Ear Infections Are Common in Dogs — Here's How to Spot One and Get Your Dog Relief

As a new pet owner, I had no idea ear infections were common in dogs. So when our puppy turned 6 months old and got his first one, I didn't know what to be on the lookout for. I felt so bad I hadn't recognized his symptoms and didn't get him relief sooner. "Ear infections can be a common problem in dogs and can be quite painful to the animal," Lindsay Waechter-Mead, DVM, told POPSUGAR. "Several organisms can create an infectious environment inside the ear canal." Ugh, my poor pup. Here's what you need to know if your dog gets an ear infection.

What Causes an Ear Infection in Dogs?

Dr. Waechter-Mead explained that yeast and bacteria are common culprits, with ear mites lower on the list. "Ear infections take up way more time than they should in my office," Joe Hendricks, DVM, told POPSUGAR. He estimated that approximately 90 percent of the cases he sees are from another common culprit — allergies.

What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection?

"Your dog may be experiencing problems including scratching at his ears or rubbing his head on the ground, an unpleasant odor from the ears, redness or drainage from the ears, and shaking or tilting of his head," Dr. Waechter-Mead said. My dog was exhibiting all of these symptoms, especially shaking his head toward the ground. Once I noticed that, I took a whiff of his ears — and almost passed out, the odor was so strong. And as both Drs. Waechter-Mead and Hendricks urged, if your dog is exhibiting any of these behaviors, it's time to call your veterinarian.

How Can I Prevent My Dog From Getting an Ear Infection?

If you notice your dog starting to exhibit any of the above symptoms, lift the flap of your dog's ear to take a look. "It's important to track these symptoms daily so you can catch it before the condition worsens," Dr. Waechter-Mead said. Dr. Hendricks said it's also good to get acquainted with your dog's ears before an ear infection arises. Check them out to see what is normal — how they look and smell and how your dog typically interacts with their ears.

How Can I Treat My Dog's Ear Infection?

First and foremost, head to the vet. Your vet will need to see your dog's infection to know how to best treat it. Dr. Hendricks urges his patients not to buy over-the-counter medications. In his experience, if you try these methods first before taking your dog to the vet, you will likely just create a bigger problem. It's important that your veterinarian see what the specific problem is, prescribe what they need to, then do a recheck a week or two later, he explained.

After we took our dog to the veterinarian and administered his prescribed antibiotics, he started feeling better after about two days. He was symptom-free and back to his playful self. We took him back in to see our vet one week later, and things were thankfully clearing up just fine. Now I know exactly what signs to look for, and I'll be sure to give my veterinarian a call if I see him acting peculiar right away. A hard but valuable lesson learned.