Ear Infections in Dogs

Has your dog been diagnosed with an ear infection? This is a common and frustrating problem in many dogs.An understanding of why infections occur and how they can be managed may help you to keep your dog comfortable and itch-free.

Causes of infectiondog ear

Ear infections are usually caused by “opportunistic” bugs and are not contagious. There are many factors that can predispose a dog to infections. These include:

  • Allergies to certain foods, plants or environmental allergens

  • Poor air flow due to hairy or floppy ears

  • Water in the canals from swimming or bathing

Ear infections can be a recurring problem. If your dog has one now and then, we usually just treat them as they flare up. If you dog has infections very frequently, it may be worth trying to figure out if there is an underlying cause such as an allergy. Allergies are common in dogs and it can be very difficult to figure out what they may be allergic to.

Diagnostic tests

If your dog has been scratching or shaking its head, pop in to your vet for an ear check. This involves:

  • Ear swab (Cytology). A swab is used to collect a sample from the ear and examine it under the microscope to look for bugs. This picture shows a yeast (fungal) infection, however bacterial or mite infections are also common.

  • Ear scope (Otoscopic exam). This means putting a small scope with a light source into the ear canal. This checks for inflammation, narrowing canals, foreign bodies (such as grass seeds) and ear drum rupture. Some dogs will allow this exam while wide awake, but others may need a sedative or anaesthetic to have a proper look.


  • Ear ointments may be prescribed by your vet. An accurate diagnosis is required to ensure your dog is getting the right anti-fungal or anti-bacterial ointment. In simple cases, we recommend treating for 10 days and then rechecking the ear to ensure the infection is cleared. In some cases, longer treatment may be required.

  • Ear washes. If an infection is severe or does not respond to ointment alone, your vet may recommend an ear wash to be used at home. This can help clear up an infection and also to prevent furture infections.

  • Thorough ear flushing may be required in severe infections. This involves a general anesthetic and thorough, gentle cleaning of the ears.


  • Avoid swimming or getting water in the ears during bathing.

  • Some dogs benefit from using a gentle ear cleaner at home every few weeks.

  • Dogs with very hairy ears may benefit from “ear plucking” by your groomer. However, this is quite irritating and it can sometimes make things worse! Talk to your vet about whether this may be appropriate for your dog.

  • If food allergies are suspected, your vet may recommend a special diet.

  • Make sure to get your dogs ears checked as soon as they show any signs of irritation. Early treatment with the right medication gives us the best chance of success.


Dr Grace Woodward 2015

Tasmanian Animal Hospitals