Cute dog with hairy ears

Think there may be something going on with your dog’s ears?

Your instinct might be right…

While human ears feature a vertical ear canal, the ear canals in dogs’ ears are horizontal. This, plus the moist environment within a dog’s ear, provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast, which are the two most common causes of a dog ear infection.

The Common Causes

  • Build up of bacteria
  • Build up of yeast
  • Ear mites
  • Build up of ear wax
  • Allergies
  • Over-cleaning
  • A virus
  • An injury
  • A foreign body in the ear

Does your dog have floppy ears, or ears that are especially hairy?

If so, I am sorry to say that this makes your pooch even more susceptible to a dog ear infection, making it important to be aware of all of the signs and symptoms.

Black dog being patted

The 8 most common symptoms of an ear infection

1. Scratching or Rubbing of the Ear

An ear infection will likely cause your dog quite a bit of discomfort, resulting in your pooch scratching or rubbing its ear  more than usual, and possibly whining while doing so.

You may also notice your dog rubbing its ear against objects around the house, as this would also help them to temporarily relieve discomfort.

2. An Odor Coming From the Ears

A dog with hairy ears

It is absolutely normal for your dogs’ ears to have a slightly yeasty smell to them.

However, anything stronger than this could be a sign of an infection.

3. A Wet or Dry Discharge

Depending on what has caused your dog’s ear infection, you may notice a discharge coming from the ears.

This could either be wet or dry, and while it sometimes may drip out, which makes it easy to spot, you may also have to hunt for it deeper within the ear.

4. Excessive Head Shaking or Tilting

A dog with large ears

If your pooch has been shaking its head more than usual, or seems to keep its head tilted to one side, this is another sign of discomfort in the ears.

5. Redness and Swelling

Ideally, the inside of your dog’s ear should be a healthy light pink color.

However, when a dog suffers from an ear infection, this color will often change to a brighter red, with the ear appearing inflamed and swollen. You may also notice that the ear feels hot when you touch it.

6. Problems with Balance

An ear infection can cause your dog to become uncoordinated.

Look for signs that your pooch has lost its balance, whether this be swaying, leaning in one direction, staggering about or walking around in circles.

7. Nausea or Vomiting

A severe ear infection can lead to your dog throwing up.

If this has happened and you think it might be related to an ear infection, I would seriously advise an immediate visit to the vets.

8. Reluctance to Chew or Eat

A dog looking up

For your dog, opening its mouth can be painful when suffering from an ear infection.

This can lead to a reluctance to eat or chew. This is a symptom that is often quite easy to notice, as the majority of dogs out there love their food!

What you should do if you think your dog has an ear infection?

There are three parts to your dog’s ear canal; the outer, middle and inner.

Usually, an ear infection will begin in the outer ear canal, and this is where it is easiest to treat.

However, if left untreated, the infection will quickly spread inwards. Once it reaches the middle and inner ear canal, an ear infection is so much harder to treat, and will likely lead to permanent side effects, such as deafness or neurological problems.

For this reason, if you suspect that your pooch may have an ear infection, a visit to the vets is a must.

A dog with a veterinarian

Your vet will perform a thorough examination to determine the cause of your dog’s ear infection, as well as the best treatment option.

They will also give you advice on how to prevent a dog ear infection from re-occurring.

This usually involves:

  • Keeping your dog’s ears clean
  • Minimizing the amount of moisture in your dog’s ears
  • Trimming any excess hair in the ear canal
  • Regularly checking for odors, discharge, and inflammation

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy a post on Ear infections by Dr. Karen Becker. And to read up on Natural remedies, check out this post by Dogs Naturally.


Ear infections are actually the most common health issue that dogs face, but if your pooch’s symptoms are subtle, it can sometimes take a while to figure out what’s going on.

Many owners often miss the initial signs, but it really does not take long at all for an ear infection to spread, making it important for you to stay vigilant.

Have you dealt with a dog ear infection before? Share your experience with us below.


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