How to Treat Acute Ear Infections in Dogs

Diagram of a Dog Ear
Diagram of a Dog Ear (Image:,

Ear infections are a common health problem for dogs, yet they are actually very serious and have the potential to develop into chronic health issues. For this reason, ear infections in dogs must be treated by a veterinarian. The veterinarian is the only one who can properly examine and diagnose the cause of the infection, whether it is due to yeast, bacteria, mites or some other underlying problem. The following steps will guide you through treating an acute ear infection in your dog, including the detection of the ear infection, seeing a veterinarian and applying the proper treatment for your dog at home.

Things You'll Need

  • Prescribed ear medication
  • Cotton swab or cotton ball
  • Alcohol

Determine whether your dog has a health problem. Check the dog's ears for a foul odor. Watch to see if the dog shakes his head frequently, or rubs and scratches at his head and ears. Look inside your dog's ears for a redness, swelling or a discharge. These are all common indications that your dog has an ear infection.

Contact a veterinarian to have your dog's ears examined. Only a veterinarian can ascertain the exact cause of the infection. Allow the veterinarian to take a swab of the ear and conduct a thorough examination.

Listen carefully to the diagnosis and recommended treatment method for your dog's infection. Treatment options can range from medication to surgery, depending upon the exact nature of the infection as determined by laboratory tests.

Clean the dog's ears thoroughly before beginning treatment. This will most likely be done at the medical office by the veterinarian after the examination.

Apply the prescribed medication to the inside of your dog's ear canal. Allow the veterinarian to demonstrate this process by giving your dog the first dose. Ask any questions regarding the proper medication dosage and application for your dog's infection.

Carefully pull your dog's ear flap straight up, holding it taught with one hand.

Apply the prescribed amount of medication into your dog's ear canal. Allow the medication to run straight down the vertical part of your dog's ear canal. Continue to keep his ear flap elevated until the medication has a chance to run all the way down the ear, including both the vertical and horizontal parts of the ear canal.

Dog Ear Canal Diagram
Dog Ear Canal Diagram

Gently massage your dog's ear canal after the medication has run all the way down. Use your finger and your thumb, placing your finger at the base of the flap in the front and placing your thumb at the base of the flap in the back.

Listen for a squishy sound as you massage the ear canal. This is an indication that the medication has been applied properly, reaching the horizontal part of the ear canal.

Let go of the ear and allow your dog to shake his head. If the medication is intended to dissolve buildup, some debris may be shaken out of your dog's ears at this time.

Repeat this process with the other ear, if necessary, or with other medications, as prescribed.

Clean your dog's ear canal and ear flap after you have applied all necessary medications. Use a cotton pad or cotton ball with a small amount of rubbing alcohol (70 percent or 90 percent isopropyl).

Tips & Warnings

  • There are several homeopathic remedies (such as natural herbs and extracts) that research has shown to heal dog ear infections. The veterinarian will be able to comment on whether any of them are appropriate for your dog's infection. Be gentle when treating your dog's ear infection. The infection can cause great pain, and in some cases, it may be recommended that the dog be sedated to properly clean and treat the ear infection. Some dogs have to be anesthetized in order to handle the pain of their ears being cleaned and treated. Although any breed of dog is susceptible to ear infections, those with floppy ears (Labradors, Spaniels and Hounds) have a tendency to acquire such infections more often. This is also the case for any breed, like the Poodle, which has natural hair growth in the ear canal. Clean your dog's ears regularly with cotton balls and alcohol. This will reduce the risk of ear infections and keep your pet happier.
  • Be aware that the external portion of a dog's ear canal is shaped like the letter "L." There is both a vertical and horizontal part. The vertical canal starts the canal, and connects with the exterior of the ear. The horizontal canal follows the vertical canal, lies deeper in the canal and terminates at the ear drum. It is important to get the medication into the horizontal part of the ear canal. If the medication does not get into the horizontal part, the infection will not be treated properly and is likely to return. Do not use cotton swabs, or any other soft-tipped applicators, to clean your dog's ears or apply medication. These devices have a tendency to push debris and harmful bacteria back into the vertical part of the dog's ear canal.

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