Dog Ear Problems

The two most common dog ear problems are mites and ear infections. The inside of your pooch's ears are warm and moist, making them a perfect breeding ground for mites, bacteria, and other small organisms. Without treatment, minor dog ear problems can lead to deafness or serious whole body infections.

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1. Mites

Causes: These white, crablike parasites feed on skin flakes and debris inside the ears. Mites are highly contagious. They can easily pass to your dog's coat or jump to other dogs' ears. Young dogs tend to get mites more often than older ones.

Symptoms: Head shaking, ear scratching, rubbing the ear against objects, reddish brown crusty discharge.

  • Clean out the debris. Before using medication, it is important to clear away the crust that mites can hide behind. Using a small dropper, deposit several drops of mineral oil in the ear canal and wait for the crust to soften. Soak a wad of cotton balls or gauze in a solution of half vinegar and half water. Hold the pad over the ear, and squeeze the cleaning solution into the ear canal. Mop up the solution and debris with clean cotton balls. Stand back while your dog shakes out some more.
  • Use medicated ear drops. Pet stores sell ear insecticidal preparations that will kill the mites. Once your dog's ears are clean, applying medicated ear drops is simple. Place the drops in the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear for a few minutes to allow the drops to penetrate. Step back and let your dog shake his head. Clean up any residue with cotton or tissue.
  • Use oil as an alternative to medication. Everyday, put in 5 drops of baby oil or mineral oil into each ear and massage it in. Although it won't drown all the mites, it will still reduce their numbers while cleaning the ears and reducing itching. Continue everyday for about for 6-8 weeks.
  • Treat the fur. Mites can easily wander from the ear to the fur. Give your dog a good bath with an insecticidal shampoo for his coat. Use flea sprays or powders twice a week for 4 weeks.

2. Ear Infections

Causes: Wax buildup, matted hair lodged in ear, dried blood or mucus, mites, fungus, water, soap. Bacteria and yeast infections thrive in heat and moisture. Dogs that swim a lot or live in humid climates are most susceptible to ear infections.

Symptoms: Tilting affected side downward, shaking head, frequent scratching of affected ear, smelly discharge, redness and swelling of the skin folds in the canal.


  • Clean out the debris. Gently reach into the ear with a bit of gauze or the corner of a dry, soft, washcloth. Scoop out as much of the gunk as possible. Avoid using a cotton swab because it may push the goop deeper.
  • Flush the ears. Pet stores sell antibiotic ear drops, like this one. Treat once a day for 7 days for acute infections and once a day for 14 days for chronic infections.

    Or make your own ear drop solution. Combine equal parts vinegar, rubbing alcohol, and water. The vinegar changes the ear's pH, which means the bacteria and yeast can't survive. The alcohol dries out the ear so they won't return. Use a soaked piece of gauze or cotton ball to squeeze fluid into the ear canal. Gently massage the base of the ear to distribute the fluid. Flush twice a day.

Most dog ear infections will clear up in a week using either remedy. If your dog's ears still smell bad after that, he probably has a more serious infection. Take him to the vet to get a prescription medication.

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