How Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?
While ear infections are a very painful condition familiar to both humans and their dogs, this condition is much more prevalent in dogs—especially floppy-eared breeds where trapped moisture and other conditions can increase the risk of an ear infection.
Whether your dog has an isolated case or suffers from frequent ear infections, most dog owners want to alleviate their dog's suffering—and minimize the risk of complications—as quickly as possible. From treating cases of ear infections to reducing the risk of future infections, here's what you need to know to support your dog's ear health.
How Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?
While ear infections may all look the same from the outside, the cause of the ear infection will determine how to properly treat the condition. These three causes of ear infections in dogs include:
- Yeast. A dog's fungal ear infection is likely caused by yeast, which itself may develop when moisture is present in the ear. Yeast infections will likely be treated with an antifungal medication, among other potential interventions.
- Bacteria. Bacteria can enter the ear and cause an infection in many different ways, such as through a foreign object entering the ear, an injury to the ear, or moisture, among other causes. Antibacterial treatments are a likely course of action to remedy a bacterial dog ear infection.
- Mites. Puppies may be at a greater risk of developing ear infections due to the presence of ear mites. While these mites can cause either a yeast or bacterial infection in the ear, any dog ear infection from mites will also require you to treat and eliminate the mites to fix the infection and prevent it from coming back.
While ear infections in your dog will be caused by one of these three forms of infection, a number of risk factors can increase your dog's risk of developing an infection. These risk factors include:
- The shape of your dog's ear, especially if it is floppy
- Moisture in the ear
- Allergies in your dog
- Ear injuries
- Waxy buildup in your dogs' ears
- Autoimmune disorders
Dog Ear Infection Symptoms
While symptoms can vary from one ear infection to the next—and can be difficult to identify, especially in the early stages of an infection—most dog owners will identify one or more of several key symptoms that an infection has developed.
These symptoms may include:
- Scratching at the ear
- Your dog looking agitated and shaking their head
- Discharge from the ear
- Redness and/or swelling around the ear
- Scabs or crust developing in the ears
- A foul odor
If your dog has had ear infections in the past, you can also monitor their behavior to see if they're behaving similar to past cases of ear infection. Keep in mind, though, that different ear infections may manifest with different symptoms.
Dog Ear Infection Treatment
Proper treatment of an ear infection requires a visit to your local vet to determine the root cause of the infection. Without a proper diagnosis, you may try to treat a fungal infection with an antibacterial medication, or vice versa—and this will have no effect on the infection itself, which could lead to a more severe case.
Many veterinarians will recommend a medicated ear cleanser to clean out the ear, in addition to an antibiotic or antifungal medication that may be administered orally or as drops into the ear. Additional medications may be prescribed to improve your dog's comfort while they recover. If your dog is also suffering from ear mites, your vet will likely prescribe a medication to remove this parasite as well.
Recovery after treatment will depend on the severity of the infection, as well as whether any health complications arise. While your dog may improve after a few days in cases of a mild ear infection, it could be weeks before infections and their complications fully resolve. In rare cases, the effects of an ear infection can linger for months.
Is There a Home Remedy for Dog Ear Infection?
While it can be tempting to take care of your dog's ear infection by applying home remedies and avoiding a potentially costly trip to the vet, this DIY approach can ultimately delay your dog's access to medical care, which can lead to additional complications and put your dog's health at risk.
By attempting to treat an ear infection through home remedies, you may ultimately create more expensive vet bill while also making it more difficult to treat your dog's ear infection. Spare yourself the risk: treat medical conditions with medical care.
Will a Dog Ear Yeast Infection Go Away On Its Own?
While it's possible that a yeast infection in your dog's ear may go away without any treatment or intervention, veterinarians strongly discourage owners from taking a wait-and-see approach, for two main reasons. First, these infections are often very painful for your dog, and holding off treatment can put them through unnecessary discomfort, especially if the infection gets worse.
At the same time, yeast infections—like other ear infections—are easier to treat when caught early, and when symptoms are mild. By waiting to see if the infection goes away on its own, you're increasing the likelihood that eventual treatment for the infection will be even more intensive, and likely more costly—while also subjecting your dog to suffering that could have been avoided.
While a dog ear infection is no fun for anyone, prompt medical care can make a huge difference in getting your dog on the road to recovery. If you suspect an ear infection, contact your local vet ASAP.