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What is Ears Turning Red?

Dog’s ears are constantly subject to the environment, especially if your dog spends a large amount of his time outside. It is normal for ear wax, as well as the occasional small bug, to be present in your pet’s ear. The body is amazing at regulating these substances and removing any that become too abundant. One of the more common reasons red ears occur is because the body fails to control the amount of wax or bugs that take up residence within the ear; thus, resulting in inflammation and infection. While this situation is easy to fix, there are a few other causes that take a bit more work to resolve. 

  • Foreign bodies 
  • Ear mites
  • Parasites
  • Allergies 
  • Bacterial infections 
  • Yeast infections  

If your dog's ears are turning red, this problem can typically be resolved with a good cleaning and some medication from your veterinarian. Be sure to speak with your veterinarian about the steps needed in order to properly resolve your dog’s red ears.

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Why Ears Turning Red Occurs in Dogs

As previously mentioned, dog’s ears are very open to the elements and they have no way of properly cleaning out the ears on their own. Because of this fact, foreign objects such as bugs, grass, sticks, bacteria and more can get inside the ear and irritate it. If your dog has allergies, any flare ups can also cause the ears to become red and itchy. Bacterial infections and yeast infections are also common causes for red ears in dogs. 

Foreign Bodies 

When it comes to the outdoors, there is quite an extensive list of foreign objects that can become a problem for your dog’s ears. Even something as simple as a piece of grass can be extremely irritating when lodged inside the ear. If you notice that your dog is shaking his head and pawing constantly, accompanied with redness of the ear, there may be something stuck inside the canal. Never stick anything down inside the ear as you may puncture the eardrum. If the object is easily retrieved, do so yourself. Otherwise, you may need to see a veterinarian in order to remove the foreign body safely. 

Ear Mites

These microscopic, spider-like bugs can make your pet really miserable when they overrun the ears. Typically, ear mites affect younger dogs, but older dogs can contract them through contact with an animal already carrying mites. Monitor your dog carefully if you begin to notice irritation around the ears. Your dog may shake his head often as well as paw at the ears. This behavior, paired with redness and occasional discharge, might be a sign of ear mite infestation. You will want to get your dog to the veterinarian for a thorough cleaning and medication to keep the mites at bay. Treatment usually involves ear drops used for a week or two, depending on the severity. 

Parasites 

Ear mites aren’t the only little bugs that can cause big problems. Other examples or parasites that can cause ear redness are, mange mites, fleas, and ticks. If you notice any of the signs mentioned in the previous paragraph (shaking the head, pawing, redness, itchiness, discharge) you may need to take your pet to the veterinarian for a checkup and ear cleaning. 

Allergies

 

When the seasons change, allergies can become a serious headache. When ears become irritated due to allergies,  the cycle typically consists of three steps. 

  • When an allergy causing agent is inhaled or ingested, the ears will then become inflamed in response; this cases the ears to overwork and therefore produce extra wax and secretions
  • The extra warmth and moisture from secretions attracts organisms that love this kind of environment, thus creating the perfect setting for bacteria and yeast to grow
  • Lastly, thanks to the increase of bacteria and yeast, the ears become further red and inflamed, making the allergic reaction even worse

Such a situation can make your dog truly miserable. If he suffers from allergies, the best thing that you can do is carefully follow your veterinarian’s instructions on medication and how to properly clean the ear. You can also use a warm compress to help ease any swelling, itching, and redness. 

Bacterial Infections

 

A bacterial infection is sometimes a secondary response to another process. This means that if your dog has experienced a foreign body in the ear or perhaps mites, a bacterial infection can occur due to the damage created by the initial irritant. 

Yeast Infections 

Just like with bacterial infections, yeast infections can be a secondary consequence of a previous irritant. 

When determining whether or not your pet needs to see a veterinarian for his ear issues, it is important to remember that cleaning an ear is a very delicate process. So, despite what may be causing your dog’s ear to become red, you may want to seek medical assistance from your veterinarian if a deep cleaning is required.

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What to do if your Dog is Ears Turning Red

If you notice that your dog is getting red ears accompanied with discomfort, the best thing that you can do is to inspect the ear yourself. Sometimes, if there is a foreign body present, you may be able to remove the irritant yourself. It is vital to remember that ears are extremely sensitive. Never stick a Q-tip down inside the canal in order to try to remove an object or excess fluid; this action can cause serious damage to the eardrum. If you notice that your dog needs to have his ears cleaned you can either clean them at home, or go to a veterinarian if the cleaning is deeper than you feel comfortable doing. There are a few very important steps to cleaning your dog’s ears at home:

  • Clean the ear with a gentle cleanser, as any infection will cause the area to be sensitive
  • Fill the canal with the cleaning fluid 
  • Gently massage the base of the ear in order to move any debris that may be lodged inside
  • Allow the ear canal to dry for 10 minutes before using any medications provided by your veterinarian 

Keep in mind that you should never use rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or Q-tips when cleaning your dog’s ears. The length of treatment will be determined based on the severity of your dog’s ear redness. Be sure to schedule frequent checkups with your veterinarian to ensure that the healing process is proceeding normally.

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Prevention of Ears Turning Red

Cleaning your dog’s ears often and well will help to decrease any chance of redness and infection. Check your pet’s ears every week in order to remove any visible parasites or foreign objects before they become an issue. You want to look for a smooth, shiny pink surface within the ear; this indicates a healthy ear canal free of any irritants or infections. Dogs that have longer fur may need to have their ears checked more frequently, as debris can get lodged in the longer hairs. Keeping longer haired dogs groomed will help to ensure early removal of possible irritants to the ears. 

