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Ear Infections in Dogs: A Reason for the Itching, Shaking, and Bad Smell

May 22nd, 2017 by Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

Phoebe, the dog, scratches her ear due to an ear infection.

Is your dog itching his ear more than usual?

Is she shaking her head a lot?

Have you noticed a stinky, bad smell in your dog’s ear?

Your dog may have an ear infection.

Scroll down to learn:

  • What causes ear infections in dogs
  • Signs of ear infections in dogs
  • How to treat and prevent ear infections
  • How to clean your dog’s ears
  • How to deal with chronic ear infections
  • Whether allergies may be too blame

(Simply want to help your dog feel better? Call our Castle Rock veterinarians for treatment at 303-688-3757 or book your visit here.)

What causes ear infections in dogs?

Dogs naturally have some bacteria and yeast in their ears.

Ear infections in dogs occur when that bacteria or yeast overgrows.

The canals are warm and dark. If moisture gets in there, the bacteria or yeast have a wild party… and your dog is the unwilling host!

The infection can cause a lot of irritation in your dog’s ear canal.

One-ear vs two-ear infections

  • Typically, an ear infection in one ear is the result of moisture.
  • If your dog has an ear infection in both ears, the infection may be due to other causes, such as dog allergies, too much hair in the canals, or in rare cases, ear mites.

That’s what our veterinarians can help you figure out!

Ginger, the Irish Setter, has had a recurring ear infection in her ears.

So, how does moisture get in your dog’s ear?

In Castle Rock, dogs can get moisture in their ears in a variety of ways:

  • Getting groomed… or simply getting a bath
  • Swimming
  • Playing in the sprinklers
  • Rolling in wet grass
  • Walking in the rain
  • Having another dog or cat lick their ears

There really is no end to how moisture can get in there!

Marley splashes through a stream, kicking up water.

Signs of an ear infection in dogs

It’s best to give us a call if you notice your dog has any of the following symptoms:

  • Is scratching her ear a lot
  • Is shaking her head frequently
  • Has red, inflamed skin on the underside of her ears
  • Pulls away from you when you try to pet her ears (she may be pain)
  • Has a stinky, bad smell in her ears (often a musty odor)
  • Has debris in her ears

Treating and preventing ear infections

When you bring your dog in, we’ll swab the ear and run a cytology. It’s a lab test to determine whether the infection is due to bacteria or yeast.

We’ll also look for mites, depending on the debris.

We may advise you to clean your dog’s ears and/or apply a medication for a short period of time or on an ongoing basis.

(For example, let’s say your dog loves to swim and routinely gets an infection in one ear or the other.)

Cleaning your dog’s ears is pretty easy process

  • Apply a cleaning solution at the top of your dog’s ear canals
  • Massage the ears from the outside to work that liquid in
  • Wait for your dog to shake her head
  • Wipe away any excess liquid

We don’t recommend using Q-Tips on your dog (or cat, for that matter).

You can accidentally stuff the bacteria or yeast up against the eardrum. And that can make the infection more difficult to eliminate.

It also can cause more serious damage.

Paco's groomer takes great care with his ears when giving him a bath.

Battling chronic ear infections in dogs

If your dog has chronic ear infections, it’s important to figure out the reason why to avoid permanent damage to the ears.

We’ll likely do additional diagnostic tests, so we can help you get some answers.

Depending on the reason for the infections, we may recommend putting your dog on an oral medication, in addition to a topical ear medication.

Some dogs have a lot of hair in their ears that can hold in the moisture. In these instances, we may suggest having a groomer pluck that hair to help get rid of the infection.

Our goal is to help you figure out what’s going on, so we can help your dog get back to being the pup you love!

Wondering if allergies may be to blame?

Check out:

 If your dog is having ear issues…

Let’s help your dog feel better. If you live in Castle Rock or the Denver area, call us at 303-688-3757 or:

Book your visit here 


Cherished Companions Animal Clinic is a veterinary clinic in Castle Rock, Colorado. Specializing in the care of cats and dogs, our goal is to help you and your pet feel more comfortable, keeping your stress to a minimum.

This article is intended to provide general guidance on ear infections in dogs. If you have specific questions or concerns, please contact your local veterinarian. (If you live in or around Castle Rock, we welcome your call.)

© 2017, Cherished Companions Animal Clinic

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