Discover Dog Ear Infection Symptoms and Causes

Brian Kilcommons relates a terrible story about a beautiful golden retriever dog who was usually very gentle and kind with children. It’s owners had a girl aged 3 1/2, and they normally got along very well. Then one day the little girl grabbed the dog’s ear. It snarled and bit her face. She needed 47 stitches in her face, and they put the dog down. The parents had the dog euthanized without bothering to find out what had caused this sudden change in their dog’s behaviour. The vet, however, did an autopsy, and found our that this dog was suffering not one but two severe ear infections that were incredibly painful.

Ear infections usually start out mild, and in the outer ear. This dog’s health was effectively neglected by it’s owners. And when their toddler grabbed the infected ear, the dog, already in constant pain anyway, reacted out of instinct. By not taking the time to properly care for their pet, these owners were in fact responsible for what happened to their child. And then blamed the dog. And probably out of ignorance or anger, or both, they had it killed. Their emotional response to what happened to their child as a result of their own neglect aside, I find this absolutely reprehensible. And the tragedy that happened to their dog when they chose to kill it instead of investigating further, as well as their child, was totally avoidable.

Unlike these owners, show your dog the same level of care and love you’d show your children. Become aware of the signs of ear infections, what causes them, and how to avoid them, taking dogs to get treatment when it seems like they have one.

Ear infections can be caused by any number of things. Wet ears not dried after swimming or bathing, a build up of ear wax, grass seeds and fox tails, untreated ear mites, using cotton tips to clean ears (which pushes things further into the ear), and growths in the ear canal, can all lead to ear infections. If your dog is scratching at his ears, rubbing them, holding his head to one side, or down, shaking his head, or if they look bloody or waxy or swollen, they should be checked out. And if he cries when his ears are touched, this is another sign of a potential ear infection.

When untreated ear infections progress deeper into the ear, the pain the dog is in increases sharply. The dog may hold his head as still as possible, and to one side. And opening his mouth, or touching his head, will cause him pain. Dogs can also become dizzy, with poor balance and coordination, when the infection progresses to the inner ear. Dogs may walk around in circles, and vomit.

Ear infections are also related to skin allergies, especially food hypersensitivity dermatitis and canine atopy. Dogs with these conditions often develop inflamed ears. The dog’s ears become very itchy, which creates an ‘itch-scratch-itch’ cycle that in turn creates scabs around the ear, hair loss, crustiness, and raw skin. The ear canals become filled with a brown wax.

Some dogs are also allergic to some ear medications. A common one is an antibiotic called neomycin, but can be any ear treatment products including cortisone, nystatin, chloramphenicol, thiabendazole, gentamicin, miconazole, and clortrimazole.

One thing of concern in dogs that are professionally groomed is the practice of plucking the hairs out of the dog’s ear. The serum which then comes out of their pores is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria, which is a common cause of ear infection. Vets generally don’t recommend you allow your dog’s ears to be plucked unless their is a good medical reason to do so. An example of a good medical reason is if there is a large mat of hair that is blocking air flow.

If the mats of hair are in the ear canal, they should be removed by a vet only. If they’re not, first soak the hair in a coat conditioner for a few minutes to soften it. Then, with your fingers, separate as much of the mat as possible. You may be able to untangle the rest of the mat with a comb, but more likely you’ll need scissors or a mat splitter. Be very careful if you’re using scissors. Using a comb, position it under the mat to protect the skin. Hold the scissors at right angles to the comb, and cut into the matted fur in narrow strips. Very gently, tease the mat out, and then comb out any snarls that are left. Regular grooming, with the right tools, will avoid mats forming in the first place.

Always check your dog’s ears after he’s been playing in long grasses. If you think there is a foxtail in his ear, take him to the vet’s and don’t try and get it out yourself. Fox tails can really damage the ear. If when you press gently on the ear canal he cries out in pain, there’s a good chance there’s a fox tail in there.


  1. Brian Kilcommons and Sarah Wilson, Good Owners, Great Dogs.
  2. Richard Pitcairn, Natural Health for Dogs and Cats.
  3. James Griffin and Liisa Carlson, Dog Owners Home Veterinary Handbook.


  1. My dog, I am sure has something wrong, it is a Sweet Jack Russel. Her ears are very dry, red, crusty, and looks almost open from scratching. I made an appointment for next week but I think that I should get her somewhere soon, I just noticed it.

  2. From this article I've understood that my dog definitely has ear infection. Providing a remedy as clear as this would be more useful. I had been using hydrogen per oxide to clean his ear. Is that correct? My dog really has a tough time with his ears.

  3. This person obviously does not have children. Maybe the owners had no idea prior to the attack that the dog needed medical care. I agree that vet care should always be provided for an animal in need. I have 3 cats and a dog myself, so I understand the necessity of proper care.

    That being said, I also have a toddler, and if my dog attacked my child in such a brutal way, I would not hesitate to put the dog down, no matter what the reason. That dog could have killed the child, and if he could attack once, what makes anybody think that he wouldn't do it again????? It's ridiculous of this writer to blame the parents. How were they supposed to know anything was wrong with the dog?!?! The writer even said "The parents had the dog euthanized without bothering to find out what had caused this sudden change in their dog's behavior." "Treat your dog with the same level of care as your child," are you freaking kidding me??? I love animals and I believe that all creatures should be ethically and lovingly treated by people, but to put them on the same level as humans is absurd and ridiculously PC. Get real sister!!!

