Dog Ear Infections: Signs and Causes, Remedies, and How to Clean Dog Ears

James Livingood has been a dog sitter for several years. He has written numerous articles and a book about the topic because he loves dogs.

Have you ever wondered if excessive ear scratching is a sign that your dog has an ear infection? What other signs can you look for that point to your hound's ears hurting? What can you do to help your pooch feel better? How could you have prevented an infection through regular cleaning?

In this article, I go through all of these questions and more. In addition, I have a wonderful video at the end to help clarify any additional questions that you may have.

Signs of an Ear Infection in a Dog

A recent study dictated that 20% of all dogs contract some ear-related condition in their lifetime. This is credited primarily to the shape of their ear canal and internal anatomy. Though these conditions might not be fatal, the overall process can still be quite painful for your pet.

In this segment, we’ll address the major symptoms that indicate an ear infection in canines. Note that some of these may exist alone or simultaneously, which is why it’s best that you acquaint yourself with all of these symptoms.

Excessive Scratching of the Ears

The first telltale sign of discomfort in dogs is excessive scratching of the ears. Just like how humans are susceptible to irritation and feel the need to scratch, dogs are also subject to that stimulus. If you find your dog scratching their ears more often than normal, something clearly isn’t right. While it could be related to allergies, it could also be a result of an ear infection or the early signs of one.

Dark Discharge

Subtle, dark discharge also indicates a potential ear infection because pus is often released periodically when bacteria accumulates near the ear canal. Note that this dark discharge can also smell bad and might serve as a carrier for the infection.

Redness/Swelling of the Ear Canal

Redness and swelling will be visible and quite apparent. If the ear canal seems redder than normal, this may indicate an infection. It’s better to be safe than sorry—so always act accordingly. You'll want to intervene before the symptoms progress and get much worse.

Crusting/Scabs in the Ear

Excessive scratching can lead to minor lacerations in the ear. During the healing process, scabs are formed, and when a dog uses its nails to scratch, they continue to irritate the tissue. If you find scabs or crusted skin in the ear, know that this likely resulted from excessive scratching, which ultimately hints towards an infection.

Shaking of the Head

Dogs shake their heads a lot to alleviate the discomfort of an ear infection or to try to get rid of the itch. Though this might bring momentary relief, it is a perpetual cycle that can leave your dog feeling tired and lethargic.

What Causes Ear Infections?

The bulk of all ear infections are caused by bacteria and yeast. Here are a few things that you should watch out for in dogs that might be a source of infection down the road:

Excessive Cleaning

Excessive cleaning and grooming may lead to direct exposure of the skin to bacteria. Cleaning your dog's ears regularly is important, but cleaning too frequently can upset the skin's natural balance and leave it susceptible to bacteria.

Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorders can leave dogs susceptible to all sorts of ailments, including a proliferation of yeast or bacteria in the ear and skin conditions that trigger inflammation in the body. Dogs with autoimmune disorders get sick more than usual and are more susceptible to immune-related conditions.


Moisture literally allows for bacteria and yeast to proliferate in the ear canal. If your dog is a water dog and often likes to jump, swim, or get wet, they will need to be watched closely for any signs of infection. Keeping the ears dry during bathing is important as well.


The actual anatomy of a dog's ear can make it susceptible to infection. Dogs with long, floppy ears often suffer from an excessive entrapment of moisture in the ear canal. Dogs with prick or pin-point ears are at risk of debris entering the canal because there is no protective flap. The issues vary depending on the dog's inheritable traits.

Dog Ear Infection Remedies

If you share your house with a canine, then I’m sure you’re willing to do your best to prevent any sort of bad thing happening to them. Generally speaking, dogs are highly susceptible to ear infections. The good news, however, is that they can be resolved.

Safety Precautions

It is highly advised that you refer to a veterinarian for severe cases or chronic infections as these will deteriorate over time. Neglecting to treat your dog's ear infection can result in them going deaf. In addition, scar tissue can build up which can lead to recurrent infections or even hematomas.

