Ear Infection Alert: Is Your Dog One of These At-Risk Breeds?


Golden Retriever dog having his ear infection examined by a veterinarian

Are you a proud dog owner? Does your furry friend often shake their head or scratch at their ears? It could be a sign of an ear infection. Ear infections are common in dogs, but did you know that certain breeds are more prone to them than others? In this blog post, we'll explore which dog breeds are most susceptible to ear infections and what steps you can take to prevent them. So grab some ear drops and let's dive in!

What are ear infections?

Knowing what ear infections are can help you better understand how dog ear infections happen and how to prevent them! A dog ear infection happens when foreign materials or pathogens have entered the ear and have been there for too long or can’t find a way out. There are three types of ear infections in dogs: otitis externa (outer ear), otitis media (middle ear), and in rare cases, otitis interna (inner ear). Otitis externa is most common. 

Dog ear infection symptoms can include: 

  • Redness inside the ear flap (pinnae) or ear canal
  • Blood or scabbing on the ear flap
  • An unusual smell coming from inside the ear
  • Swelling around the ear flap or ear canal
  • Excessively scratching their ear 
  • Holding one ear lower than the other
  • Discharge from inside the ear canal
  • Rubbing the ear on surfaces (e.g., the couch or carpet)

An ear infection usually means that there’s a bacterial or yeast infection in your dog’s ears, and requires treatment from a veterinary professional. 
Basset Hound dog with long, floppy ears playing in the river

Which dog breeds are prone to ear infections?

Unfortunately, ear infections are relatively common among dogs, causing discomfort and, if left untreated, hearing loss. Certain dog breeds may be more susceptible to ear infections than others due to their unique physical characteristics.

Dogs with long, pendulous (i.e., floppy) ears are often more prone to ear infections than other breeds. This is because their long ear flaps trap moisture and debris inside the ear canal, which creates the perfect environment for bacteria and yeast to grow. 

Some breeds are genetically predisposed to ear infections, simply based on their anatomy or genetic predisposition to developing seasonal allergies. If you have one of these breeds, it's important to take special care of their ears:

Golden Retriever

Most Golden Retriever ear infections are often a result of environmental allergies like pollen, dust, and grass––which can be a common issue for this breed. 


Shih-Tzus can struggle with ear infections due to the floppy, furry anatomy of their ears. They’re also a breed that’s familiar with environmental allergies––another common risk factor for ear infections. 


Bloodhounds are prime candidates for ear infections thanks to their long, floppy ears that tend to trap moisture inside the ear canal.

Basset Hound

Just like Bloodhounds, these lovably droopy-faced dogs have long, pendulous ears that prevent moisture from drying once it gets inside the ear canal.


Coonhounds are a breed with a long history of swimming and outdoor play–meaning they’re not strangers to ear infections. This breed also has floppy ears which makes cleaning their ears after outdoor adventures a necessity for pet parents.

English Bulldogs

English Bulldogs commonly have ear disease as a result of environmental allergies (atopy), making it important for pet parents of this breed to stay ahead of seasonal allergies.

Cocker Spaniel

Cocker Spaniels have floppy, hairy ears and are a highly allergic breed, making them prone to ear disease. This breed may also be at higher risk for ceruminous gland hyperplasia (when glands inside the ear become chronically irritated), which can complicate ear disease once inflammation within the ear canal has begun.

No matter which dog breed you have, if you notice them scratching at their ears or shaking their head frequently, it could be a sign that they have an ear infection––and should see a vet as soon as possible!

Does short or long fur make matters worse?

There are a number of factors that can increase the risk of ear infections in dogs, and one of them is having long fur around the ear flap. 

This type of fur can create a warm, moist environment that’s ideal for the growth of bacteria and fungi. Long fur can also make it more difficult to keep the area clean and free of debris and allergens that can cause ear infections. In certain breeds, hair can accumulate within the ear canal and block the opening of the ear canal. In this case, hair might need to be manually removed by a veterinarian or groomer. 

If your dog has long fur around their ear flaps, be sure to check the area regularly for any signs of infection–like redness, swelling, or discharge–and always consult your veterinarian if you have any concerns.

Golden Retriever having his ears cleaned with a drying ear wipe to prevent ear infection

How to keep your dog's ears clean and dry

Dogs will be dogs. There’s no way to prevent them from playing outside or from getting wet during swim or bath time! That means it’s up to you to take precautions against ear infections, but don’t worry––it’s easy with the right routines and supplies! Here are some tips on how to keep your dog’s ears clean, dry, and healthy: 

Inspect your dog's ears regularly 

Check for any redness, swelling, discharge, or unusual smells that are sickeningly sweet or musty. Your dog may also scratch the ears with their back paws and shake their head uncontrollably if an infection is present inside the ear. If you notice any of these signs, take your dog to the vet for an evaluation. 

Keep your dog’s ears clean and dry

After bathing your dog, use a cotton ball or Q-tip to wipe away any dirt or water that may have accumulated in their ears. You can also clean, dry, and deodorize ears after bath time with special-formulated drying ear wipes for dogs and cats. For an extra layer of protection, you can also purchase dog ear covers for bath time!

Use an ear flush for a thorough clean

An ear flush can be useful for drawing out hard-to-reach (and hard-to-see) debris from inside the ear canal. They’ll usually include antiseptic and antibacterial ingredients to provide an even deeper clean and discourage microbial overgrowth. 

Start by squeezing the ear flush into the ear canal and gently, but firmly massage the base of the ear before wiping out the excess solution with a small towel or ear-cleaning wipe. 

Avoid irritating their ears 

This might seem obvious, but remember that some dogs are more sensitive than others when it comes to their ears! Avoid using harsh chemicals or cleansers and be careful not to get water in your dog’s ears when bathing them. If you notice your dog scratching at their ears, shaking their head excessively, or notice that their ears are red and inflamed, these could be signs that they're experiencing discomfort in the ear. 

Keep their nails trimmed

Overgrown nails can make it difficult for your dog to clean their own ears properly–and can make bleeding more likely if your dog scratches themselves–which can lead to infection. Be sure to keep their nails trimmed regularly. Your veterinarian or groomer can help if your pet isn’t comfortable having this done at home! 

Nails should be trimmed about 2mm past the quick (the pink part inside each nail) or just long enough to be visible while your dog is standing.

Use ear drops for active irritation

While ear flushes are great for removing debris, dog ear drops stay inside the ear canal and contain ingredients with antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties. Ear drops with active ingredients have a more viscous texture that helps them coat and stay inside the ear canal. They often include medicated ingredients like hydrocortisone that can help target inflammation within the ear canal. 

As a pet parent, it's essential to keep an eye out for your furry friend's health. Unfortunately, ear infections are relatively common among dogs causing discomfort and, if left untreated, leading to hearing loss. With the right tips, supplies, and lifestyle habits–and by keeping an open line of communication with your veterinarian–you can make ear infections less likely. That means happy ears, happy pup!

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August, 2022

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Veterinarian Dr. Joya Griffin with a dog patient


Dr. Joya Griffin is an Ohio native and graduated from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. She has a special interest in fungal and immune-mediated skin diseases as well as feline and equine dermatology. Dr. Joya always strives to care for her patients as if they are her own pets and loves building long-lasting relationships with their pet parents. Dr. Joya also stars in the Nat Geo WILD television series, “Pop Goes the Vet with Dr. Joya,” which highlights the challenging and mysterious cases she encounters in veterinary dermatology.

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