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How to Spot an Ear Infection

Dogs often shake their heads because their ears are itchy or sore. Common causes include ear infections, skin allergies or something stuck in their ear.

Ear Infections

Ear infections are very common in dogs who swim or those who have furry/dangly ears. This is due to water build up in the ear canal after swimming, creating a moist environment for bacteria to grow. After a dip in the ocean, be sure to clean our your pup's ears.


Red, itchy skin around the armpits, groin, paws or face may be a sign that your dog has skin allergies. Your dog might also have irritated skin lining the ear canal, which is common in dogs with allergies. Inflamed ears from an allergy can quickly progress to an ear infection if the underlying allergy isn’t treated. Allergies are frustrating to treat, but when they’re controlled your dog will have fewer ear infections, making them a lot more comfortable!

Unknown Objects

It’s not uncommon for dogs to get unknown objects stuck in their ears after foraging in grasses or playing in the yard. Fox tails are a common example of an ear foreign body, but any small items of vegetation have the potential to get stuck in the ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears are more prone to getting foreign bodies in their ears, but any dog can be affected.

Other Symptoms

If your dog has an ear infection, there may be some other symptoms you notice aside from them shaking their heads. Firstly, they might show signs of pain if you try to touch their ear, and they may yelp when they scratch their ear or shake their head. If you take a look at their ears, you might notice that they're red or swollen. There might also be a foul smell from the ear or a visible discharge. If your dog’s ear infection has penetrated a little deeper into the ear canal, you might notice them tilting their head to one side. They might also go off their food, have a fever or act tired. Very rarely the infection could start to affect their balance and coordination, and their eyes may seem to flicker side to side.

Visit the Vet

Because of the risk of an unknown object in the ear, if your dog suddenly becomes bothered by their ear during or straight after a walk, you should get them checked by a veterinarian right away. If they are showing symptoms of being unwell, off-balance or have a head tilt, they will need a veterinary assessment sooner rather than later. On the other hand, if the ear seems comfortable but is just a bit waxy, you can try using a dog ear cleaner. However, if you don’t see improvement within 48 hours, or if their symptoms worsen, you should call our veterinary team.

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