December 14

Dog Health Part 5: Ear Problems [2021 UPDATE]


Dog Ear Problems: Introduction


Is your pooch suffering from itchy and smelly ears? Dog ear infections are a common complaint among many dog owners.

If you see your canine friend often scratching or shaking their ears, it is likely that they are suffering from painful ear infections.

Tell-tale signs of ear infection in dogs are redness and black waxy discharge in the ears.

About 20 per cent of the dog population is affected with ear infections.

Certain breeds may be more prone to chronic infections, depending on ear sizes and the presence of hair around the ears.

Dogs with floppy or hairy ears, such as Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels, are more prone to chronic ear infections.

This is because their ears block potential air flow. 

Their large ears create the perfect environment for micro-organisms to grow. Dogs who love to swim, like Golden Retrievers and Irish Setters, are also likely to have ear infections as water can easily get accumulated in their ears.

Your dog may find it impossible to clean out the wax or gunk trapped in their ears, hence the shaking of ears and whining.

As their human companions, it is important for us to recognize when our dogs are in distress. Let us learn how ear infections occur in dogs, how to identify the symptoms, and finally, how they can be treated.


Causes of Dog Ear Infections

Dog ear infections are of three types,

Otitis externa

Inflammation can occur in the cells lining the external ear, the part of the ear that is visible. This is the more common dog ear infection and is usually treatable at home.

Otitis media

Inflammation in the outer ear can travel deeper, so dogs with chronic external ear infection may also suffer from further infection in the middle ear. This condition is known as otitis media.

Otitis interna

inflammation in the middle ear canal may lead to infection in the inner ear canal, which presents a serious issue.


Canine ears are longer and narrower than human ear canals.

 They are vertical and turn at right angles into the deeper parts of the ear.

Often bacteria and yeast can get trapped in the cavities if the ears are not cleaned properly or are left damp. This makes dogs more prone to ear infections caused by a multitude of factors, which include:


Your dog may have food sensitivities that reflect on their skin. Other than food, some dogs may be allergic to pollen, dust mites, etc.


Dampness and warmth provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast. It is important to make sure your dog’s skin and fur is not left wet after contact with water.

Hormonal imbalances

An underactive thyroid gland as well as imbalances in the adrenal and sex hormones may result in chronic ear infections.

Excess wax or hair in the ear canal

Ear wax protects the ear canal from damage. However, if excess wax is not cleaned out, it may result in build-up of brown or black wax in your dog’s ears that can give rise to infections.

Typically black ear wax is a confirmation that the ear is indeed infected.

Otherwise, any dog ear infection would also cause it to smell quite badly.


Injuries to the ear may lead to inflammation and swelling. If there is an obvious wound in your dog’s ear, it might be time to contact your veterinary doctor.

Parasites and ear mites

Ear mites are commonly found in puppies. They can cause serious damage to the ear canal and the external membrane of the ear.

These tiny organisms can only be detected under a microscope. An ear mite infestation would need to be evaluated by your veterinary doctor.

Foreign particles

Unwanted objects such as plant seeds can get stuck in the dog’s ear canal and lead to irritation and inflammation.

Improper or excessive cleaning

While it is important to get your dog’s ears cleaned, it is better to get it done by a professional. You do not want to damage the inner ear due to harsh cleaning.


Dog Ear Infection Symptoms

It can be hard and distressing for new dog owners to identify symptoms of an ear infection in their pet. Below are some signs and symptoms in your dog that you should watch out for.

Scratching and pawing at the ears, typically itchy dog ears

Persistent head tilts

Repeated head shaking

Swelling and redness of the ear

Build-up of dirt and black wax

Crusting near and inside the ears

Hearing problems

Foul smell in the ear

Brown, black, or red discharge

Hair loss near the ear

Balance and coordination problems

If your dog develops any of these symptoms, do not hesitate to check in with your veterinary doctor. An early diagnosis is important for the best treatment options.


Treatment of Dog Ear Infections

Early treatment is essential to prevent chronic ear infections and relieve any discomfort your canine companion might be feeling.

Various natural and over-the-counter treatment options are available for dog ear infections.

Severe cases may require proper medication as well. 

You may clean any built-up wax or debris in your dog’s ears with a natural homemade solution or a specially formulated cleaning solution.

But first you must factor in the duration of symptoms, diet, existing medication, and the allergen and health history of your pet.


Hypoallergenic or raw diet


Your dog may be exposed to allergens in their diet or may develop food sensitivities over time. You may try an elimination diet to identify any potential allergens.

Introducing novel proteins to your dog’s diet, such as kangaroo meat, salmon, that they may not have been exposed to before can help minimize allergic responses to food.

You may also limit the number of ingredients in your dog’s diet, thus limiting sensitivities and allergies.


Cereals, beef, dairy, artificial coloring and preservatives are potential allergens in dog food

Many dry dog food brands in the market have formulas especially suited to sensitive dogs. 

These have hydrolyzed protein and ingredients that are unlikely to cause infections in dogs.


A good hypoallergenic formula will not upset your dog’s gut flora and will simultaneously support their digestive processes.

It will have gut-friendly ingredients such as omega-3 fatty acids, pre and probiotics.

Vitamins like vitamin A, E and minerals such as zinc and calcium are also essential. These will help in building your dog’s immunity.


