Ear issues in dogs are very common, and statistics show that one in five dogs will suffer from some type of ear disease throughout their life.

In most cases of dog ear problems, these issues are mild and can be treated with simple home remedies and proper hygiene.

However, occasionally, a dog may develop and ear condition that requires professional vet care that's more immediate and expensive.

Due to how they're structured, dog ears are prone to many issues, and they must be cared for properly on a regular basis.

Below are the six most common dog ear problems with pictures, and how to prevent and fix them.

Dog Ear Infections Picture

1. Dog Ear Infections

One of the most often encountered dog ear problems is associated with ear infections, and it's often a repeating problem, especially if your dog spends a lot of time in the water.

Dogs with long and hanging ears like Bloodhound or Basset Hound are more likely to be affected by ear infections.

Your pooch can get bacterial and yeast infections, both of which are usually accompanied by strong odors.

Other symptoms include redness, swelling, discharge, scabs, itchiness, head shaking, scratching, crusting, lack of balance, or scabs.

Ear infections can also be caused by other problems, like parasites, plucking ears or debris, as well as some autoimmune disorders.

Other potential causes include allergies, moisture, foreign bodies, excessive cleaning, wax buildup, injuries in the ear canal, and endocrine disorders (like thyroid disease).

Bacterial Infections – Strains of staphylococcus are mostly responsible for bacterial ear infections in dogs. However, they are different from the strains that affect humans, so your pooch is not contagious towards humans and will not pass it onto you.

Yeast Infections – Yeast is always present in your dog’s ears, but yeast dog ear infection is caused by the overgrowth of yeast and not the mere presence of it. Dogs with floppy ears are more likely to suffer from yeast infection.

How to Prevent It:

Keep your dog’s ears clean and dry.

Proper dog ear hygiene is the best prevention against dog ear problems associated with bacterial infections.

Clean your pet's ears using an ear cleaner at least once a month and check his ears regularly for any scabs, discharge or strange odor.

How to Fix It:

Using shampoos with chlorhexidine or even common bleach can help you kill the bacteria on the skin.

Once the infection has set, using a regular ear cleaner will not help and it's usually recommended to use a type of ear infection treatment instead.

Thorough, professional cleaning of the dog's ear is often recommended, especially in cases where the infection affects middle ear and not just the outer ear.

Different topical and oral medicine is used both for bacterial and yeast infections.

For yeast infection, topical antifungal cream or ointment will be prescribed, while in severe cases where the infection doesn’t go away after six weeks or more, surgery can also be a necessary option.

Close-up of dog ear problems caused by allergies
Close-up of dog ear problems caused by allergies.

2. Allergies

Allergies are a common cause of ear problems in dogs, and subsequently of dog ear infections.

The most common are food and airborne allergies.

The symptoms are the same as with any other ear infection, which entails pain, redness, and discharge. Dogs will often scratch their ears and shake their head if they have an ear infection due to allergies.

How to Prevent It:

Preventing dog ear problems due to allergies before they are actually diagnosed is practically impossible.

However, once you know what allergy caused the ear infection you can avoid that allergen and protect your pooch from it.

If it's the environment, then avoid it altogether.

If it's some food, try an elimination diet to figure out what causes the reaction.

How to Fix It:

Ear infections due to allergies are treated with a combination of ear cleaning and medications.

The first step is getting the proper veterinary diagnosis and identifying the allergen.

After that, dog ear infection medications will be prescribed and administered.

Antifungal drugs, antibiotics and topical medication in the form of ointments and drops are commonly used but you must discuss this with a vet first.

Ear mites causing dog ear problems
Close-up of ear mites in dog's ears.

3. Ear Mites

Although ear mites are a more common problem for cats, dogs can also have issues with these parasites.

There are a few different species of mites that can live in your dog’s ear and they are all very contagious, causing a variety of dog ear problems.

In most cases, ear mites are passed from pet from pet through direct contact, so dogs that come in contact with cats are more likely to get them.

Inflammation of the ears, waxy secretion, odor, head shaking and ear scratching are some of the symptoms of ear mites in dogs.

How to Prevent It:

Keeping ear mites away requires regular checkups and ear cleaning, at least once a month but preferably weekly.

Proper hygiene of your house and your dog’s living area is also important.

If you have a cat in the house, be extra vigilant of ear mites being passed onto the dog.

How to Fix It:

Cleaning your dog’s ears thoroughly is the first step in treating ear mites.

After that, your vet will administer anti-parasitic medication either systematically or directly to your dog’s ear.

In some cases, anti-inflammatory drugs or antibiotics might be necessary to treat ear issues in dogs, and infections caused by ear mites.

