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Health & Wellness

Dog ear infections: symptoms and treatments

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Have you noticed your dog shaking their head more than normal? It could be an early sign of an ear infection. According to Dr. Georgina Ushi Phillips, DVM, a veterinarian at Pet Urgent Care of Wesley Chapel, Florida, these infections are much more common than pet parents realize. Below, she breaks down ear infection causes, symptoms and treatment options so you can help your pet feel better.

How do dogs get ear infections?  

The most common cause of ear infections in dogs are bacteria and yeast infections.

Less common causes of ear infections in dogs are tumors or hypothyroidism. In these cases, it’s critical that a vet treat the conditions causing the ear infection in addition to the ear infection.

Allergies can also make dogs more susceptible to ear infections. If your dog is suffering from allergies, your vet should come up with a treatment plan that addresses the allergies and the ear infection separately. 

Dogs with long, floppy ears are more susceptible to ear infections, too, because they tend to trap moisture and have decreased airflow, leading to warm, moist environments where bacteria and yeast thrive. So it’s important to ask your vet for grooming instructions so you can make ear cleaning a regular to-do.

Dog ear infection symptoms

Dog ear infection symptoms include redness and inflammation in your dog’s ear canal, a build-up of debris in the ear and discharge coming from the ear. If you notice any of these symptoms, it’s time to seek treatment from a vet to help your pup feel their best. 

Types of dog ear infections

Ear infections can occur in different portions of your pup’s ear. An ear infection in the outer ear canal (which is most common) is called otitis externa. Treating external ear infections isn’t too difficult — but if you don’t treat the infection at all, it can spread to the middle ear, which is called the otitis media.

Otitis interna is an infection even further into the ear that often causes changes in balance along with discomfort and pain for your pup. If the infection develops deeper in the ear, it can impact your dog’s eardrum.

Contact your vet if your pet shows any signs of an ear infection.

Dog ear infection treatments

Your dog’s ear infection treatment depends on the cause. If bacteria is to blame, your dog may need antibiotics. But, if yeast infections are the trigger, your pet will probably need antifungal medication. 

Sometimes, inflammation in the ear canal can increase a dog’s risk of an ear infection, so your vet might also prescribe anti-inflammatory. 

Depending on your dog’s specific case, your vet will know what to do.

How much does it cost to treat a dog’s ear infection?

The cost of ear infection treatment varies depending on your location and veterinary practice — but otitis externa treatments, which usually include the exam, ear cleaning and medicine, typically cost between $100 and $175.

Suppose the infection spreads to the internal part of your dog’s ear. In that case, the cost can increase dramatically (we’re talking up to thousands of dollars), especially if treatment requires surgical intervention or a sedated examination.

Your vet will provide a treatment plan best for your pet.

Can you treat a dog’s ear infection at home?

Dr. Ushi Phillips doesn’t recommend (and highly discourages!) attempting to treat your dog’s ear infection at home — especially without guidance from your vet. Since ear infections have different causes and it’s difficult to determine their severity, it’s best to have your pet evaluated by a veterinarian and get a professional treatment plan. 

You can, however, try to prevent ear infections at home by keeping your pet’s ears clean using a specialized cleaning solution and gentle cleaning techniques — contact your vet for product and technique recommendations fit for your pup.

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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