Does My Dog Have An Ear Infection? 5 Tips On How To Spot Them!

July 15, 2022
Amber LaRock, Vetted Vet Pro
Skin and grooming

Ear infections are a common health complication that many of our cherished pets experience. Our little ones can’t verbalize that they are uncomfortable, so these infections are often left to brew until their ears are severely painful.

Learning how to spot an ear infection as it develops is an effective way to jump in and stop a brewing infection in its tracks. Our team at Vetted wants to keep your beloved pet as comfortable as possible, so let’s introduce you to the 5 best ways to spot an ear infection in dogs.

Understanding Ear Infections In Dogs

External ear infections are the most common ear disease seen in dogs. This is due to the fact that the canine ear is both dark and damp, making for the perfect environment for bacteria to multiply. This form of ear infection impacts the outer portion of the dog’s ear and a small portion of the ear canal, but it can spread to the inner portions of the ear if it is not treated.

Ear infections in dogs are not only extremely painful due to the damaging inflammation that is present, but they can lead to severe complications for the pup affected. An ear infection that spreads to the middle ear can lead to difficulty with balance, vestibular disease, deafness, circling, and even facial paralysis. By catching your dog’s ear infection in the early stages, you can save them from significant health threats down the line.

Why Do Dogs Get Ear Infections?

Unfortunately for our pups, there are many factors that put a dog at risk of developing ear infections. Our dog’s ears are paradise for tiny organisms like yeast and bacteria, as they have everything they need to thrive and wreak havoc on the surrounding tissue. The combination of moisture and darkness is what fuels these microscopic invaders, along with a list of contributing factors that predispose certain dogs.

Some of the most common factors that have been linked to ear infections in dogs include:

  • Ears that droop and flop over, as this traps moisture in the dog’s ear canal (breeds such as Basset Hounds, Beagles, and Cocker Spaniels)
  • Ears that are filled with excess fur, as ear wax and debris will often become trapped
  • Frequent swimming or time spent in the water, especially if their pet parents are unaware of the need to dry their ears after
  • A case of chronic skin allergies, as this leads to constant inflammation within the ears

Each of the above factors play a role in the development of ear infections in dogs, but they can occur in any of our pups. This is why we suggest always keeping an eye out for the signs of a painful ear in your little one.

If your dog is prone to frequent ear infections, you can always download the Vetted app or email our team directly at, we will be happy to discuss your little one’s chronic ear complications.

5 Tips On How To Spot Ear Infections In Dogs

Now that you are aware of how serious an ear infection can be in our little ones, let’s go over some of the easiest ways to spot them!

1. Your Dog Is Constantly Shaking Their Head

Head shaking is the most common symptom of an ear infection in dogs. Our dogs can’t comprehend the strange pressure and pain that comes along with an ear infection, causing them to shake their head in search of relief. Little do they know, the constant head shaking actually worsens their pain, as it only leads to more inflammation within the ear.

2. Your Dog Is Pawing At Their Ears

If something is itchy or uncomfortable on a dog’s body, they will often rely on their paws to solve the problem. An ear infection will often bring a dog significant pain in the area, causing them to paw at their face and ears in effort to make it stop. Similar to the effects of constant head shaking, pawing at the area only seems to worsen our little one’s pain.

3. There Is Noticeable Dirt Or Discharge In Your Dog’s Ears

Dogs with an ear infection will often have a strange wax buildup that is visible near the opening of their ear canal. This wax can range in color from dark brown to light tan, and it may even form a crust in certain areas. While this isn’t the case for every dog, it is a common symptom to be on the lookout for.

4. Your Dog’s Ears Have A Strange Smell

Have you ever pet your dog’s face, only to realize that your hands were covered in a strange smell shortly afterward? If this is currently the case for your dog, then they are likely battling an ear infection. The presence of excessive amounts of yeast and bacteria within the ear can brew a foul smell, and it’s often strong enough to get our attention.

5. Your Dog Has Mild Crust Around Their Ears

If your dog is experiencing excessive wax buildup and ear discharge from their current infection, you may notice a small amount of crust on the inside of their pinna. Severe ear infections have even led to crust buildup on the fur outside of the dog’s ear, and it is often accompanied by the strange smell we mentioned above.

Can I Prevent Ear Infections In My Dog?

No matter how diligent we are with our pet’s care, some will still develop an ear infection. However, if your dog is prone to chronic ear infections or skin irritation, there are a few ways to promote a healthy ear environment moving forward!

Some of the most effective ways to keep their ears infection-free include cleaning their ears with a pet-safe ear cleaner once monthly, drying out their ears after any time spent in water, keeping the fur around their ear canal trimmed, and staying on top of any chronic skin irritation or allergies.

Final Thoughts

Ear infections are no joke in our beloved pets, and the team at Vetted never wants your little one to experience the discomfort that comes along with them. Our goal is to empower the pet parent through education on these common conditions, and help you promote a healthy and happy future for your pup moving forward!