Why Does My Pet Get Ear Infections?

Ear infections, or otitis externa, can be very painful for our pets. Most of the time the infection is secondary to an underlying problem and if this problem is not addressed the infection may not resolve or could recur in the future. Symptoms commonly associated with ear infections include:

  • Red and inflamed ears
  • Head shaking and/or ear scratching
  • Pain
  • Excessive and/or odorous discharge from the ear canal

If you notice any of these clinical signs it is important to seek veterinary advice and treatment for your pet.

The underlying and contributing causes of ear infections can be grouped into primary causes, and predisposing and perpetuating factors.



Primary causes are directly responsible for initiating the inflammation and changes within the ear canal which make it susceptible to infection. Allergic skin disease is the most common primary cause. Pet’s with allergic skin disease may also have itchy and inflamed skin. Other common primary causes include endocrine or hormonal diseases, parasites such as ear mites, and foreign bodies such as grass seeds.

Identifying and treating the primary causes where possible is critical for the long term management of ear infections.



Predisposing factors can increase the risk of developing ear infections, but do not directly cause them. One example is the conformation of the ear – pendulous or floppy ears or ears with excessive hair in the canal can increase the risk of infection. Environmental factors, such as high humidity or moisture can also act as a predisposing factor.



Perpetuating factors are changes to the ear canal that can develop following an ear infection and are a response to ear canal inflammation. They can be responsible for treatment failure and recurrent infections. Perpetuating factors can include, a ruptured ear drum, ear canal thickening and narrowing, and excessive discharge.


Dermcare’s neutral buffered ear flush solution, Otoflush®, is an aid in the treatment of ear infections in dogs. Otoflush® removes wax and exudate from the ear canal, reduces microbial numbers and improves the penetration of prescribed ear medications.

Ear infections may not always be the result of the same causes and factors, even if your pet has had an ear infection previously. It is important to consult with your veterinarian every time that your pet develops an ear infection. Your vet will be able to develop a diagnostic and treatment plan which is tailored specifically to your pet.