal distal and the tympanic membrane. The infection can later spread to pinna but this is a rare case.

Further, otitis externa can be acute or chronic as well as unilateral or bilateral. In case of acute otitis externa, hemorrhagic discharges can be there. Chronic otitis externa can cause permanent hearing loss. If the otitis externa becomes malignant, then it can lead to temporal bone osteomyelitis.

Some clinical signs of this type of an ear infection include any combination of headshaking, bad odor, pain on manipulation of the ear, exudates, and erythema.

Otitis Media

Otitis media is the inflammation of the middle ear. In this case, to keep the infection affects the eardrum and spreads towards hammer, anvil, and stirrup. Otitis media can be of two types, acute and chronic.

The signs of otitis media include whining, loss of balance, loss of appetite and agitation. In case of chronic otitis media, your dog will lose his/her hearing ability. Otitis media is usually a result of chronic otitis externa.

Otitis Interna

On the other hand, otitis interna refers to the inflammation of the inner ear. In this case, the infection spreads from the middle ear to the cochlea and vestibular tube. This can result in serious damage, including imbalance and permanent hearing loss. Otitis interna results from otitis externa and otitis media.

Primary Causes Of Dog Ear Infection

A dog’s ear canal is kind of ‘L’-shaped. Due to this, it tends to store more fluid. Therefore, dogs are more vulnerable to ear infections than humans. Now, there are certain factors that can cause ear infection in dogs.


Some bacteria grow on the dog’s body. They feed on the fluids that stores in the dog’s ear canal. These bacteria can cause an ear infection whenever the environmental factors are in favor of the bacteria.


Sometimes, water or some other fluids get into your dog’s ear while you bathe him/her. From those fluids, a fungal infection can happen. Aspergillosis is the most common fungal ear infection.


Moisture can cause a bacterial or fungal infection in your dog’s ear. Most of the times, moisture helps to grow bacteria and yeast, which later result in an ear infection.


Certain viruses can also cause ear infection in dogs. This usually begins with a fever and later on, results in infection.


Mites are small arthropods. They leech onto the dog’s body and causes several infections. When a mite bites your dog, he/she itches that particular part of the skin. From that, your dog can get an ear infection. However, this is more common in puppies than grown-up dogs.


If your dog is under some medication, it can cause an ear infection. Sometimes, these infections are a reaction to certain drugs that your dog is allergic to.


Almost 50% of the dogs who have some allergic skin disease, later on, suffer from an ear infection. So, if your dog is allergic to certain food, drugs, flowers, paint, and so on, then there is an 80% chance he/she will develop an ear inflammation.


Hypothyroidism is a disorder where the thyroid glands fail to produce enough hormones. This can also cause ear infection in canines. So, if your dog is suffering from hypothyroidism, then there is a high chance he/she might get an ear infection.


Autoimmune diseases are a type of immune system disorder, for example, pemphigus. In the case of this disease, the immunity system of your dog takes a toll and attacks its own tissues. As a result, he/she gets affected by infections easily.


Endocrine disorders occur when a gland produces either too much or too little hormones. This can affect heart rate, digestion, and even the immunity system. These disorders can also cause an ear infection in canines.


Ear wax can cause ear infections. Thus, it is necessary to clean up your dog’s ear wax from time to time. This is a basic hygiene protocol one needs to follow.

However, this doesn’t mean you should clear your dog’s ear every day. Excessive cleaning can also cause ear infections.


An ear infection can also occur from an injury. When a dog suffers from an ear injury, at times, the blood clots can dry up and clog the ear canal. From these blood clots, ear infections can happen.


Meningitis is a bacterial infection in which fluids get into the membranes of the brain’s protective covering. This causes inflammation and swelling and results in pain. Now, if the infection of membranes starts spreading, it can affect ears as well. This usually causes otitis interna in dogs.


Sometimes, foreign bodies get into the ear and stay stuck in the earlobe or ear canal. These foreign bodies can get into your dog’s ear while playing or taking a bath. If they stay stuck inside the ear canal for too long, then they can cause itchiness and eventually, ear infections.

Precise Diagnosis Of Dog Ear Infection

In case your dog is depicting any of the signs of ear infection, then it is important to visit a veterinarian as soon as possible. Ear infections are usually painful and cause irritation. Some medication can give your dog comfort (because these conditions can be extremely painful). Also, some medication is needed to prevent the spread of the infection to the middle and inner ears.

However, once the vet diagnoses your dog and prescribes the necessary medicine for immediate pain relief, you can treat him/her at home.

Now, for the diagnosis, you have to take your dog to a vet for a thorough examination. Ear infections can come up any time and that too without any medical history. So, you have to answer a few questions to the ER for a proper diagnosis.


  • At first, note down the symptoms which made you think your dog might be suffering from an ear infection. Make sure to tell the vet each and every signs, even if they seem minor to you.

  • After that, the next important factor is the duration of the symptoms. Let the ER know since when you noticed pain, swelling, discharge from the ear, odor, and such.

  • Your dog’s food habit, including how much and what you feed him/her is important for diagnosis. Also, if your dog has the habit of eating every unknown object or a gnawing problem, then tell that to the vet as well.

  • nce an ear infection. So, make sure to tell that to the one who is diagnosing your dog.

  • If your dog is suffering from any other medical condition or is under medication, then give the ER all the details of that.

  • How often and with what you clean your dog’s ear is also important when it comes to an ear infection. Provide proper information about that. Also, let the vet know about whether you trimmed your dog’s hair or not.

  • Some recent activities like baths, swimming, getting wet in the rain or playing in the mud, are important factors that can cause ear infections. So, tell the vet about that too.

