Does my dog have an ear infection?

Just like humans, our pets use their ears for balance and hearing. They can also suffer from ear infections from time to time.

As a vet hospital in Sydney Fox Valley Animal Hospital see an increase in ear infections during the warmer months. This is partly to do with our dogs enjoying a swim at the beach and water becoming trapped in the ear. The increase in humidity and warmth also proves an ideal breeding grounds for infection.Dog scratching at a sore ear


Ear infections can cause your dog discomfort as they are itchy and irritating. If left untreated, they can become a source of chronic complaint that interrupts sleep and makes them quite unhappy. Left unchecked, ear infections can lead to ruptured ear drums, middle ear infections and pain if left untreated.


Prevention and early detection in dog ear infections can make a world of difference. That’s why we’ve put this handy ear infection guide together for you.

 What causes an ear infection in a dog?


Those peaky, floppy and spiky ears we love on our pet dogs can also be a haven to all kinds of ear infection causes. There are several factors as to why your dog may have an ear infection. The most commonly one being an overgrowth of yeast or bacteria. The ear canals design is an ideal breeding ground due to its moist, warm environment.


Other common ear infection causes include:

  • Ear mites
  • Excessive or ingrown hair
  • Trapped water
  • Skin issues leading to inflamed ears
  • Foreign bodies that get lodged in the ear. This can be things like grass seeds through to rocks and toys


Whatever the case, things that don’t belong in your dog’s ear can quickly start to cause irritation and discomfort.

 How can I tell if my dog has an ear infection?

Just like humans, when your dogs ears aren’t working the way they should, it’ll start to influence how they behave. They could fuss over the ear in question or you may see visible signs of infection on the sides of your dog’s head.


Take it from a vet hospital in Sydney: Here are some signs of an ear infection:


  • Scratching of the ear or around the ear
  • Brown, yellow or bloody discharge
  • Swelling
  • Redness
  • Excessive head shaking
  • Rubbing of the ear
  • Walking in circles
  • Head tilt or dragging the ear along grass
  • Crying if touched around ears

As a vet hospital in Sydney, we see a range of severity in ear infections before owners bring them in. Ear infections can turn from mild irritation to grumbling infections fairly quickly. So if your dog is displaying these kinds of behaviors, it is best to book an appointment at our vent clinic and get it checked out ASAP.A dogs ear with a very nasty infection


Some dogs are more prone to ear infections


Some breeds of dogs are more prone to infections. Floppy eared dogs such as Labradors, Beagles and Daschunds are examples of the sorts of ears that can create the most problems. These types of ears provide a nice breeding ground for bacteria or yeasts. The dark, damp and warm enclosed ear cavities make it easy for yeast or bacteria to multiply.


Dogs that have excessive hair in the ear canals can be more prone to ear infections due to the lack of circulating fresh air. Well known examples of this sort of dog are Pomeranians or Poodles.


Dogs that suffer from skin allergies are also susceptible to an increase in ear infections. Remember, the ear is just an extension of the skin except it is hidden away. So if your dog has sensitive skin, you should take extra precautions to ward off ear infections.


How does Fox Valley Animal Hospital diagnose an ear infection?

Alex Brittan runs a Vet hospital in Sydney and can help with everything from ear infections through to surgery

As the owner of a Sydney vet hospital, Dr Alex knows how to treat ears

First and foremost, we need to examine your dog’s ear. You can’t make an accurate assessment of what is wrong with an ear by using online information. So its important you head to a vet hospital in Sydney that deals with small animals, like Fox Valley Animal Hospital.

If your pet’s ear is very painful, we may need to give them some sedation first. We use a device called an aural scope that allows us to look into your dog’s ear canal.

The aural scope allows us to see if the skin is inflamed, if the ear drum is intact, to look for obstructions and recognise the type of discharge from the ear.

This alone does not always give us a diagnosis. If we suspect there is an infection, then we will obtain a sample from the ear to make sure we know exactly what we’re dealing with.


It is very important for us to make a correct diagnosis as to what type of infection your dog has. We base our treatment plan around the kind of ear infection.


How do we obtain a sample?

Getting a sample from your dog’s ear is a fairly gentle yet extremely helpful procedure.


  • We use a cotton tip to remove some of the debris, discharge or crust from the ear
  • This is then preserved, stained and dried so we can examine it under a microscope
  • The nurse and vets are all trained to examine slides
  • We can detect yeasts and bacteria
  • We can detect parasites

This all allows for a correct treatment plan. There are different types of bacteria that we can recognise and prescribe the correct medication to kill them.


If we have any doubt then we can take a swab. These swabs are then sent off to an outside laboratory for a diagnosis. We may also do this for re-occurring infections to help manage your dog’s ear infection.


How do we treat ear infections?

Any vet hospital in Sydney will tell you most ear infections are treated with topical ear drops, oral medication or a combination of both. We may also prescribe anti-inflamotories if it is particularly painful. We’ll clean your dog’s ear at the vet clinic to remove as much debris as possible.

To continue treatment, we’ll  send you home with medication. It is important to use this medication as prescribe as many infections can take 2 weeks to completely clear.

We’ll get your dog back after 1 week for an ear clean and to monitor progress. Finally, we’ll expect to see your dog again once the medications are finished to give the all clear.


How can an ear infection be prevented?

As vet Alex Brittan always says “prevention is better than cure!” You can help prevent ear infections in your dog with a few simple steps:


  • Check your dogs ears regular for any discharge, swelling, redness or signs of infection
  • If your dog likes to swim, be sure to dry the ears thoroughly
  • Regular cleaning with a vet approved ear cleaner may be advisable
  • We don’t pluck hair from dogs ears, however our groomer can clip excess hair from around the ears

As a vet hospital in Sydney, we see a lot of ear infections due to the heat and humidity. As well as the beach going lifestyle. So please make sure you take advantage of proper advice.

If your dog is showing any signs or symptoms from the above it is best to contact us. 


About the Author
My name is Hayley and I'm a senior vet nurse at Fox Valley Animal Hospital. I studied, qualified and started working as a Veterinary nurse in the UK over 15 years ago. I worked in a small but very busy practice about 30 minutes outside London in a place called Gravesend. I decided to travel and left old Blighty for the sunny shores of Australia. I worked for Dr Alex Brittan at Fox Valley Animal Hospital during my stay in Oz. I fell in love with the country, the people and the weather so decided to call Australia home. Since then I have Married, had babies, and own Toby a kelpie cross! and I'm still here. I love my job as a vet nurse. I enjoy the challenge of difficult cases, I love and share in the joy of being able to help peoples pets and the reward is priceless. I wouldn't change my profession for the world.