All Things Ears

Clinical Signs of an Ear Infection

Ear infections are painful. Many dogs will shake their head and scratch their ears to relieve the discomfort. The ears often become red and inflamed and develop an offensive odor.


There are several kinds of bacteria and at least one type of fungus that commonly cause ear infections. Not knowing the specific kind of infection present makes it impossible to know which medication to use. Sometimes, the problem can be attributed to other underlying issues such as: a foreign body, a polyp, or a tumor. Treatment with medications alone will not resolve these problems. Your dog must be examined to ensure the eardrum is intact. Administration of certain medications can result in hearing loss if the eardrum is ruptured. This can only be detected by a thorough ear examination.


First, the ear canal is examined with an otoscope, an instrument that provides magnification and light. This examination allows your veterinarian to determine whether the eardrum is intact and if there is any foreign material present. The next step is to examine the sample of the material from the ear canal under a microscope (ear cytology) to determine the type of organism causing the infection. Microscopic examination is essential in helping your veterinarian choose the right medication to treat the inflamed ear canal.


Many dogs will have more than one type of infection (e.g., bacterium and fungus or two kinds of bacteria). This situation usually requires the use of multiple medications or a broad-spectrum medication. The treatment should continue until the infection is completely gone. For dogs with bacterial and yeast-infections, you should expect weekly or bi-weekly physical examinations and tests until there is no evidence of infection.


Rechecks are ESSENTIAL for the treatment of ear infections. This exam is very important because the ears may need to be treated for longer. While the dog’s symptoms may have resolved because he/she feels better, an infection might still be present. It is impossible to determine whether the infection has cleared without rechecking with an ear cytology.



Ear Cleansing and Medicating Instructions

Different Levels of Ear Infections

Why Rechecks are so Important