Listen Up! Take Care of Your Pup’s Ears

If your dog frequently shakes his head, rubs his ears along the floor or furniture, or has foul
smelling discharge from his ears, he may be suffering from an ear infection, also known as otitis externa. All breeds of dogs can develop infections, but for some, it is a chronic condition.

Get Help

It is important to seek treatment for ear infections as soon as possible to help prevent
the infection from migrating from the external ear canal to the middle or internal ear canal. Longstanding, severe infections can invade the inner ear and result in vestibular disease, which manifests as improper balance, disorientation and head tilt. Also, ear infections are very painful. Often dogs will scratch their ears so severely to try to numb this pain that
they will cause bleeding. This will then set up additional skin infections if not treated.

Exam Time

Your veterinarian will perform a thorough ear examination as well as collect samples of debris from your dog’s ears for microscopic identification. Sometimes there are ear mites that require specific treatment. A culture and antibiotic sensitivity test may also be performed to specifically identify the species of bacteria and yeast that may be present.
Antibiotics, ear cleansers, eardrops and pain control medications may be prescribed. A professional ear flushing may also need to be performed. If your veterinarian practices complimentary medicine, acupuncture and herbal formulas may also be prescribed to
relieve the infection and discomfort.


The most important thing to accomplish is to find the primary underlying problem. Curing this underlying problem will help
prevent future infections.


Dogs who swim often (especially those with long ears that trap water) can develop infections if contaminated water is lodged inside the ears. The combination of heat and moisture can allow normal ear bacteria and yeast to overgrow, resulting in infection. If your
dog does go swimming, it is important to gently cleanse and dry the ears afterward.
It is also beneficial to keep the fur short inside of your dog’s ears. Have your veterinarian or groomer gently shave the inside of the ears. Do not pluck the fur as it can cause inflammation and pain.


This is a disease resulting in decreased thyroid hormone production. Thyroid hormone is important for many functions including regulating metabolism and immune system
health. If the thyroid hormone level is too low, several skin diseases can develop,
including ear infections. Dogs with chronic ear infections should be tested for hypothyroidism. The test consists of a thyroid hormone analysis as well as thyroid stimulating hormone level determination. Specific treatment for hypothyroidism is then initiated.


Allergies to either environmental allergens such as plants, dusts, and moulds, or allergies to certain foods, may cause ear infections. Your dog can be tested for allergies. If positive, special foods can be prescribed, as well as allergy serum injections if they are allergic to
environmental allergens. Adult dogs should be examined by a veterinarian at least once a year and seniors should visit the vet twice. It is also important for pet owners to regularly
examine their pets from head to toe, including looking inside the ears. If disease or discomfort is suspected, prompt evaluation by a veterinarian is important to prevent development of severe infections.