There's also a natural way to do it in mild cases.

Ear problems in dogs caused by hair
Lhasa Apso's hairy ears.

4. Hairy Ears

Breeds that have very hairy ears sometimes can suffer from canine ear problems due to the amount of hairs that grow in their ear canal.

Poodles, Lhasa Apso and Shih Tzu are some of the known breeds to often have tons of hair in their ear canals.

Although this is a very minor issue, it can sometimes lead to ear infections if the hair blocks the airflow and leads to moisture being trapped deep inside the ear canal.

How to Prevent It:

Regular grooming is the way to go. Don’t let hair growth become a problem in the first place. Take your dog to a groomer or grab a set of clippers and do it yourself. Don’t pluck your dog's ear hairs because that can create small wounds which may get infected. Carefully trim the ears instead and always keep them dry.

How to Fix It:

Once the issue occurred, consult with a vet and then use topical or oral medicine to deal with the infection.

You'll need to clean up the hair in your dog's ears and keep them nicely trimmed in the future.

Ticks causing dog ear problems and infections
Close-up of ticks on and around dog's ears.

5. Debris, Foreign Objects, Ticks

Sometimes a dog’s ear can be filled with debris or some foreign object can get lodged in the ear canal causing a variety of ear issues.

Ticks can also be the cause of dog ear issues.

Although these cases are very rare, when they do occur it is usually caused by a very small object or something like plant debris.

How to Prevent It:

If your dog regularly plays in tall grass, you should check his ears for dirt or debris of any kind every time he comes back from it (you should be doing that for ticks already).

Even if he doesn’t, regular checkups like once a week can help you spot the arising issue early and prevent future more serious ear problems in dogs.

How to Fix It:

The first simple fix is to investigate the ear and clean it up.

So if you suspect that your pooch has something stuck in his ear, take him to the vet, groomer or learn how to clean his ears yourself.

For more serious cases, a full veterinary check-up might be needed.

A close-up of dog ear hematoma
Close-up of dog ear hematoma.

6. Ear (Aural) Hematoma

Unlike the other common dog ear problems and conditions mentioned above that can cause ear infections, the ear hematoma condition is caused by ear infections in dogs, therefore it can be the result of one of the above ear-related issues.

Excessive shaking of the ears, scratching and trauma can also lead to hematoma in dogs, which occurs when the blood vessels under the skin bleed until they form a fluid-filled pocket. You can recognize dog ear hematoma if you see a swelling on your pup's ear flap, particularly on the tip of the ear.

How to Prevent It:

There isn’t much you can do to prevent the hematoma besides taking your dog to the vet if you see him scratching his ear a lot or shaking his head.

You can also decrease the chance of it occurring by preventing any of the above five mentioned dog ear issues through regular check-ups, grooming, and cleaning.

How to Fix It:

This is a more serious condition, and the imperative is to address the underlying cause that leads to dog hematoma.

Treatment for the hematoma itself can include draining the fluid from it or removing it surgically.

Using a laser to reduce swelling is also a common practice.

Ear health problems in dogs are rarely a sign of some serious conditions.

In the majority of cases, there's no reason to panic and they are easily fixable, especially when they are spotted early on.

Take your dog to the vet if you notice anything unusual with his ears to get the best results, and to prevent it, simply ensure weekly ear check-ups and grooming at home.

FAQs About Common Dog Ear Problems

The following FAQs give you a lot of the same information we covered above but in bite-sized pieces.

This can be helpful if you just have a quick question and don’t need in-depth information. 

What could be wrong with my dog’s ear?

There are several things that may be wrong with your dog’s ear, including an ear infection, mites, or a foreign object in the ears. 

How can I treat my dog’s ear infection at home?

You should always consult your dog’s vet if you suspect he has an ear infection.

This will ensure accurate diagnosis and get to the root of the problem.

It will also help prevent complications. Your vet will likely prescribe ear drops for your dog.

The vet may also suggest trying a mixture of water and vinegar in the meantime if you can’t get an appointment right away. 

Why is my dog shaking his head and scratching his ear?

When your dog is shaking his head and scratching his ear, he is letting you know that something is wrong with his ear.

Something may be trapped inside, he may be itchy from allergies, he may have an infection, or his hair may be in the way.

You should look at his ear and check for other symptoms. 

How can I help my dog’s ear problem?

The best solution to deal with your dog’s ear problem is to take him to the vet.

The vet will likely suggest cleaning his ears and may also prescribe medicine. 

What do vets give dogs for ear infections?

Vets typically give dogs antibiotics for ear infections.

These may be in the form of pills, shots, or ear drops.

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6 Most Common Dog Ear Problems with Pictures