Never pour or put any liquid inside your dog's ear if you cannot confirm that the eardrum is intact. Doing so may cause them severe pain and can result in deafness. The remedies mentioned below should only be used around the external part of the ear or on the underside of the pinna. Vet-approved formulas are to be only used inside the canal.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a great antibacterial and anti-fungal. This remedy is to be used for about five to seven days.

  1. Place two spoons of coconut oil in a pan and heat it on low until it is in liquid form. Let it cool down.
  2. Dip cotton balls into the liquid coconut oil and massage it into the pinna of the ear. This is great for soothing irritated skin.

Hydrogen Peroxide

Hydrogen peroxide is great for cleaning the external portion of the ear. It should not be used inside the ear canal because it can drive debris deeper into the canal. This remedy is great for mild applications but is not recommended for severe cases. Remember that undiluted hydrogen peroxide is cytotoxic, so always dilute it.

  1. Mix H202 and water in equal quantities before use.
  2. Once mixed, use a cotton swab and dip it gently into the combination.
  3. Proceed to apply it to the external parts of the ear and under the pinna for the gentle cleaning of debris.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which is beneficial for removing debris; it is also responsible for killing bacteria and yeast.

  1. Mix apple cider vinegar equally with distilled water.
  2. Proceed to soak cotton balls in the mixture and apply it to clean the infected region.

Caution: Watch out for any signs of redness, scabs, or open wounds as this can sting. If you see tissue irritation, using apple cider vinegar might be a bit too painful for your dog.

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is a great antibiotic that is shown to be effective against ear infections. However, make sure that you never use oregano oil undiluted. This can lead to major skin irritation.

  1. The best way to go about using oregano oil is by mixing a drop of oregano oil with half an ounce of vet-approved aloe-based topical.
  2. Dip a cotton ball into the combination and apply it gently on the affected region. Repeat this process for a week for the best results.

Only a Veterinarian Can Prescribe Treatments for an Ear Infection

It’s highly advised that you take your dog to a vet to address chronic or severe ear infections and issues. Either way, we hope that the aforementioned remedies can help you through your tough times and give your canine relief. Always make sure that you follow the instructions and never forget to dilute the product you are working with.

How to Clean Your Dog's Ears

Ears are delicate organs, so it is extremely important to take care of them and clean them, especially when it comes to dogs because dogs can't vocalize their pain directly and some dogs tend to be extremely stoic.

Dogs also frequently suffer from ear problems because many people don't pay much attention to them. Here we will talk about how to properly clean your dogs' ears.

4 Tips for Cleaning Your Dog's Ears

1. Clean weekly to monthly, depending on the ear type

Check with your veterinarian to determine your dog's condition. Make sure that he or she doesn't have a painful infection or any eardrum damage before you begin with the process. The best way to prevent this situation is to take safety measures before you start—see your vet to make sure there is nothing more serious going on. It is recommended that you purchase a vet-approved ear-cleaning solution for weekly and monthly cleanings.

2. Try a homemade solution

If you are not prescribed a cleaning solution, then you may consider a homemade cleaner for the outside of the ear. A properly diluted vinegar and water combination is the safest option for animals. Avoid alcohol or hydrogen peroxide because it can cause more harm than good. A regular cleaning will prevent bacteria from growing in your dog's ears, but you need to use only a little at a time; otherwise, it can be irritating for your dog.

3. Use positive reinforcement throughout the process

Make sure that the process is not painful for your dog and that the process is a good experience for them. Try giving him or her their favorite treat so that they can associate the process with something delicious and special. Never experiment on your pet and always make sure that the procedure is painless.

4. Distract your dog while cleaning

Sometimes reinforcement is not enough and your dog will be resistant to the process, so try distracting your dog at times like this. Get creative and try different ways to distract your furry friend. Offer them cheese or anything that they love to eat so you can clean the ears while he or she is busy eating and distracted.

If you keep regular tabs on your dog's health, then you don't have to worry about infections or inflammation. In case you and your dog are faced with such a situation, then there are always two ways to treat it: natural remedies or medication. If you are choosing to go with remedies, then you should know the symptoms and signs of infection and have it diagnosed by your vet before proceeding.

