Some Veterinary info on EAR INFECTION’S IN DOGS

One of our members of the JHB Beagle Club is a vet, and has kindly written some articles regarding dogs’ health for us for the website…

I will be posting a new article every few weeks – so please keep a look out for it, have a read, and circulate to your animal loving friends :)




Ear infection in dogs


A dog’s ear is quite different in shape to ours. People simply have a horizontal tube that runs straight from the side of the head into the inner ear (auditory canal). In the dog however, the outside opening of the ear canal is high on the side of the head. The canal runs vertically down the side of the head and makes a sharp right angle into the inner ear. Additionally, some dogs have an ear flap which can partially cover the canal opening. As a result, the ear canal can become very hot and sweaty. There are a variety of things which may irritate your dog’s ear.


It is a good idea to check your dog’s ears regularly, and you should start practicing this examination with them from the time that they are puppies. Healthy ears are clean, odour-free, pale pink in colour and have a minimal accumulation of wax.


Otitis externa is an ear infection in the external ear canal and is fairly common in dogs. However, certain breeds are more susceptible like those with long ears as well as those with hairy ear canals. Other factors like a hot, humid environment as well as dogs that swim often can also play a part in ear disease. The ear canal can be easily blocked by wax, dirt and foreign objects. Ear infections are often a sign of underlying allergies (often food allergies), hormonal abnormalities or hereditary conditions.


The signs of ear disease are:

  • An unpleasant odour
  • Excessive scratching and pawing of the ear and head
  • Sensitive to the touch
  • Constant shaking of the head or tilting the head to one side
  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Accumulation of brown wax
  • Loss of balance or hearing


If you notice any of these signs it is very important that you take your dog to the vet. Once ear disease starts your dog will need some treatment to stop the irritation and possible infection. Treatment will vary depending on the cause of the problem. Obviously a foreign body will have to be removed, and specific treatment may be required for mites or severe infections. Your vet may need to take samples from your dog to decide which is the best treatment to give. Your vet will probably prescribe ear drops/ointment which are most commonly an antibiotic and antifungal. However, unless the ear is clean the ear drops cannot work. It may be necessary for your vet to admit your dog to the hospital and flush out its ear canals before treatment starts. In less severe cases, your vet will show you how to use an ear cleaner on your dog. You must complete the treatment course even if the ears seem to be much better within one or two days, otherwise you increase the chance of developing resistant bacteria.


One of the reasons that it is important to go to the vet, and not treat your dog by yourself, is that there is a chance that the ear drum (tympanic membrane) is damaged.  If you put anything in your dog’s ear when the ear drum is damaged it could lead to very serious problems like deafness and disorientation/imbalance. In addition your vet will be able to help you with finding the underlying cause of the infection.


If you have a dog that is predisposed to ear infections or has suffered from them often then it is good to take a few preventative steps.

  • Monitor your pets behaviour . Try to limit them swimming.
  • Examine their ears weekly (give them a treat after you have done this)
  • Based on the advice of your vet, you can do a gentle weekly cleaning at home with a product like Otoclean
  • Together with your vet you can determine if the infections are due to underlying factors like allergies and work to correct these issues, for example, a diet change



(picture courtesy of MSD Animal Health)

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