Understanding, Preventing, and Treating Your Puppy's Ear Infection

Bringing a new puppy into your home and your family's life can be exciting. While you plan to play with and properly train your new family member, ensuring your puppy is healthy should also be a priority. Some puppies develop ear infections that can become serious if left untreated. Thankfully, understanding the early signs of your puppy's infection will help you get efficient and effective treatment. If you are part of the 37 to 47 percent of American households with a dog, use this guide to understand, prevent, and treat your puppy's ear infection.


If you or one of your other human family members were suffering with an ear infection, you or they would be able to vocally explain their pain and discomfort. Unfortunately, your new puppy is unable to verbally communicate its pain, so you will need to pay attention to the following signs:

  • head Shaking
  • scratching the head/ears
  • odor in ears
  • balance/coordination issues
  • redness/inflammation inside ears
  • swelling of one or both ears
  • brown, yellow, or blood-tinged discharge from ears

If your puppy is showing one or more of these signs, visit a veterinarian for testing and treatment.


The majority of ear infections are caused by the presence of bacteria or yeast. However, buildup inside your puppy's vertically shaped ear canal can also result in an infection. Extra hair, moisture, dirt, dust, wax, and other debris can all accumulate inside the ear canal, leading to an infection.


Periodic cleaning of your puppy's ears can help prevent infections. Here are a few steps to take to clean your puppy's ears in an effective, gentle manner:

  1. Place your puppy on a table so you are able to reach its ears without bending down to the floor.
  2. Your puppy may feel some anxiety while you attempt to clean its ears, but you can reassure it by talking calmly and petting it while it rests on the table.
  3. Stand next to the table, behind your puppy. Make sure it is lying on one side so you have access to its ear.
  4. Place a few drops of ear-cleaning solution onto a disposable cotton pad or soft cloth. Most veterinarians offer simple solutions designed to clean your pet's ears. You can make your own solution by adding 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar to 2/3 cup of lukewarm water to a container. Apply a few drops of this homemade solution to a cotton pad before using to clean your puppy's ear.
  5. Lift your puppy's ear flap to expose the inner ear and skin surface. Move the pad or cloth with the cleaning solution over the exposed area of the ear skin gently to remove visible debris or buildup.
  6. Place a few drops of the cleaning solution directly into the ear canal and other exposed areas of the inner ear. Gently massage the solution into the ear.
  7. Use a soft cotton swab to clean in between the skin folds of the outer ear, as well. Be sure to continue petting and talking to your puppy to keep it calm.
  8. Allow your puppy to flip over to its other side before repeating the steps to clean the opposite ear.

Treating Ear Infections

Treating your puppy's ear infection will depend on its initial cause. A veterinarian at an animal hospital will need to inspect the ear for visible signs of an infection before taking a few swabs. These swabs are checked for bacteria, yeast, and ear mites, allowing the veterinarian to diagnose the root cause of your puppy's infection.

Antibiotic medications will be prescribed to treat infections caused by bacteria. Antifungal medications will treat infections that stem from yeast. To reduce your puppy's discomfort, veterinarians may suggest glucocorticoids. These anti-inflammatory medications not only reduce pain, but also decrease the redness and swelling of the ear.

If your puppy suffers with chronic ear infections, further testing may be necessary to determine if they have a food or environmental allergy. In these situations, you may need to change your puppy's diet or use special allergy medications.

Ear infections may be common, but you should not have to watch your puppy suffer with pain and discomfort. Using this guide and the help of a veterinarian, you will understand ear infections and know how to prevent and treat this painful condition.