Ear infections are a common problem in companion animals, especially dogs. From Cocker Spaniels to Golden Retrievers, those red, irritated and smelly ears are a sore spot for both pet and pet owner.

Beagle PuppyMost ear infections are associated with moisture trapped in the lower or horizontal ear canal. This may result from humid weather, swimming, bathing or excess wax production.

Other common causes of ear infections in pets include:

  • Hypothyroidism (low thyroid disease)
  • Food allergies
  • Foreign objects in the ear canal
  • Atopy (environmental allergies)

Diagnosis is made by your veterinarian obtaining a sample of the ear contents and performing stains (ear cytology) and cultures to determine your pet's specific problem.

Treatment consists of appropriate antibiotics both directly in the ear and orally and cleaning the ear with drying agents known as astringents. Ear infections can be difficult to treat and may take weeks to resolve. In chronic, severe cases, surgery may be required.

Remember that dogs with long, floppy ears are more predisposed to ear infections and a maintenance protocol may need to be developed to reduce the risk. Some dog breeds with long, droopy ears include: Bassett Hounds, Beagles, Bloodhounds, Cocker and Springer Spaniels, Dachshunds, Irish Setters, and Poodles.

Prevention is often accomplished by drying the ears after bathing or swimming and weekly cleanings with veterinary-approved astringents. Consult your veterinarian for the correct products and protocol for your pet.