February 26, 2021


Ear infections are a frequent presenting problem in pets; most commonly in dogs.   Pet owners often observe their pets shaking their head and rubbing at their ears.  Your pet’s ear or ears may be inflamed, painful and/or have a foul odor.   Ear infections may occur quickly over a few days or may progress slowly over a period of weeks.  Ear infections may be a result of anatomical breed issues, underlying food or environmental allergies, infections with bacteria and yeast, ear mites, foreign material in the ear canals, and even an abnormal accumulation of wax.   Diagnosis of an ear infection often involves a thorough history and a microscopic examination of material in the ear canals.   Treatment for ear infections depends on the underlying cause but typically require the use o of antimicrobial topical medications and ear cleaners.  Systemic medications may be needed to treat for allergies or more severe infections.  Ear infections that are left untreated may result in permanent proliferative changes, scarring, ear hematomas, and even middle ear infections.

Different types of topical ear medications are available to treat various types of ear conditions but usually these medications consist of two types:  daily use medications or longer acting single use medications.  Our doctors will determine which medication would provide the fastest resolution to the ear infection based on diagnostic results.  These topicals are often combination medications that contain a steroid to reduce inflammation, an antibiotic for bacterial infections and an antifungal medication for yeast infections.

The longer acting topical medications may be preferred as they do not require daily administration ensuring better compliance, accurate dosing, and improved acceptance by your pet.   A metered dose is applied during the exam appointment into the infected ear and allowed to slowly spread throughout the ear canal to treat the infection over a 2 week period of time.  A medical progress exam is then performed 2 weeks later to ensure the infection has resolved. 

Daily use ointments may be preferred in certain situations as well.  These ear ointments are prescribed and require the pet owner to apply the medication into the ear canal once or twice daily until the medical progress exam 2 weeks later.    The use of these medications is also sometimes combined with a medicated ear cleaner during the initial treatment phase. 

Occasionally ear infections need to be treated for a longer periods of time.  Please schedule an appointment with one of our hospitals as soon as possible if your pet has shown any symptoms of having an ear infection.