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What are Middle and Inner Ear Infections?

A middle ear infection is also called otitis media and generally results from an infection that has spread from the outer ear. Mites in the outer ear can migrate into the middle ear and cause a bacterial infection. Fungal and yeast infections can also infiltrate the middle ear.

An inner ear infection is called otitis interna and generally results from a bacterial infection; although yeast and fungus can also contribute to an inner ear infection. Just like the middle ear, mites can migrate to the inner ear creating a problematic environment for an infection.

All dogs are prone to ear infections; however, there are specific breeds that are more prone to middle and inner ear infections. Dogs with drooping ears such as the Beagle, Dachshund, Basset Hound and Cavalier King Charles Spaniel need to have their ears closely monitored for signs of infection. Dogs with narrow ear canals, such the Cocker Spaniel and the Shar-Pei, and dogs with hairy inner ear canals, such as the Poodle and Schnauzer, can also be susceptible to middle and inner ear infections.

Your dog’s ear consists of three main parts: the outer ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. Infections within the middle and inner ear must be treated quickly to prevent recurrence and possible permanent damage to your dog’s ear or nerves within the face on the affected side.

Middle and Inner Ear Infections Average Cost

From 233 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

Symptoms of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

There are several signs that may indicate that your dog has an ear infection. If you notice any of these signs, make an appointment with your veterinarian to determine which part of the ear is affected and the proper treatment of the infection.

Ear Infection of Outer, Middle & Inner Ear

  • Shaking of the head
  • Scratching at the ear
  • Scratching under the ear or near the cheek
  • Rubbing the ear on the ground or other objects
  • Cocking the head to one side
  • Discharge from the ear
  • Foul smell coming from the ear

Middle or Inner Ear Infection

  • Vomiting or nausea
  • Drooling from the side of the mouth on the affected side 
  • Dropping food out of their mouth or difficulty eating
  • Unable to blink
  • Eye discharge
  • Eyelids, lips, or nostrils that droop on the affected side
  • Symptoms of Horner’s Syndrome occur
  • Falling or leaning toward the affected side
  • Walking in circles towards the affected ear
  • Thick discharge from the affected ear
  • Sudden hearing loss in the affected ear
  • Inflamed ear canal; oftentimes a bright red color
  • Pain when the ear is touched
  • Eyes darting back and forth
  • Nerve paralysis in the face
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Causes of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

There are many causes of middle and inner ear infections. Many times the outer ear infection is not properly treated and then migrates to the middle ear and possibly inner ear causing significant pain problems for your dog. Your veterinarian can run certain tests if your dog experiences chronic middle and/or inner ear infections to determine the specific cause of the infections.

Allergies have been determined to be the most common cause of recurring ear infections. If the allergen is not identified and the allergic reaction persists, it will be almost impossible to resolve the ear infections and can cause irreversible damage to the affected ear or ears.

  • Cleaning the ears too often
  • Not cleaning the ears well enough
  • Water in the ear
  • Excessive humidity
  • Bacteria
  • Allergies (food or environmental)
  • Antibiotics
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Yeast or other fungus
  • Ear mites
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Diagnosis of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

While it is fairly easy to diagnose an outer ear infection, it can be trickier to identify a middle or inner ear infection. Veterinarians will examine the ear canal and can usually identify if inflammation is present within the ear canal.

Your veterinarian will diagnose a middle or inner ear infection based on previous history and any present clinical signs. Dogs that are prone to ear infections should be checked on a regular basis for any changes to the ear. This will allow treatment to start quickly to combat the infection and keep it from progressing into a severely painful situation for your dog.

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Treatment of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Early detection of a middle or inner ear infection is the best way to combat the infection. Your veterinarian will treat the ear infection to prevent the infection from causing long-term effects such as deafness. Yeast infections left untreated can spread throughout your dog’s body and cause greater illness.

Treatment will involve thoroughly cleaning the affected ear and then flushing the affected ear with a saline solution. Some veterinarians may clean and flush both ears, even if only one ear is affected. In extreme cases, your dog may need to be anesthetized to thoroughly clean the ear. 

An antibiotic, antiparasitic or antifungal medication will usually be prescribed. In some cases a steroid may also be prescribed to reduce inflammation within the ear. Always give the prescribed medications as directed and any questions regarding the medication and possible side effects should be directed to your veterinarian.

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Recovery of Middle and Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

When a middle or inner ear infection is treated quickly, most dogs respond to treatment and do not have long-term effects. If the infection was not diagnosed and treated quickly, long-term effects such as deafness and an altered sense of balance may result. If your dog’s balance was affected by an inner ear infection, you can expect to see improvement within two to six weeks following the initial diagnosis and treatment. 

A regiment of antibiotics can be expected to prevent a relapse. Follow your veterinarian’s instructions closely and complete all follow-up visits to ensure that the infection has been properly treated. Your veterinarian will discuss possible continued care should your dog be prone to middle and/or inner ear infections.

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Middle and Inner Ear Infections Average Cost

From 233 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

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Middle and Inner Ear Infections Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Basset Hound

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Twitching Ears

Noticed my dogs ears are nonstop twitching for the past few days and seem like they’re strained and not relaxed and also has diarrhea but at first glance of the ears they don’t look red or inflamed inside

Sept. 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. It is hard to say what might be going on without being able to see your dog, but the things that I think of with your description would be irritation in the ears, especially given that she is a basset hound, or some kind of neurologic issue otherwise. There may also be things that she is hearing or responding to that you are not aware of, as her hearing is probably better than yours. If it continues, it would probably be best to have her seen by your veterinarian, as they can give her a good examination, and see what might be causing this strange Behavior. I hope that everything goes well for her.