You may also consider a fresh and raw diet for your pooch instead of a processed kibble diet. This can have multiple benefits. 

First, your dog may find raw food easier to digest. Nutrients may also be assimilated more easily, which would mean a stronger immune system. An added benefit of a raw diet is that it has no synthetic ingredients.


Home treatment for dog ear infections


Apple cider vinegar and water

One-part vinegar mixed with one-part water can help relieve itchiness in your dog’s ears, especially when the ears have a yeast infection.

Soak a cotton ball in the solution and gently massage your dog’s ears with it.

Coconut oil

Coconut oil can help kill bacteria and treat yeast infections. Apply a few drops of the oil to your dog’s ears daily to help soothe itchiness and redness.

Green tea

Steep green tea bags in water and use the lukewarm solution to clean your dog’s ears with the help of a cotton ball. Green tea has soothing plant compounds that can counter inflammation.

Oil of Oregano

Add one drop of oil or oregano to half-ounce of aloe vera juice. Apply this solution to your dog’s ears to ward off bacterial infections.

Mullein garlic oil

A mullein oil mix has plant compounds that can help treat ear infections in dogs.

You can make your own mullein-garlic mix at home by combining five drops of mullein oil with garlic oil. Apply this solution to the external part of your dog’s ears.

You can also buy the Mullein Garlic Herbal Oil by Herb Pharm.


You can apply calendula gel or calendula tincture to treat a yeast infection in your dog’s ears.

Add five drops of calendula tincture to one cup of water to make your own homemade solution.

Grapefruit seed extract

Grapefruit seed extract can help kill bacteria and parasites. It can be applied topically as well as consumed by your dog in small quantities for its antiseptic properties.

For a topical solution to be applied daily, mix five drops of grapefruit extract to half-ounce of aloe vera juice.


Ear cleaning wipes and over-the-counter ear drops for dogs


Ear cleaning solutions

You can find professional, vet-approved natural formulas on Amazon that will help clean your dog’s ear. Vet’s Best Dog Ear Relief Wash is one such formula with minimal toxins.

Priced at $7.89 for 4 oz, it boasts of soothing ingredients such as aloe vera and chamomile. It also consists of clove oil and tea tree oil that kill bacteria and fungus.


The TropiClean Ear Solution will also gently remove wax build-up and dirt from the ears. It is a spot-on treatment that can be directly applied to the ear canal without wasting cotton swabs.

It is priced at $8.99 for 4 oz.


The ZYMOX Ear Solution is a popular choice of solution for otitis externa.

It contains 1% hydrocortisone and treats inflammation caused by microbial infections. It requires no ear cleaning.


The Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser is a non-irritating solution containing salicylic acid and has a low-pH. It will loosen up wax and debris in the ear that can then be cleaned out.

It also contains microbial action, killing microbial substances quickly.


The Nature’s Specialities Ear Cleaner, priced at $11.99 for 4 oz, is another medicated solution containing salicylic acid that will help in loosening debris in dog ears.

It is best for routine ear cleaning (i.e. Every Sunday)


Ear cleaning wipes   

A non-toxic option for wipes is the TrueBlue Lemon & Marigold Super Easy Dog Ear Wipes for dogs and puppies, that will help you clean out the gunk in your dog’s ears.

Formulated with lemon and marigold extracts, these are all-natural and free of synthetic ingredients.  

These are priced at $ 14.99 for 50 wipes.


PetMD has veterinary formula wipes with aloe vera and eucalyptus oil, along with salicylic acid and lactic acid.

It will help reduce any smell in your dog’s ears and prevent infections.


Ear Cleaning Wipes by Zesty Paws consists of 100 wipes pre-soaked in a solution containing oatmeal, coconut oil, and aloe vera, which can soothe itchiness in the ears.

It also has lavender oil to calm down your dog. It is available for $9.97.


The Petpost! Dog Ear Wipes with coconut oil and aloe vera will help you clean your dog’s itchy ears effectively.

These come in XL size for large dog ears.


Antibiotic treatment and prescription medication for dog ear infections


In breeds with long and heavy ears, chronic infection of the otitis externa may spread to the middle ear.

If over-the-counter solutions do not work or if your canine pet has a severe ear infection, your veterinary doctor may prescribe a medicated topical solution. 

In some cases, an oral antibiotic course is prescribed. It is important to finish the course of medication.

At home, the medication must be administrated properly so that it does not cause more damage to the ears. Make sure to follow the instructions given by your veterinary doctor.


As a precautionary measure, keep your dog’s ears dry and well-ventilated.

This is important especially after baths, swims, and playtime outside. Excess moisture must be dried out to prevent bacterial and yeast infection in your dog’s ears.

If possible, keep your furry pals away from potential environmental allergens like pollen and dust mites.

Supplements such as fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics will also help fight infections and improve skin health.

Regular grooming appointments will help keep the ear area free of excess hair.

Lastly, annual check-ups at the vet will ensure that your dog is not plagued with chronic ear infections.

about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.

You may also like

Dog Behavior Problems

How to train a puppy not to bark

Four herbal remedies for your dog

Dog Health Part 5: Ear Problems [2021 UPDATE]

Beagles: The Hunting Dog

English Foxhound

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}