© 2019 James Livingood

How to treat my dog's ear infection without going to the vet?

Does your dog keep shaking its head? You may not know it, but this is a sign that they may have an ear infection, also called otitis.

Do you remember having an ear infection yourself? Personally, I have a vivid memory of the time my left ear got infected, because it was oh so incredibly painful.

It’s a similar discomfort that our dogs experience when they have an ear infection. Of course, they can’t tell us this, but there are several symptoms that may indicate that they are in pain in this part of their body. We will see these symptoms in detail below, as well as the causes of these infections.

It often happens that we have to cure rather than prevent! So, let's take a look together at how to treat ear infections without having to go to the vet, because as we all know, this is not our doggies’ favorite place!

13 Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infection – Symptoms and Causes

Dogs are prone to ear infections and almost every canine will suffer from mild to severe ear infection at some point in their life. If that’s not enough, there are three different types of infection an inner ear, middle ear, or outer ear infection. Outer ear infections are by far, the easiest to cure. They usually consist of nothing more than inflammations, foul odor, and a waxy discharge. You could rush your best friend to hospital and get him medically treated, or you could try some home remedies for dog ear infections.

Either way, it’s best to consult a vet before administering anything because if you’re in for an ear infection, the veterinarian will use a sample from the affected ear to analyse the type of bacteria that is present in the ear. Unsurprisingly, most ear infections in dogs are caused by fungal growth or bacterial infections, and just general improper hygiene. Some might also get infections out of certain sensitivities or food allergies. Here are some easy and effective home treatment remedies to get rid of dog ear infection.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infection

Anything from aggressive scratching to mild rubbing of the ear and frequent head shakes is the most obvious and common signs of an ear infection. Swelling and odor might be other symptoms, along with redness and pain.

Causes of Dog Ear Infection

Just as we humans, most ear infections in adult dogs are caused by yeast and bacteria, leading to dog ear yeast infection. A fungal infection is very common, and it is believed that ear mites are a common cause of infections in puppies.

Dog Ear Infection Home Remedies

1. Aloe Vera

The potency of warm aloe vera gel makes it the perfect weapon to cure ear infections. Not only will it sooth the skin, but 1 teaspoon of the gel in each ear, will also help reduce inflammation or irritation in the ear.

2. Almond Oil

Another great home remedy for ear infections in dogs is to pour some warm almond oil into the affected ears. This remedy is often used to loosen the wax and dirt from the ear, effectively reducing the risk of contracting an infection.

3. White Vinegar

A dog ear infection vinegar treatment is a sure way of killing any bacteria in the ear. All you have to do is mix 1 part water and 3 parts vinegar. The mixture should be such that the amount of vinegar is sufficient enough to dry out any excess water, which would otherwise lead to irritation. Just remember to pour the mixture in to your dog’s ear only when it slightly above room temperature because a cooler mix will only cause more pain.

4. Probiotic Yogurt

Just as good for the outside as it is for your insides, probiotic yogurt is great remedy for treating dog ear infection. A small dab of organic yogurt that has live or active strains of probiotic bacteria should be applied on to the affected ear.

An extract that is taken out of the twigs and leaves of the mullein plant, mullein is a great cure for a dog ear infection. It can help calm the nerves of the inflamed ear, and is highly effective in getting rid of ear infections. Works best if mixed with garlic oil dropped into the affected ears once or twice a say.

6. Pau d’arco

Pau D’Arco contains a potent cleansing agent against that works against candida cells, known as Lapachol. So, by combining two parts of mineral oils and an equal part of pau d’arco, you’ve got yourself an ear infection cure for your dog. Just massage it gently into the ear, twice or thrice a day. The herb called acts like an antibiotic that kills the bacteria that is causing the infection.

7. Herbal Flea Powder

Mites or fleas are a very common cause of ear infection in dogs, and is a bit tougher to get rid of. You can use store bought herbal flea powder that you should them sprinkle on your dog’s body. Herbal flea powder contains a number of natural ingredients like eucalyptus, wormwood, rue, and rosemary. It is effective as it removes mites that have latched on to your pet.

