Closeup of a dog's nose

How does a yeast infection in dogs’ ears happen? Yeast can have a particularly uncomfortable effect on canine ears, and it happens more often than you might think. If your furry friend is constantly scratching their ears or shaking their head, they might be suffering from a dog ear yeast infection. 

As a concerned pet parent, it's important to understand the signs, symptoms, and treatments available for this uncomfortable condition. This article will guide you through everything you need to know about yeast infections in dogs, specifically focusing on their ears, to ensure your dog remains healthy and happy.

What are yeast infections in dogs?

Yeast infections are caused by an overgrowth of yeast, a type of fungus, on your dog's skin or in their ears. Normally, yeast is present in small amounts on a dog's body and does not cause any problems. However, when the balance of microorganisms is disrupted, the yeast can multiply excessively, leading to an infection. Yeast infections in dogs can occur anywhere on the body but are particularly common in warm, moist areas such as the ears.

A yeast infection in dogs can cause significant discomfort and lead to more serious health issues if left untreated. Recognizing the early signs and seeking prompt treatment is crucial in preventing complications. Understanding what causes yeast infections in dogs can help you take preventive measures to keep your pet healthy. 

What are dog ear yeast infections? 

Dog ear yeast infections are specific yeast infections that occur within the ear canal. Dogs with floppy ears, like Golden Retrievers, Cocker Spaniels, and Basset Hounds, are more prone to these infections because their ears create a warm, moist environment perfect for yeast growth. However, a yeast infection in dogs’ ears can affect any dog, so it's important to stay vigilant in practicing regular otic (ear) hygiene with your dog.

The ear canal of a dog is L-shaped, which makes it harder for debris and moisture to be expelled naturally. When yeast starts to grow excessively in the ear, it leads to inflammation, discomfort, and sometimes severe pain. A dog ear yeast infection can be tricky to diagnose without professional help, but being aware of the symptoms can make a significant difference in your pet's health.

Signs & symptoms of yeast infections in dog's ears

Recognizing the signs of yeast infections in dogs is the first step in getting your pet the help they need. Here are some of the most common symptoms to watch for:

Ear Scratching or Head Shaking

One of the most noticeable signs of yeast infections in dogs is frequent ear scratching or head shaking. If your dog is constantly pawing at their ears or shaking their head vigorously, it could be a sign of a yeast infection in your dog’s ear. This behavior indicates that your dog is experiencing irritation and discomfort in their ears.

Yeast Odor

A strong, musty odor coming from your dog's ears is another telltale sign of a yeast infection in dogs’ ears. This distinctive smell is due to the overgrowth of yeast and is often accompanied by a dark, waxy discharge. If you notice an unusual smell from your dog's ears, it's time to check for other symptoms of a dog ear yeast infection.


Yeast ear infections are very painful and cause a lot of inflammation inside the ears. Normal, healthy ears should be a light pink color. If you notice that the inside of your pet’s ear is bright red or warm to the touch, this is likely a symptom of an infection. 

Loss of Hearing or Balance

In severe cases, a yeast infection in dogs can affect your pet's hearing and balance. If the infection spreads to the inner ear, you may notice they have a head tilt, are falling over, or seem to walk “sideways”. In chronic conditions, the infection can lead to inflammation and swelling that interfere with your dog's ability to hear. If your dog seems disoriented, is stumbling, or seems as though they suddenly lost their hearing, it might be due to a dog yeast infection affecting their inner ear.

Corgi swimming as a yeast infection dog cause

Common causes of dog ear yeast infections

Several factors can contribute to the development of yeast infections in dogs. Understanding these can help you take preventive measures to protect your pet.

  • Allergies: Dogs with allergies are more susceptible to yeast infections in the ear. Allergens can cause inflammation and itchiness, creating a favorable environment for yeast growth.

  • Moisture: Excess moisture in the ears, from swimming or baths, can lead to a yeast infection in dogs. Always ensure your dog's ears are thoroughly dried after getting wet.

  • Ear Anatomy: Breeds with floppy ears or narrow ear canals are at a higher risk because their ear structure traps moisture and debris.

  • Weakened Immune System: A compromised immune system can make it difficult for your dog to control the growth of yeast, leading to infections.

Vet looking for a yeast infection in a dog's ears with an otoscope

How is a yeast infection in a dog's ear diagnosed?

Diagnosing a yeast infection in a dog’s ear typically involves a visit to the veterinarian. The vet will start with a thorough examination of your dog's ears, looking for signs of inflammation, discharge, and odor. They might use an otoscope to get a better view inside the ear canal.

The vet will also take a sample of the ear discharge to examine under a microscope. This helps them determine if yeast is present and understand the full extent of the infection. In some cases, they might also check for bacteria, as bacterial infections can sometimes accompany yeast infections in dogs' ears.

Dog ear yeast infection treatment options

Once a dog ear yeast infection is diagnosed, your veterinarian will recommend a treatment plan. This often includes:

  • Medicated Ear Drops: These drops contain antifungal ingredients that target the yeast causing the infection. They may also include anti-inflammatory agents to reduce swelling and discomfort.

  • Oral Medications: In severe cases where ear drops are not effective, oral antifungal medications might be prescribed as a secondary strategy to treat the infection from within.

  • Ear Cleaning: Regular ear cleaning with a medicated, vet-approved ear cleaning solution can help remove debris and reduce the chances of recurrence.

It's important to follow your vet's instructions carefully and complete the entire course of treatment, even if your dog's symptoms improve before the medication is finished. Your dog will also need a follow-up appointment to ensure the infection has resolved. Be sure to bring your pet in for their recheck even if they seem better––sometimes the infection is still present, but can only be seen microscopically. Stopping treatment too early will result in the infection returning and having to start the treatment all over again.

At-home treatment options for ear infections in dogs

While professional veterinary care is critical for your canine’s recovery, there are some home treatment options you can consider to support your dog's recovery and prevent future infections:

  • Regular Ear Cleaning: Clean your dog's ears regularly with a gentle, vet-approved ear cleaner to remove excess wax and debris.

  • Drying Ears Thoroughly: After baths or swimming, make sure your dog's ears are completely dry to prevent moisture buildup.

  • Healthy Diet: Feeding your dog a balanced diet can support their immune system and overall health, making them less susceptible to infections.

So what's the bottom line? Ultimately, being aware of the dog yeast infection symptoms and taking prompt action can help your furry friend avoid the discomfort and complications of a dog ear yeast infection. Regular ear care and monitoring for signs of yeast infections in dogs will ensure your pet's ears remain healthy and free from infections, so that your dog can enjoy daily activities without painful irritation.

This blog exists to provide general information and education about veterinary health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, website, or in any linked materials is not intended as and should not be considered, or used as a substitute for, medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. We cannot diagnose conditions, provide second opinions, or make specific treatment recommendations through this blog or website.

If you suspect that your pet has a medical concern, you should consult with your veterinary health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment immediately. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog, website, or in any linked materials.

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Written By a Vetnique Vet

Veterinarian Dr. Hillary Wolfe smiling and holding a little dog.

Dr. Hillary Wolfe, DVM, CVFT

Dr. Wolfe is a traveling veterinarian and the owner of Tula Veterinary Nutrition. She is passionate about enhancing pet health and longevity through food, with a strong focus on natural nutrition and homemade diets.

Small Animal Veterinarian & Certified Food Therapist 

St. Petersburg, FL 

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