5 Tips To Prevent Ear Infections In Dogs

Has your dog ever suffered from an ear infection? Coming from a family of poodle-lovers, I’m definitely raising my hand on this one. They’re pretty common, especially for dogs with floppy ears. No matter how many you may have dealt with though, it’s always a horrible feeling to watch your pooch whimper as she feverously scratches away at her ear. Plus, doggy ear infections are usually stinky, messy, cause redness/swelling, and very frustrating for everyone involved. 

In this post, we break down the three types of ear infections, common causes, and ways you can prevent them in the future. The key is prevention! 

3 Types Of Ear Infections

There are three types of ear infections in dogs—otitis externa, media, and internal. Each affects a different part of the canine ear. Just as the names imply, otitis externa refers to an infection of the outer or external portion of the ear. Otitis media and internal, refer to infections of the middle and inner ear canal. When not treated early enough, otitis externa can spread into the middle and inner ear canal, leading to a more serious infection.

What Causes An Ear Infection?

There are a few common causes. 

  • Bacteria
  • Yeast
  • Wax buildup 
  • Moisture in the ear
  • Excess hair
  • Allergies – both environmental and food 
  • Ear mites and fleas 

Know Your Dog’s Risk

While any dog can develop an ear infection, some breeds are more susceptible than others. Floppy ear dogs (such as Poodles, Labs, Hounds, Beagles, Spaniels, etc…) top the list. Having that enclosed ear canal creates a perfect moist environment for bacterial and yeast growth. Plus, floppy ears help to trap dirt, debris, and wax buildup. 

Tips To Prevent An Ear Infection

1. Keep Your Dog’s Ears Dry

Moisture is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. While you certainly don’t need to stop your water-loving pooch from taking a dip in the pool on a hot summer day, it’s important to dry her ears afterward. The same thing goes for bath time! Use either a cotton wipe or piece of gauze to gently dry the ear flap and around the opening of your dog’s ear canal after exposure to water.

2. Pluck Excess Hair 

Have a breed where hair grows inside the ear (like poodles)? Then make sure to pluck it! If not, that excess hair in the outer ear canal will act as a trap for debris and moisture. And you know what that can lead to … infection!

This fine hair is usually easy to pull out with your fingers. But, you can also use a little ear powder and a hemostat. Important Note: Don’t stick the hemostat down into the ear canal because you can cause more harm than good. Just grab the hairs that you can easily see.  Think of it like tweezing your eyebrows – grab onto a hair with your hemostat and pluck. Talk to your pooch to keep him calm while you are plucking. I always like to end the session with a treat.

3. Gently Clean Your Dogs Ears Regularly

About a year ago, I interviewed a professional groomer about the proper way to clean doggy ears. Use these steps as your guide:

  • Use a soft cotton wipe, cotton ball, or cloth.
  • Dampen the wipe with an ear cleaning solution (do not spray directly in the ear).
  • Using your index finger and the wipe, gently wipe away ear wax build-ups.
  • Get into every little crevice, cleaning out all the wax.
  • Do not push your finger too deep into the ear, as you may cause damage to the eardrum. Just focus on the surface level of wax.
  • Finish with a dry cotton wipe to gently dab away any leftover moisture.

4. Feed A Healthy Diet 

According to the American Kennel Club: “About half of dogs with allergic skin disease and 80 percent of dogs with food sensitivities will develop ear inflammation.” 

Here at Proud Dog Mom, we’re huge advocates of feeding dogs a healthy diet. If possible, limit/avoid processed kibble and foods filled with common allergens. I personally feed The Farmer’s Dog — a fresh food subscription service that cooks up meals with your dog in mind. Check out my full review HERE!

I’m also a fan of making my own dog treats. In fact, I wrote an entire dog treat cookbook!  

Note: talk to your vet before making any changes to your dog’s diet

5. Monitor Your Pup’s Ears Regularly

Ideally, your furry friend’s ears should look smooth without any sign of irritation or swelling. They should feel dry and also be free of debris. While a slight yeasty smell can be normal (routine ear checks will help you know what’s normal for your dog), it should never be overpowering. If you notice anything otherwise, it’s best to take your pup to the vet for an ear check.