5 Common Ear Canal Infections

icon April 26, 2023

Most cats or dogs have dirty ears due to otitis externa, otitis media, inner ear infections, parasites such as mites, and foreign objects or allergies.

A dog's ear consists of three distinct parts: the external ear, middle ear, and inner ear. The majority (about 95%) of canine ear infections target the external ear, specifically where the ear flap and ear canal meet. These infections are usually mild and typically resolve within 1-2 weeks with proper veterinary treatment, which often involves ear drops, topical medications, and potentially oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatories.

However, without timely veterinary attention, the inflammation can extend from the external ear (known as otitis externa) to the middle ear (otitis media) or even the inner ear (otitis interna). Infections in the middle and inner ear of dogs are more challenging to manage and require a longer treatment duration. In some cases, costly surgery becomes necessary. Additionally, the dog will endure significant pain in such situations.

This is why it is so important for parents to check and clean their cat's ears regularly! In this article, we will describe the 5 most common symptoms of ear infections and the veterinary-recommended treatment.

  • Ear Mite
  • Allergies
  • Otitis externa
  • Otitis media
  • Inner ear infections

1. Ear Mite

Ear mite infestation, Malassezia ear infection, bacterial ear infection, otitis externa, otitis media, and inner ear infections are all different types of ear problems that can affect humans and animals.

Symptoms of Ear Mites

  • Severe itching
  • localized allergies
  • Reddish-brown or black cheese-like discharge
  • Scratch marks on ears, neck, tail roots
  • External hair loss, hematoma and severe inflammation of the ear canal

Ear mite treatment

Turn the cat or dog over to expose the ear canal and use a cotton swab dipped in ear wash to thoroughly clean the outer ear and the dirt in the ear canal. Care should be taken at this stage to be gentle and avoid hurting or injuring the cat, consult your veterinary surgeon for the first time. Then apply a drop of ear mite treatment (approximately 0.2-0.3ml) into the cat's ear canal, taking care to hold the cat's head in place at this stage to prevent it from shaking. Clean both ears once a day in this way and persist for about two weeks to cure the ear mites.

Veterinary recommendations: Puainta® Fipronil Spot On+Puainta® Ear Inflammation - Ear Drops

Puainta® Topical Deworming Drops to Kill Fleas & Ticks in Dogs/Cats Ear Infection Bundle-Ear Cleaning+ Ear Drops+Cefadroxil Tablets


2. Allergies

Malassezia Ear Infection

Malassezia is a type of yeast that can overgrow in the ears of dogs and cats, causing inflammation, itching, and a greasy discharge. It is often associated with allergies or other underlying health conditions.

Symptoms of Malassezia

  • Itching
  • redness, swelling
  • otitis and pus
  • loss of hair on the outer part of the ear
  • hematoma


A smear of ear canal secretions is taken with a cotton swab, stained with Richter-Kimsa, and examined under a microscope. The results show a large number of ovoid, round, and cylindrical Malassezia, some of which resemble the shape of "peanuts".

Malassezia treatment

Depending on the condition, the ear canal can be irrigated with saline or saline-containing antibiotics or ear wash. After the ear wax has been washed out, topical ear drops containing a combination of mycoplasma are used.

Treatment cycle: 2 to 3 weeks with a weekly review. 1 time per day for the first week, then 2 times per week, and finally to 1 time per week. Adjust according to changes in condition.

Bacterial Ear Infection

Bacterial infections of the ear can be caused by a variety of different bacteria and can affect the outer, middle, or inner ear. Symptoms can include ear pain, redness, swelling, and discharge.

Symptoms of Bacterial

  • Shaking of the head, constant scratching of ears
  • Watery ear canal
  • Bright red skin, sensitive to touch
  • Frequent tilting of the head to the side of the pain

Ear Infections In Dogs - Bothell Pet Hospital

bacterial dog ear infection picture

Veterinary recommendations: Puainta® Cefadroxil Anti-inflammatory Tablets+Puainta® Ear Inflammation - Ear Drops

3. Otitis externa

Otitis externa, also known as swimmer's ear, is an infection or inflammation of the outer ear canal. It can be caused by a bacterial or fungal infection, and symptoms can include ear pain, itching, redness, and discharge.

Symptoms of Otitis externa

  • Initially red and swollen skin
  • Fever and itching
  • Head shaking and ear scratching
  • Oozing of yellowish pulpy fluid
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Mid-stage symptoms, decreased appetite, increased temperature, decreased hearing, increased swelling, brownish-black exudate, and narrowing of the ear canal due to swelling.


External ear cleaning. Trim the hair from the root of the ear and disinfect the ear shell and the outer opening of the ear canal with 70% alcohol. Clean the ear thoroughly with an ear wash, dampen a cotton swab, and wipe the ear canal dry with a dry skimmer.

Veterinary recommendations: Puainta® Cefadroxil Anti-inflammatory Tablets+Puainta® Ear Inflammation - Ear Drops

4. Otitis media

Otitis media is an infection or inflammation of the middle ear, which is the space behind the eardrum. It is often caused by a bacterial infection and can result in ear pain, fever, and hearing loss.

Symptoms of Otitis externa

  • Irritability
  • loss of appetite
  • Mucousy fluid discharge
  • Fishy odor
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

Veterinary recommendations: Puainta® Cefadroxil Anti-inflammatory Tablets+Puainta® Ear Inflammation - Ear Drops

5. Inner ear infections

Inner ear infections can be caused by a variety of different factors, including viral or bacterial infections, autoimmune disorders, and head injuries. Symptoms can include dizziness, vertigo, nausea, and hearing loss.

Symptoms of Otitis externa

  • vertigo
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • pain in the ear
  • purulent symptoms in the ear

Veterinary recommendations: Puainta® Cefadroxil Anti-inflammatory Tablets+Puainta® Ear Inflammation - Ear Drops

Ear Infection Bundle-Ear Cleaning+ Ear Drops+Cefadroxil Tablets


Why Does My Dog Keep Getting Ear Infections?

Ear infections in dogs can be caused by a variety of factors. Some of the most common reasons why your dog may be prone to ear infections include:

Anatomy: Dogs with floppy ears or with hairy ear canals are more susceptible to ear infections. The shape of their ears can prevent air from circulating properly, and the hair can trap moisture, which creates a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

Foreign objects: If your dog gets a foreign object, such as a grass seed, stuck in their ear canal, it can cause irritation and lead to an infection.

Poor hygiene: If your dog's ears are not cleaned regularly, dirt and wax can build up and create a breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

Underlying health conditions: Some underlying health conditions, such as hypothyroidism or autoimmune disorders, can increase a dog's susceptibility to ear infections.

If your dog is prone to ear infections, it's important to have their ears checked regularly by a veterinarian and to follow proper ear care hygiene practices. This may include regular cleaning, avoiding exposure to potential allergens, and addressing any underlying health conditions.

Are Inner Ear Infections Contagious?

Inner ear infections, also known as otitis interna or labyrinthitis, are not contagious. These types of infections occur when bacteria or viruses invade the inner ear, which can cause inflammation and disrupt normal ear function.

Is Otitis Media Contagious?

Otitis media, also known as middle ear infection, is not contagious in itself. However, the underlying cause of the infection, such as a viral or bacterial infection, can be contagious.



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