  • Finally, tell the vet about any history of ear infections, including when it occured and how it was treated.


After noting down the behavior and history, the vet will examine your dog which might require sedation. This depends upon how painful the infection is and how your dog is holding up. Even if only one ear is affected, both the ears will be examined. Now, the examination includes certain things that are listed below:

  • At first, there will be a visual assessment. This includes looking for some signs, such as redness, crusts, swelling, blood or other liquid discharges.

  • Next comes a gentle palpation of the ear which will assess the intensity of the pain.

  • After that, the vet will go for a microscopic examination of the tissue samples taken from the affected ear of your dog.

  • Also, a tissue culture is needed for a thorough examination.

  • Further, examination with an otoscope will be required. This will help to look into the ear and identify the factors causing an ear infection, such as foreign objects, impacted wax buildup and debris, ear mites, or eardrum damage.

  • Finally, the vet will do biopsies and x-rays depending on the severity of the infection. These tests are usually needed for extreme or chronic cases.

Treatment For Ear Infections

The treatment for ear infection is quite simple. After examination, the vet will first thoroughly clean your dog’s ears. Also, the doctor might prescribe a topical medication or systemic antibiotics depending on the condition of your dog. The vet might also prescribe some medications to ease up the pain, generally tramadol or steroids.

These treatments are quite effective yet easy to apply. However, it is not always necessary to treat your dog with antibiotics. You can use some home remedies that are also effective on your dog’s ear infections.

Home Remedy For Dog Ear Infection

There are certain natural remedies that can heal your dog’s ear infection. So, if you are wondering how to treat dog ear infection without vet, then go through this section. Know about 5 excellent home remedies for treating your dog’s ear infection.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Vinegar contains acetic acid. The acetic acid of apple cider vinegar is really effective in removing dirt as well as debris from your dog’s ear. At the same time, it can effectively kill infection-causing fungus or bacteria.

However, there are certain limitations of using apple cider vinegar. In case your dog has sore and reddish ears, then you should not use vinegar. It will cause your dog too much pain.

Now, to clean your dog’s ear, pour some apple cider vinegar into a cup and mix an equal amount of distilled water. After that, take a little amount of that mixture and squirt in your dog’s ears. You can use a syringe to do so. It is easily available in any of the pharmacies. Otherwise, you can take a clean cotton ball and dip it into the mixture. Then, gently clean your dog’s ears with that.


Mullein is a medicinal plant. It has several antibacterial properties that work like a magic for treating ear infections. Extracting the oil from this herb and making medicine is quite easy.

To do so, buy or find some good quality dried mullein leaf. You can easily get them from any local medical store. After that, follow the procedure described below to make the medicine.

  • Take some mullein leaves into a glass jar and mix olive oil in it. Pour enough olive oil so that it covers the mullein leaves completely.

  • Now, into that mixture, add some clove or two pieces of freshly chopped garlic. This will increase the antibacterial property of the medicine.

  • After that, leave the mixture for two to three weeks. After two to three weeks, the medicine will be ready.

Once the medicine is ready, you can apply it on your dog’s infected ears. Heat up the mixture a little. Then, take a clean cotton ball and dip it into the lukewarm mixture. Put the medicine on your dog’s ear canal with the cotton ball. You can also apply this medicine with a dropper. But remember, this medicine takes some time to make.

Oregano Oil

Oregano has some incredible medicinal properties. The oil extracted from oregano leaves can be used as a natural antibiotic. But using the raw oil on your dog causes irritation. Thus, dilute it before applying.

To make a perfect mixture, add a drop of oregano oil with 15 mL of aloe vera juice. You can get both oregano oil and aloe vera juice from a local health store. Now, drop a little amount of that mixture into the affected ear of your dog. You can use a syringe or a dropper to do so. Or else, you can apply this mixture with a clean cotton ball. This is really effective.


Calendula is an amazing medicinal plant that has a great healing ability. It’s considered one of the best herbs for treating skin problems, including rashes, allergies, and infections. Calendula is also great for external ear infections. So, if your dog has otitis externa, then this plant can help.

Further, you can use it both internally and externally. It is a proven antifungal herb as well as a pain reliever. Here is the procedure for making the medicine at home.

  • Put some calendula flowers in a glass jar and again cover them with olive oil. Pour enough olive oil so that the flowers are submerged in it.

  • Add some clove or freshly chopped garlic to increase the antibacterial property.

  • Leave the mixture for three to four days to sit. And then, the medicine is ready.

To apply the mixture to your dog, first heat it up till it is lukewarm. Then, either use a cotton ball or a dropper and put it on the infected ear. You can keep this mixture for almost 6 months. But keep it in a covered jar in cool and dry places.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has antibacterial as well as some anti-fungal properties. See how you can make a medicine with coconut oil.

  • Take two tablespoons of coconut oil and put it in a saucepan on low heat.

  • Then, mix fresh garlic to add up to the antibacterial property.

  • Simmer it in low flame until the oil is in liquid form.

  • After that, let it cool for sometime. If the oil is too hot, then it will cause a burning sensation in your dog’s ear.

Once it is ready, put the mixture into your dog’s ear with a dropper or a cotton ball. Clean the infected area using this solution.

Summing It Up

dog ear infection

You can use any of the above mixtures for treating dog ear infections. Apply any one of these solutions to your dog’s infected ear two to three times a day. Continue using it for at least 5 to 7 days. Even after the infection is gone, you can keep using these solutions for cleaning your dog’s ear once a week. This helps to prevent future infections and allergies.

However, if your dog’s ear infection becomes chronic and the condition starts to deteriorate, then do not try to treat him/her at home. Rather take your dog to an authorized vet.

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