Any dog owner is well aware that a wide range of ailments can impact your dog’s health. From upset tummies to heartworm and everything in between, most of us have the routine health maintenance down.
But one condition you might not have on your radar is a yeast infection in the ears. Dogs’ yeast ear infections can cause some serious discomfort for your pup if left untreated, so it’s important to be aware of the symptoms, causes, and treatments.
What Is a Yeast Infection?
Yeast is a single-celled microorganism that is a part of the Fungi kingdom. It’s a living, active ingredient most commonly found in recipes for bread and beer, but it also resides in our bodies and the bodies of other living organisms, such as your dog.
When yeast is contained to a healthy amount, it doesn’t cause our dogs any harm. It’s pretty normal for your dog to have yeast on its skin as a normal part of its flora.
But when the natural balance of this fungus gets disrupted somehow, the result is an overgrowth of yeast that causes an infection. While a dog can get a yeast infection anywhere on its body, it’s fairly common for it to happen in its ears.
Causes of Yeast Ear Infections in Dogs
Dogs are more prone to yeast infections in their ears mainly because of how their ear canals are shaped. A dog’s ear canal looks like the capital letter L. It runs in a downward slope from the outside, creating just the right environment for yeast to grow and thrive.
Because of this uniquely shaped orifice, it’s easy for moisture and bacteria to get trapped and held in one place. Any dog who gets baths, swims in lakes, or plays in the dirt is susceptible to trapping debris that can lead to a yeast infection in their ear.
While any moisture buildup can cause a yeast infection, some other conditions can increase the chance of this happening:
- Allergies/food sensitivities
- Wax buildup
- Endocrine disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
- Injury to the ear canal
- Excessive cleaning
If your dog struggles with any of the above conditions, it may be at a higher risk of contracting a yeast infection in its ears.
How to Spot a Yeast Infection in Your Dog’s Ear
The symptoms of a yeast infection in your dog’s ears are relatively straightforward. If you notice any of the following signs on your dog, it’s important to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible:
- Sweet or musty smell from the ears
- Redness as far as the flap of the ear
- Brown discharge
- Greasy appearance/feel of the ear
- Matted hair in or around the ear
- Excessive itching/rubbing of the ear
- Head shaking or tilting
- Crusted skin around the ear
To properly diagnose a dog’s yeast ear infection, your vet will need to know some crucial information. They may inquire about your dog’s recent activities, any underlying medical condition, medications, food, and how you typically clean your dog’s ears.
With this information, along with a physical exam, your vet should be able to diagnose and treat your dog’s infection quickly. It is possible that other issues could be causing these symptoms such as ear mites.
Treating a Yeast Infection in a Dog’s Ear
Treating a yeast infection in a dog’s ear is usually very simple. After the physical exam, your vet will clean out your dog’s ears with a special, medicated ear cleanser. They will then prescribe your dog both a cleanser and a topical medication to take home.
In more severe instances, your bet may also prescribe your dog antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications to help keep the symptoms at bay.
Most textbook yeast infections in a dog’s ear will clear up in a short one or two weeks with regular cleansing and treatment using the prescribed materials from the vet.
More severe infections may require systemic medications, further tests, or even surgery to remove diseased ear canal tissue. The latter is used only in extreme, recurring issues.
Preventing Ear Yeast Infections
Although a yeast infection can happen at any time without any underlying conditions or warning, there are some steps you can take to minimize the risk. One of the best things to prevent ear yeast infections is to perform regular ear maintenance.
Practice the habit of cleaning your dog’s ear out regularly. It’s best to use a dog ear cleaning solution, but you can also use mild soap and warm water. Apply the cleaning solution in small amounts to your dog’s ear canal and gently wipe it out with gauze. Avoid using any paper products, as they can leave irritating fibers behind.
Use cotton swabs to clean the folds of your dog’s external ear flaps. Never use swabs on the inner ear. Not only do you risk harming your dog’s ear dumbs, but you can also push debris further into its ears.
Be sure to dry your dog’s ear thoroughly after bathing or swimming to avoid moisture buildup.
Finally, recurring infections can point to a chronic or underlying condition. Communicate with your vet to work towards identifying and treating any underlying causes.
While any dog can get an ear yeast infection, dog breeds with large, floppy ears are more likely to trap moisture, debris, and bacteria in their canals. Some breeds have a higher risk for yeast infections in the ear, including:
- Basset Hounds
- Golden Retrievers
- Labrador Retrievers
- Cocker Spaniels
If your dog has floppy ears or consistently swims in the water, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for signs of infection and follow the recommended prevention methods above.
Keeping Your Dog’s Ears Healthy
Although ear infections are pretty common in dogs, it’s still important to identify and treat them as soon as possible. Yeast infections in your dog’s ears can be incredibly uncomfortable, and failure to treat them properly can lead to deeper infections and serious issues like loss of hearing.
Use this information to spot a yeast infection in your dog’s ears right away and get them the help they need.