8. Macerated Garlic

Available as freshly macerated garlic or in capsule form, garlic is the perfect remedy for ear infections. Its antibacterial properties allow you treat light to mild infections with ease. You’ll need to let a fresh mixture sit for about two weeks before you can use it on your pet. Works best if used on a daily basis, until the infection is completely healed.

9. Warm Compress

A warm compress applied in the infected ear of your canine will help alleviate various physical symptoms like proximity pain, redness, and irritation. First soak a thick towel in some very hot water and then squeeze out the excess and press it gently next to the ear, holding it for about 5-10 minutes.

10. Apple Cider Vinegar

A great disinfectant and bacteria killer, apple cider vinegar is a great way to cure infection, or even to clean the ears. Also, apple cider prevents an existing ear infection from spreading. You can mix equal amounts of acv, water and hydrogen peroxide, and rub it gently into your dog’s ear. Make sure to clean up the mix after you’re done, preventing growth of yeast or bacteria.

11. Vitamin E Oil

Available in the form of cod liver oil, Vitamin E oil is useful when it comes to getting rid of both inner and middle ear infections. Either crush a Vitamin E capsule and use its oil as drops, or simply apply 1-2 drops of cod liver oil into the affected area.

12. Margosa Oil

Margosa oil is a common cure for dog ear infection because of its antimicrobial properties. You can prepare a homemade herbal ear cleaning mix with just ½ a teaspoon of eucalyptus oil, a teaspoon tea tree oil and 30ml of olive oil, along with 4 of margosa oil. Use a dropper to put about 20 drops per infected ear. Massaging the ear’s base will help spread and absorb the oil.

13. Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel is a shrub with fragrant yellow flowers and is mainly used for decorative purposes. But by combining equal amounts of apple cider vinegar and witch hazel, you get yourself and effective dog ear infection cure. Just a few drops of this potent mix will reduce any inflammation or discomfort that your pet is experiencing.

Preventing Infections in Dog’s Ear

As always, prevention is better than cure. But in case of dogs, prevention mostly depends on the ability to identify the underlying causes of an ear infection. Sometimes it could be because the ear canal is moist from swimming, bathing or grooming, leading to the growth of microorganisms. In such minor cases, prevention would mean nothing more than cleaning the ear using any of the above methods.

In another set of cases, it is sometimes impossible to identify such underlying causes. Also, dogs are typically playful and adventurous, causing them to often go into messy and unhygienic areas. This makes it a hot bed for the overgrowth of bacteria, fungus and yeast organisms.

Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs

While you may think skin in the ear is different than the skin on the rest of your dog’s body, it’s essentially the same— just with less hair and a few more glands. This means the same irritants that disrupt their normal skin, like allergies, parasites and underlying medical conditions, can also disrupt their ears. These disruptions open the door for bacteria and yeast to flourish in the ear, causing infection and discomfort for your dog.

Here are a few ways a dog can get an ear infection:

  • Allergies (including food allergies)
  • Ear mites
  • Water in their ear(s) from swimming or bathing
  • Getting something stuck in the ear
  • Another disease that has an impact on the ear environment, such as thyroid disease

Dog Breeds More Likely to Experience Ear Infections

Some dogs are more susceptible to ear infections because of their breed. For example, dogs with floppy ears are more likely to get an ear infection because their ears trap moisture that alters the normal environment in the ear canal. These breeds include:

  • Golden Retrievers
  • Labrador Retrievers
  • Cocker Spaniels
  • Poodles
  • West Highland Terriers (Westies)
  • Hound breeds


Dogs with ear infections tend to show specific signs.  

  • Shaking head frequently
  • Scratching at ears
  • Odor from ears
  • Excess debris in ears and/or discharge from ears
  • Red, irritated ears (sometimes painful)
  • Scabs and/or hair loss around ears (from scratching)
  • Head tilt (especially if the eardrum is ruptured)

Watch the video: How to Treat Ear Infection in Dogs. Home Remedies for Ear Infection in Dogs

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