Sept. 13, 2020

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Chihuahua

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Ten Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Panting

My dog got diagnosed with an ear infection and they put him on amoxicillin. It’s been about a week now and I don’t notice any improvement. I also notice more panting, difficulty eating, and sometimes he’s even a little stiff on the side of the ear infection. What else can I give him to help and is that normal?

Sept. 4, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. I don't think that the signs that you are describing seem related to an ear infection, no. It is possible that he has a pinched nerve or some other type of muscle or nerve problem. I think that it would be best to have a recheck for him with your veterinarian, as sometimes things happen that are unrelated, and they will be able to examine him and see what's going on. They can also recheck his ears at the same time. Ear infections usually require topical medications to help, and he may need a different medication. I hope that everything goes well for him and he feels better soon.

Sept. 4, 2020

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American Bulldog

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Scratch In The Ears

He has an ear infection I’ve been giving him anabiotic’s from his last air infection I’m almost out how can I get more without having to go back to the vets

July 31, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. Ear infections in dogs can be complicated, and Bulldogs are prone to allergies and ear problems. It is best to have an examination by your veterinarian before continuing more antibiotics. There is not a way to get more antibiotics without seeing your veterinarian, unfortunately. They will be able to look at your dog, see what might be going on, and give you advice as to long-term care. I hope all goes well for your dog.

July 31, 2020

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Pit bull Terrier

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Six Years

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Unknown severity

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Yelp At Night And When Left Ear Touched

We have seen our vet 3 times for this. He has been dead asleep and he’s woken up yelping. He had episodes where he went in a dark place, and kinda slumped over like he was in so much pain. They said arthritis in his neck was so bad it was causing that. X ray showed nothing else. He can be outside chewing on his ball or following me around like normal and not have the episodes. Only when he’s sleeping. Until today. I was rubbing just his head with both my hands. Going from behind his head to his ears/face. He yelled and is now having an episode. Any insight would be helpful!!!! We are desperat.

July 13, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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Hello, Really bad arthritis in the neck can cause this but it can be a very severe ear infection, muscle issue, or something else. It is not a bad idea to get a second opinion. This pain medication may help but sometimes steroids also help decrease any inflammation that may be causing these episodes. I hope your dog starts to feel better soon.

July 13, 2020

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Dixie

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Labrador Retriever

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10 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Tilt
Vision Problem
Eye Shut

My dog was acting normal when I let her out to potty this morning around 6:45am. I got her inside and noticed around 9am her left eye was shut and she wouldn’t open it. There was some goopy drainage around left eye. And she tilts her head to the right when she walks.

July 31, 2018

Dixie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

A head tilt may be due to an inner ear infection, tumour, head trauma, idiopathic causes among others; for the eye you should wipe away any discharge with a warm damp cloth and apply an ophthalmic antibiotic ointment regularly. Monitor and visit your Veterinarian if there are no signs of improvement. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

July 31, 2018

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Tucker

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chihuahua mix

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5 Years

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Shaking Head
Swollen Ear
Smelly Ear
Sore Ear
Red Ear
Scratching Ear

My dog Tucker is a 5 year old chihuahua mix that his one ear is swollen and smells. I’ve clean it with no relieve. I am unable to take him to the vet d/t covid-19. It started about a month ago. What do I do.

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Tiny Tim

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Yorkshire Terrier

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14 Years

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Smelly Discharge

I have a 14 Year old Yorkshire Terrier (who at times still thinks he is a puppy) He has suffered with Ear Infections for many years and I don't know what to do as he has a Heart Murmur as well. He has also had an operation on his Ears to Remove lumps in both ears. Please Advise?

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Molly

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Cavachon

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8 Months

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Mild severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Constipation
Acid Reflux
Smelly Ear
Waxy Ear

My 8 months old cavachon seems to be suffering with acid reflux! She has bouts of it every 9-14 day’s, usually overnight! It’s starts as hiccups and then ends with a retching like sound and seems to go on over and over for a few hours. Then is fine again for a while till the next time it happens! This week it happened on Sunday night and all week she has been off her food, still eating but not as much( although not a big eating generally!) she has had a bout of constipation this week as well! This morning she was sick a bit! But then has eaten some rice and turkey today! Seems a bit better! What I have noticed thou is that she has a very smelly ear, upon further looking it has dark brown wax in her ear and won’t let me touch it! It’s fairly warm inside too! I have cleaned the ear as much a possible! Could all these symptoms be an inner ear infection! I briefly spoke to the vet on the phone and he said not to worry and see how she is in a few days! But I’m worried!

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Coco

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Rottweiler

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Ear Odor
Drooling
Nausea
Imbalance

I have a 2 year old rottwiler, he never lets us clean his ear n it had a foul smell. Few days before he started drooling a lot so we took him to the vet and found out that he us suffering from inner ear infection, he was given anesthesia as he dosent let the doctor touch him. During the checkup the doctor found.out that he has inflimation in hus ear so the medicen would go inside his ear so the doctor just cleaned the outer ear properly and put the medicen in his ear and told us to visit him after 10 days. We took him home and since then his drooling had stopped but he could balance himsefl sometimes while walking this happened for 3-4 days and then the other day he could not get up from his bed, he even peed on his bed itself and when we found out about this we rushed him to the hospital again.I just wanted to ask if he would be better in the near future or will he have any problem because of this?

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Bo

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English Setter

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4 Years

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Moderate severity

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1 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Balance Is Off.

My dog recently had an irritated red eye. We flushed his eye and it is less red. Since this happened nearly a week ago, he has been off balance. Not able to catch his ball and very unsure of himself when getting off the bed. Can he have a middle ear infection that developed due to eye injury? Should we try meclazine?

Middle and Inner Ear Infections Average Cost

From 233 quotes ranging from $200 - $3,000

Average Cost

$450

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