Can Dogs Get Ear Infections?

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Hearing is an important sense and vital to our day to day lives. Without our ears we couldn’t communicate verbally, enjoy music, or listen to the sounds of nature or warnings of danger while traveling in the outside world. Although they occur more often in childhood, ear infections are problems that can plague people of all ages. The first signs may be a mild earache which eventually progresses to painful pressure, hearing loss, and long or short term damage if left untreated.

While you may have firsthand experience with this painful condition in yourself or family members, have you ever wondered whether it’s possible for your canine companions to also get ear infections?

Can Dogs Get Ear Infections?

YES!

Like humans, dogs can also be affected by ear infections. Dogs have much more sensitive hearing and rely on their senses to a greater extent than their owners, making ear infections incredibly disruptive to their daily lives. Given dogs exposed or larger ear canals, dirt and other debris may also become stuck within your dog’s ear. Additionally, parasites such as ear mites can infect your dog’s ear causing additional buildup and eventual ear infections.

Does My Dog Have an Ear Infection?

Since dogs aren’t able to tell their human owners when they have an issue, it’s important to pay attention to signs they may be experiencing pain or discomfort. While this may be difficult at times, when it comes to ear infections there is some basic information that may help you determine your pooch is sick.

Causes

Your dog’s ears are complicated structures, filled with small crevices and lined with tiny, sensitive hairs. Foreign bodies, dirt, moisture and bacteria can become trapped within the ear canal, irritating the sensitive lining and causing inflammation. This inflammation causes the inner structures to swell painfully. Allergies and exposure to water are common causes of repetitive ear infections.


Symptoms
Your dog’s ear infection may be obvious in many cases, but in others may only be discovered after careful inspection. Your dog’s ear will appear dirty and debris or even blood may be present when gently wiped with a soft tissue or cloth. Tilting of the head to one side or aggressively shaking their head may also be a sign of an ear infection.

Diagnosis

In order to diagnose an ear infection in your dog, your vet will need to perform a thorough physical exam. The veterinarian will carefully look inside of your dog’s ear with the help of a special scope. Your vet may also take a small scraping of the ear debris to rule out ear mites or other potential causes.

For more information about identifying an ear infection in your dog, check out this our guide to Ear Infection and Inflammation in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ear Infection?

Treatment of your dog’s ear infection will depend on the severity of the condition. In some cases, careful cleaning of the ear canal over a period of several days can help clear things up. Natural flushes that contain drying ingredients such as alcohol, peroxide, gentian violet and witch hazel can also provide relief.

In severe or chronic cases of ear infections, your pooch will need special medicated drops prescribed by your veterinarian. These drops must be applied daily and gently massaged into the ear canal. You may want to do this outside, as your dog will want to shake his head after application, which can get a bit messy. Drops may also be followed up with oral antibiotics if the condition is very severe.

How Are Ear Infections Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Just like in humans, ear infections are painful for your dog and cause a great deal of distress. If left untreated, ear infections in your dog may cause temporary or permanent damage to the sensitive structures of the ear, leading to hearing damage or loss. A primary cause of ear infections in both humans and dogs is water in the ear, typically after swimming. A quick drying ear wash or drop can help both humans and canines avoid ear infections from this cause and keep the ear canal clean and healthy.

How Are Ear Infections Different in Dogs and Humans?

Unlike in dogs, ear infections in humans often cause fever and underlying sickness. This is due to the connected nature of our ear canal and throat. Dogs are more prone to ear infections, especially breeds with longer ears as they can drag along the ground and pick up dirt and debris, which becomes trapped within the inner ear flaps. Dogs are also more prone to ear infections if they suffer from allergies, as the covered ears allow yeast and bacteria to flourish.

Case Study

 A typical ear infection in a dog may begin after an innocent bath or trip to a local beach or lake. Your dog’s ears may be submerged in water. Days later, your dog will begin shaking their head. At first, the shaking and discomfort is minor but eventually it becomes nearly incessant. After a quick trip to the vet and some prescription ear drops your pooch will begin to feel back to normal within several days.