How To Deal With A Dog Ear Yeast Infection

All dogs are prone to ear infections. But to all floppy-eared dog owners: you’ll want to pay especially close attention!

December 9th, 2019

Yeast infections in your dog’s ear are never fun. Yet it’s so easy for dogs to get them.

Luckily, you (yes you!) have the power to significantly reduce your dog’s risk of ear infections.

In this article, we’ll go into an overview of how to tell if your dog has an ear yeast infection, and typical treatment and preventative steps.

All dogs are prone to ear infections. But to all floppy-eared dog owners: you’ll want to pay especially close attention!

A dog standing on a sculpture, with the wind blowing up her floppy ears.
You paying attention yet, hooman? I am!

Why Ear Infections Are So Common

First off, let’s figure out what we’re dealing with here. “Otitis” is an infection or inflammation of the ear in dogs or cats. It’s just a fancy way of saying “ear infection.”

It’s estimated that about 1 in every 5 vet visits are for ear-related issues. In humid areas, nearly 50% of dogs have some form of otitis.

What makes it so easy for dogs to develop ear infections?

Dog ears are dark, warm, and moist. They’re described by this article as being “an ideal breeding ground for bacteria”.

In addition, our dogs’ ear canals are more vertical in shape. This makes it really easy for moisture to get stuck in there.

In a typical day for your dog, he comes into contact with many foreign bodies. While sniffing the ground, examining bushes, or swimming in lakes, your dog has numerous opportunities to pick up yeast organisms.

If these foreign bodies aren’t flushed out of the ear, it’s only a matter of time before they manifest and begin to make your dog miserable. This is why dogs with floppy ears are more prone to ear infections—the flap literally blocks the ear canal making it tough for moisture to escape.

So, unfortunately our canine friends are predisposed to these nasty ear infections. They need our help to step in and help them out of this predicament!

A dog closing her eyes, looking slightly concerned.
Oof, I have floppy ears... needs some halp hooman.

Please note: this article deals with ear yeast infections only. If your dog has ear mites, that’s something else (which we plan to cover in a later article)!

What Is A Yeast Infection Anyway?

Yeast is a natural fungus that helps our immune systems function properly.

When it comes to the immune system, imbalances are the root of most modern diseases.

Your body has the perfect amount of yeast when the immune system is balanced. Yeast only ever becomes a problem when it grows out of control.

We look at the immune system on a spectrum of activity. An under-active immune system is often attributed to excessive yeast growth, while an over-active immune system leads to allergic reactions.

This means that a yeast infection is caused when your dog’s immune system is thrown off-balance. Most commonly this yeast will multiply in humid areas such as your dog’s ears.

How Do I Tell If My Dog Has A Yeast Ear Infection?

Fact: yeast infections in the ear are incredibly itchy. If your dog is constantly scratching at the ears, this is a common sign of a yeast infection.

Another telltale sign is excessive head shaking or awkward head tilting.

An adorable dog in front of a small park pond, tilting her head
Hey! Did you just say I look awkward??

These two things only offer temporarily relief for your dog—you’ll need to visit a vet ASAP if you notice them.

Yeast also has a very distinct smell—if you’ve smelled it once, it’s tough to miss it the second time. It has been described to smell like moldy bread to some people, but in any case, it’s not a pleasant smell. Your dog, if healthy, should not have any irregular odors.

The smell is so unique that it itself is usually enough to diagnose a yeast infection. That’s all it took for my vet anyway!

You can also look into your dog’s ears. Use a dog ear wipe (special ear wipes for dogs are recommended; you can also use a cotton ball or tissue, but NO Q-tip!) and clean the inside of your dog’s ear. If you see any dark-colored discharge, definitely schedule a vet appointment.

What Causes Yeast Ear Infections?

Dogs that are frequent swimmers are much more prone to ear yeast infections. If ear moisture is not thoroughly cleaned after swimming, you are almost guaranteed a yeast infection within a week or two.

This was a beginner mistake I made as a first-time dog owner. Yuna had just gone out for her very first swim, and, ecstatic as I was to find out she could swim, I did not thoroughly dry her ears with a towel.

Bam! Yuna was hit with a yeast infection, ten days of medication, and an expensive bill for such a simple mistake.

A dog hopping around in shallow water at the beach
Better clean out those ears thoroughly after swim time!

