Dog Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms and Treatments

Jan 3, 2022

Just like humans, our dog’s ears sometimes get a little infected. Naturally, it’s worrisome to see our pupper in any sort of discomfort, so it’s important to know how ear problems can affect your dog so you can look out for symptoms that may turn a mild irritation into a painful ear infection.

Dog Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments


Listen, our dogs can go a little crazy sometimes. You know, digging into the trash, rolling around in the mud, but those sort of things don’t typically trigger ear infections. In fact, ear infections are rarely a sign that your dog is dirty, or needs to be cleansed excessively.

Basically, a dog’s ear canal isn’t shaped like a human’s. It’s vertical and forms a sort of L-shape that makes fluid a bit harder to escape – which is what makes dog ear infections so common. Whether they’re a puppy or a senior, it’s all the same. Bacteria build-up and/or yeast build-up makes the perfect recipe for your dog’s ears to become infected. They can occur from moisture being trapped in the ear after swimming, hair growth in the ear canal, or even just earwax buildup.

If your dog has any pre-existing conditions like an autoimmune disorder, thyroid disease, or allergies – they may be much more prone to ear infections than those without pre-existing conditions. 

Ear infections in dogs are a common thing, and there are ultimately three types that occur.

  • Otitis Externa: The most common form of ear infection, where inflammation primarily affects the external ear canal. So if you can see it, it’s most likely externa.
  • Otitis Media: Refers to an infection in the middle ear structure. While not a huge red flag, media can lead to an interna infection.
  • Otitis Interna: An infection or inflammation that impairs the vestibulocochlear nerve, which conveys sensory impulses to your dog’s hearing and balance. 

It’s important, to learn how to prevent any of these infections from happening since they have the potential to become serious, and can even lead to long term damage to their eardrum, cause hearing loss or affect their immune system. Always dry your dogs’ ears thoroughly after bathing or swimming. Ask a vet about their recommendations for using an ear cleaning solution.


If your dog is having any symptoms below, call a vet and nip it in the bud before any sort of problem has the potential to arise.

  • Crusting or scabbing ear flaps
  • Red and/or swollen ear canal
  • Scratching at the affected ear
  • Head shaking
  • Itchiness
  • Dark discharge
  • Odor

Each dog is different, and some may not even have the symptoms above. Always keep an eye out for any changes in behavior – they may be trying to tell you something is wrong.

How to Treat with Natural Remedies

Most ear infections in dogs last around a week or two after you begin the treatment of choice. So once you know your dog’s ear is infected, it’ll most likely be healed in that timeline.

Natural remedies you can try at home:

  • Green Tea: A natural anti-inflammatory. Steep a tea bag in hot water and let cool to room temperature. Grab a clean sponge to soak up some tea and gently squeeze a few drops into your dog’s ear.
  • Oil of Oregano: Oil of Oregano is a universal, great natural remedy for infection, as it’s a natural antibiotic. One drop will do with this stuff, it’s very strong. Mix one drop with a little bit of water and soak a cotton ball. With the cleaning solution, gently dab the ear.
  • Vinegar & Water: Vinegar is for itching. Just like Oil of Oregano, mix with a bit of water and soak in a cotton ball. Gently dab to clean the ear.

While natural remedies aren’t going to make the infection go away, it can relieve symptoms.

Over The Counter (OTC) Remedies

When it comes to OTC remedies for dog ear infections, hydrocortisone (like Zymox) is a popular topical treatment to help heal the skin. Zymox is readily available at pet stores or online.

At the end of the day, your dog’s health is the most important thing. If you’re worried about your dog’s symptoms, connect with a licensed vet on Airvet, and they’ll be happy to help figure out the severity of the infection and guide you on the right path.