What is otitis in dogs? Causes and Treatment
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What is otitis in dogs?

Otitis in dogs refers to an inflammation of the ear canal, which is the tube-like structure that extends from the outer ear to the eardrum. There are several types of otitis that can occur in dogs, including otitis externa, otitis media, and otitis interna. Otitis externa is the most common type and refers to inflammation of the outer ear canal, while otitis media and otitis interna are less common and involve inflammation of the middle and inner ear, respectively.

Otitis in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, including allergies, parasites, foreign bodies in the ear canal, hormonal imbalances, immune system disorders, and ear infections caused by bacteria, yeast, or fungi. Certain breeds of dogs are also more prone to developing otitis, such as those with long, floppy ears that can trap moisture and debris in the ear canal.

Symptoms of otitis in dogs can vary depending on the severity of the inflammation and the underlying cause of the condition. Common signs of otitis externa include scratching or rubbing of the ears, head shaking, foul odor coming from the ears, discharge from the ears, redness or swelling of the ear canal, and sensitivity to touch around the ears. In severe cases, dogs may also experience hearing loss, loss of balance, and changes in behavior or mood.

What causes dog otitis?

Otitis in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors, both external and internal. Here are some of the most common causes of dog otitis:

Bacteria and Yeast Infections:

These are the most common causes of otitis in dogs. The bacteria and yeast can grow in the warm, moist environment of the ear canal and cause an infection. These infections can be secondary to other conditions such as allergies, ear mites, or trauma.


Dogs can be allergic to a variety of things such as pollen, mold, and food. When a dog has an allergic reaction, it can cause inflammation in the ears, leading to an increased risk of infection.

Ear Mites:

Ear mites are tiny parasites that live in the ear canal and can cause inflammation and infection. They are more common in puppies and outdoor dogs.

Foreign Objects:

Foreign objects such as grass seeds, burrs, and insects can get trapped in the ear canal, causing irritation and infection.


Trauma to the ear canal, such as scratching or rubbing, can cause inflammation and infection.

Hormonal Imbalances:

Hormonal imbalances, such as those caused by hypothyroidism, can cause changes in the skin that increase the risk of otitis.

Anatomical Abnormalities:

Some dogs may be predisposed to otitis due to structural abnormalities in the ear canal.

It is important to identify the underlying cause of otitis in order to treat it effectively. Your veterinarian can perform an ear exam and diagnostic tests to determine the cause of your dog’s otitis.

What to do to treat dog otitis?

Treatment for dog otitis depends on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. It is important to bring your dog to a veterinarian for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

Ear Cleaning:

In mild cases of otitis, ear cleaning may be sufficient to remove debris and relieve inflammation. Your veterinarian may prescribe a cleaning solution and instruct you on how to safely clean your dog’s ears.


If the otitis is caused by a bacterial infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics to eliminate the infection. If the otitis is caused by allergies or inflammation, your veterinarian may prescribe anti-inflammatory medications or antihistamines to reduce the inflammation and itching.

Ear Drops:

In some cases, ear drops may be necessary to treat otitis. These drops contain medication to kill bacteria, reduce inflammation, and provide pain relief. Your veterinarian may need to clean your dog’s ears before administering the ear drops.


In severe cases of otitis, surgery may be necessary to remove damaged tissue or drain abscesses.

Prevention is also important in managing dog otitis:

  1. Regular ear cleaning: Regular ear cleaning can help prevent debris and wax buildup, which can lead to inflammation and infection.
  2. Proper grooming: Proper grooming can help prevent excessive hair growth in the ears, which can trap debris and contribute to inflammation.
  3. Allergy management: If your dog has allergies, work with your veterinarian to manage them and prevent allergic reactions that can lead to otitis.
  4. Avoid water in the ears: Keep your dog’s ears dry, especially during bathing or swimming. Moisture in the ears can create a breeding ground for bacteria and fungi.

Overall, it is important to monitor your dog’s ears for any signs of otitis, such as redness, swelling, discharge, or odor. Bring your dog to a veterinarian if you suspect otitis to prevent the condition from becoming severe or chronic.


In conclusion, otitis is a common condition in dogs that can cause discomfort and pain if left untreated. It is important for dog owners to recognize the symptoms of otitis and seek veterinary care if their dog is showing signs of infection. Treatment typically involves a combination of ear cleaning, medication, and management of underlying conditions. It is also important for dog owners to maintain good ear hygiene and take preventative measures to reduce the risk of otitis. With proper care and treatment, most dogs with otitis can make a full recovery and return to a healthy, happy life.

Image Credit: Image by master1305 on Freepik

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