As mentioned previously, an immune system imbalance can also cause a yeast infection.

Usually, a post-swim yeast infection will affect both ears. One way to tell if your dog has an immune system imbalance is if they only have a yeast infection in one ear.

A bad diet could be the culprit. Yeast can only survive when there’s a source of energy available. A high-carb or high-sugar diet can cause yeast overgrowth.

Finally, take note of what possible allergens your dog could’ve came into contact with. Things like pollen, dust, mold, or certain foods don’t just affect us humans and could be the cause of yeast infections in dogs as well.

How Serious Do Ear Yeast Infections Get?

Let’s get technical once again. Remember, Otitis is the fancy name for a general ear infection.

Otitis is often split into three types—otitis externa, otitis media, and otitis interna.

Otitis externa is an inflammation of a dog’s external ear canal. It is often dubbed “Swimmer’s Ear,” indicating that it happens most often to swimmers.

Otitis media, inflammation of a dog’s middle ear, often happens in conjunction with otitis externa.

The two above are usually what yeast infections are in the early to mid stages.

Otitis interna is the most serious—when otitis media spreads into the inner ear. If the infection spreads here, your dog’s sense of balance and position will be affected, and if left untreated, could cause your dog to lose hearing in that ear.

So while a yeast infection may seem like a minor issue, it can quickly balloon into some serious conditions for your dog.

As with anything related to health conditions, it’s always best to discover symptoms early and treat them before they worsen. See a vet!

How Do You Treat And Prevent Ear Yeast Infections?

A dog looking super happy on a rock, looking towards her owner.

When Yuna was diagnosed with a yeast infection, her treatment was entirely prescribed by the vet.

Home remedies for yeast infections do exist, but usually articles will preface this by saying that home treatments alone usually will not fully cure your pet.

As a first time dog owner, I decided to stick to my vet’s opinion, so I can’t vouch for any specific home remedies. Here, we’ll share Yuna’s treatment process, which worked like a charm.

Once Yuna was diagnosed with a yeast infection, she was given some antibiotics as well as an ear flush. This cleaned the ear canals and immediately soothed the infection.

We were given a bottle of Mometavet, a prescription ear solution that contains gentamicin sulfate, used to treat bacterial infections.

The instructions were to clean her ears thoroughly with an ear wipe, dry them, and then apply 8 drops into each ear once a day for 10-14 days (until the bottle is used up).

The medicine did its job and we started seeing noticeable results after a week, with significantly less discharge on the ear wipes. By the time we finished the bottle, her ears were mostly clean and there was no more yeast odor.

Yuna really didn’t like the treatment (I can’t imagine any dog would). It can’t be fun having humans poking into their ears all the time.

Lesson learned: it’s much easier just to dry those ears after a swim!

A dog wearing Minnie Mouse gear on a walk, wind in her fur, blowing up her ears.
Fact: Clean ears feel great!

Preventative Measures

Even if you have a yeast infection prone dog, there are some simple things you can do to significantly reduce those risks.

For starters, remember to check your dog’s ears periodically and clean them with a dog ear wipe or cotton ball—I’d recommend around once a week.

Be careful not to overclean if your dog’s ears look and smell healthy.

An infographic describing how to prevent ear infections in dogs.

Definitely clean your dog’s ears after a swim. If you anticipate your dog swimming often, it would be wise to invest in a dog ear cleaning solution. Dry your dog’s ears and apply this after each swim.

If your vet suggests that a poor diet is the root cause, cut all sources of sugar from the diet. This means all wheat, corn, potatoes, fruits, and carrots. Your dog may require a special custom diet suggested by your vet.

It’s all about keeping your dog’s diet healthy and being diligent with cleaning their ears!

Conclusion

Yeast infections are highly preventable. They can spiral out of control if you let it!

In this article we’ve covered causes, signs, treatments, and preventative measures for yeast infections.

It takes some effort to keep your dog’s ears clean, but you’ll be thanking yourself for it. A healthy dog who doesn’t have a burning itch in their ears is a happy dog! And you’ll be a happy dog owner.

A dog wearing a Mickey Mouse harness, looking as if she is dancing in a park.
So happy... let's dance!

To all dogs out there (and especially to our floppy-eared friends), we hope your tails are wagging and your ears are infection-free!

Be sure to follow Yuna’s Instagram for daily updates, and free dog tips every other day!

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