  4. A dog should always get good medical care, and the owners are responsible for that. But my opinion is that any dog that attacks a person should be put down.

  5. To those people who think the dog should be put down… you are always quick to blame the animal. The child is the one who walked over and pulled on the dog. You should teach your children to be kind to animals and the proper way to be pet and handle animals. They should be taught from a young age. You should supervise your child, the animal can't speak and tell you something is wrong… maybe if you were a more responsible pet owner these things would not happen.

  6. I recently found out that my dog has a bad ear infection. He seems to be in alot of pain and does not want to let you touch his ear. He will get frustrated with you if you try and touch it. Imagine if your ear was in severe pain and the only way you could tell someone not to touch it is by mouth. This is the dogs instinct. I agree parents should of examined dog with concern of why thier dog would suddenly bite. Especially Labs they are usually very friendly laid back familiy dogs. If you have children you probably would not want to keep the dog because of the horrible situation but maybe you could of gave the dog away or something. It is hard to judge others until you that situation actually happens to you and your own child. Most parents are very protective of thier children as any animal would be. So I can not say that anyone should side with either. But not taking care of your animal properly is neglect as well. Regular vet checks will help if you want to be sure and not have a irritated dog around small children.

  7. When my daughter was one year old, she pulled on the infected ear of our medium-sized dog (a mutt we rescued when just a puppy). The dog cried out and bit her hand. On inspection there was no broken skin, not even a mark. It was just a warning bite, very soft by dog standards.

    Throughout the raising process for both dog and baby, we have ALWAYS kept an extremely close eye on thier interaction. Why? Because i have seen (in the news) so many cases of dogs biting children and causing severe injury. And to this day and until my kid is a teen, i will always keep an eye on them both. Why? Because dogs are ANIMALS, plain and simple, no matter how friendly. I will never leave dog and child alone, unsupervised.

    When the dog was a still a pup, he was sick once and not eating.He was prescribed medication and my wife went to give him a pill. Being sick and feeling miserable, the dog bit my wife's hand quite hard and drew blood. So what happened from that incident to the baby incident?

    I have always been very strict with the dog. Many times the dog has growled and displayed teeth to my daughter when she grabs/hugs him around the neck or torso. Immediatly i yell his name, crouch down and give him "the eye". He stays still (as do i) until my daughter finishes her playfulness. He might growl and show teeth various times and each time i yell his name, so something like "no!", making clear he is to "tolerate" my daughter. At the same time i teach my daughter never to pull ears, tail, get on top of the dog, or do other annoying things, and she is absolutely prohibited from interacting with him when he's eating. A few times the dog has casually licked and stole a piece of bread my daughter might have had in her hand and those times i have given the dog a good spanking and yelled at him quite intimidatingly, teaching him "respect" for my daughter. Today he doesn't approach her when she has food in her hand.

    Having said all that, i thing it is absolutely horrendous advice from this author saying that you should show the same love for your dog as for your children. NEVER do that!!! A dog must fully and completely understand that he is inferior in every way to any and all human children around him. If you show equal treatment between dogs and children, they will consider children as thier equals, and thus competition in many situations. In such cases they will not hesitate to be aggresive with children when they so deem. Always teach your dog they are second place to humans, ALWAYS teach them they are inferior, NEVER show equal (social) treatment or love, ALWAYS yell at/discipline the dog when it shows agression towards the child, even if it was 100% the child's fault (otherwise the dog will think their are situations when it is allowed to be aggresive). Afterwards teach the child not to repeat whatever he/she did that upset the dog. And once all these things are clearly understood by both dog and child, NEVER leave them unsupervised, no matter how family-friendly the breed is. All of these teachings are the reason why my dog didn't injure my child when she pulled his infected ear and caused him pain.

  8. #1 you obviously did not read or understand what was written. The dog had TWO painful ear infections, girl grabs dogs ear and gets bit, dog is WRONGLY put to sleep. I hope their child gets better care than that poor helpless dog. This is all on the parents!

  9. Thank you so much I am only 10 and I'm really worried about my Jack Russel dog, we do take him for walks in long grass and there is crustiness and brown like earwax covering his ear (sometimes orangeyish like normal). When we make noise his ears twitch repeatedly and also he tips his head to the side a lot. He rubs his ears on us and of course we push him away. (It is kind of gross finding brown earwax on our trousers.) He makes a kind of moaning sound when he does this.

    Anyway this really helped I think I'll show my parents – they say he'll be fine but I don't believe them.

  10. IJWTS wow! Why can't I think of things like that?

  11. I came here to find out what was wrong with my dog, but people that put animals over children are no better than animals themselves.

  12. Taking my dog to the vets straight away. Most likely got an ear infection! Thank you!

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Rebecca Prescott

I have qualifications in Shiatsu and Computer Programming, and studied herbs, and anatomy and physiology, as an interest.

Funnily enough, syndicating my articles, and writing for my sites, fulfilled an early desire to be a journalist!

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