Ears Turning Red in Dogs

Written By hannah hollinger
Published: 07/24/2017Updated: 05/01/2021
Veterinary reviewed by Michele K.
Why is my dog ears turning red?

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.

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. 


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. 


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.

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.

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.

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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Ears Turning Red Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals


Shih Tzu



Nine Years


32 found this helpful


32 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
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

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

32 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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One Year


13 found this helpful


13 found this helpful

My pet has the following symptoms:
Red Ears
Could it just be red from scratching ?

Sept. 28, 2020

Answered by Dr. Michele K. DVM

13 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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