If you follow a careful grooming routine and speak with your veterinarian at the first sign of discomfort, you should be able to prevent any serious ear infections or redness from occurring.

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Cost of Ears Turning Red

Treatment cost will vary depending on the cause of your dog’s red ears. For instance, if your dog is diagnosed with ear mites, the average cost of treatment is $250. If your dog is diagnosed with ear infection due to allergies, the cost of treatment can range from $200 to $3,500 depending on the cost of living and the severity.

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Written by hannah hollinger

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Published: 07/24/2017, edited: 05/01/2021

Ears Turning Red Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Shih Tzu

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Nine Years

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10 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Redness

My fur baby is shaking his head profusely and his ear is red and I see a faint trace of blood on the cotton swab...please help and recommend an over the counter medicine because going to the vet is NOT an option.

Sept. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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10 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Unfortunately, there are no over-the-counter options for ear infections for dogs. Dogs can get ear infections because of yeast or bacteria, or parasites, and the bacteria is fairly specific to dogs. It needs to be treated with the proper antibiotic to get better. Having your dog seen by a veterinarian earlier rather than later will help prevent a painful ear infection, and make it so that you can resolve the problem more quickly. I hope that all goes well for your dog.

Sept. 29, 2020

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LabMix

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One Year

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5 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Red Ears

Could it just be red from scratching ?

Sept. 28, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Dogs with floppy ears are very prone to ear infections, and if you have noticed that your dog's ears are red and he is scratching, it is likely that he does have an infection of some type. They can get infections from bacterial or Yeast, or parasites, and the best thing to do would be to have him seen by a veterinarian, as they can look at his ears and see what might be causing this problem. They will be able to get medication for him to clear up that infection. I hope that all goes well for him.

Oct. 2, 2020

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French Bulldog

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Six Years

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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Red Ears

My dogs ears seem to get red or flushed after exercise. It passes. Anything to worry about?

Sept. 25, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. I apologize for the delay in my reply, this venue is not set up for urgent emails. If his ears become normal color again when he is calm, it may be normal for him. If they stay red, or he is scratching or rubbing his head, then It would be best to have your pet seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine them, see what might be going on, and get any testing or treatment taken care of that might be needed.

Oct. 19, 2020

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Yorkichon

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Ten Years

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Itchy Skin

My dog has a red patch on his back leg and won’t stop licking or nibbling on it. Some of the spots look like they darkened under neath the skin like a black spot and some are raised? Are they infected? Does he need antibiotics or is it just allergies? He doesn’t seem like himself for the past few days. I have washed him with anti fungal shampoo a few times this week but the patch is still there. What should I do?

Aug. 27, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your question. The lesions that you described could be caused by a bacterial infection, a parasite, or an allergy. If the wash that you were using did not help, it would probably be best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian. They will be able to look at your dogs skin, see what might be causing this problem, and get treatment so that they are more comfortable and the problem resolved. I hope that all goes well!

Aug. 27, 2020

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Dax

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Jack-a-bee

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2 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

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55673134773__BED548F1-A862-4F33-A7A6-FB87D506EE7B.JPG Here’s a pic. His name is Dax. His ear has red raised rash that is sometimes more pronounced with odor that comes and goes. It’s been there 2-3 days. He has dark brown gunk that’s like wax with skin flakes and it comes and goes also. He scratches the ear occasionally and has not been shaking his head. It doesn’t seem to hurt. He is mostly indoors, goes outside to potty,does go for runs along dirt road alongside river on ranch several times per week, backyard is mostly dirt with patches of grass due to drought, does not have contact with other dogs except for Rare occasions. We don’t know his history, he just showed up one day and kids fed him. We found owner through Facebook post but he refuses to get him so he’s ours now. We guessed breed and age based on internet lol.

Aug. 23, 2018

Dax's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Dax may have an ear infection or a parasite that needs treatment. IT would be best to have an examination for him with a veterinarian, as they can look at his ear, see what is happening, and get any treatment that he may need. I hope that all goes well for him, and that you are able to keep him.

Aug. 23, 2018

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Charlotte anne

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Labrador Retriever

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1 Year

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Fair severity

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0 found helpful

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Fair severity

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Shaking Head
Hot Ears

Shaking head, warm ears, it looks fairly clean in her ears. I can tell she’s not feeling her normal self. Her body is alittle warmer then usual. Can I use something over the counter until I can get her to the vet next week ? Please help this is my baby .

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Captain

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Golden Retriever

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7 Years

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Redness
Head Shaking
Itching

Captain suffers from red itchy ears. He has been to the vet several times and does not have an infection. We have tried changing food, treats and different meds. Nothing seems to work. I can't afford thousands of dollars on testing. Any advice would be helpful.

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Rebel Spirit

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Chiweenie

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3 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Allergies
Red Ears
Warm Ears And Head
Scratching Areas On Legs And Body

This problem has been going on for as long as I can remember. I've had Rebel since she was 11 weeks old. She's now 3 years and 3 months old, that's a long time for this to be going on. Her ears stick up, so I try to keep them as clean as I can (nobody has told me how to go about cleaning her ears properly). They get red and warm at night mostly, it's not often I see this during the day. It doesn't matter if she's under a blanket or sheet, or not, it happens. She will get up and continue to be playful. Also, when she gets up, the redness seems to go away. The Vet said it's allergies and gave her a month-long-lasting shot this past Wednesday, along with some meds to give her "when necessary". We've changed her food, as well, from Chicken to Lamb flavored food. She eats Hill's Science Diet. I'm not sure what else to do at this point. It's getting costly to keep taking her into the vet, and I don't feel like I'm getting any answers for my little one. I wish she could talk! Any help or advice would be great. Thank you in advance! -Mars Vogel

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