Could your pet have an ear infection?

Ear problems can be frustrating to treat; they often can wax and wane and knowing when to finish treatment can be difficult due to the shape of our cats and dogs ear canals. 

Warm, moist ear canals with little ventilation make an ideal environment for infection to establish. Ear infections can progress from the outer ear, to the middle and even inner ear if the ear drum is ruptured. Inner ear infections can cause issues with a dog or cats’ ability to hear.

What are the signs of ear infection?

Does your pet shake their head a lot? This may be because their ears are inflamed, itchy or sore.

Other symptoms of ear infections are:

  • Scratching ears
  • Smell from ears
  • Discharge from ears
  • Sore ears (won’t let you touch them)
  • Red or swollen skin around the ear or on the “pinna”- the ear “flap” (should be healthy pink)
  • A tilting of the head to one side or the other (inner ear infection)
  • Different pupil sizes or a raised Third eyelid (the small lid in the inside corner of the eye)

What causes ear infections?

There are many reasons why our pet’s ears become inflamed.  Here are a few commonly seen causes.


There is a strong link between allergic skin disease and Otitis (ear inflammation) and often an ear infection is the first symptom of underlying skin disease.

Foreign bodies

Grass seeds can get stuck in your pet’s ear and cause pain and inflammation making the ear sore and irritating to your pet


Moisture in your pet’s ears encourages yeast and bacteria to grow.

Narrowed ear canals

Some breeds of dogs eg. the Shar Pei, have narrowed ear canals making drainage from the ear, and good ventilation into the ear canal difficult. For these breeds of dogs getting ear treatment into the right part of the canal to get a quick resolution can be tricky.


Mites are often a cause of ear infection in young animals. These pets are highly irritated by their ears, and often have a dark brown discharge from the ears.  

Existing treatment may be time consuming and require daily application to the sore ears. If you think your pet may have an ear infection, talk to your Veterinarian about recent advances in treatment options available to your pet.