Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Inner ear infections in dogs are a serious matter. Your dog's inner ear is the part of his ear that is nearest his brain, and it's responsible for helping your dog maintain proper equilibrium and movement. Inner ear infection often begins in the outer or middle ear, and may be severe enough to require surgery. Read on to learn more about inner ear infections in dogs.

Causes of Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Canine ear infections can have a number of causes. They might be the result of:

  • ear mite infestation
  • yeast infection
  • bacterial infection
  • food allergies
  • poor hygiene

Ear infections may begin in the outer or middle ear and progress to the inner ear, the part of your dog's ear that is closes to his brain.

Your dog's outer ear is the part that you can see if you lift up his ear flap and look inside. It extends down the ear canal to the eardrum. This is where many ear infections begin.

The middle ear extends from the ear drum and includes the bones and nerves that help send sound signals to your dog's inner ear, the part closest to his brain. The organs of the inner ear help your dog maintain equilibrium and position himself physically. Infections may spread from the middle ear to the inner ear. 

Inner ear infections usually occur when an infection spreads from another part of the ear.

Symptoms of Inner Ear Infection in Dogs

Because the organs of your dog's inner ear are responsible for his movement, and infection there can make your dog feel dizzy and disoriented. Your dog may walk in circles or lean to one side; he may even stumble around or fall sometimes. His eyes may move from side to side constantly, a phenomena known as nystagmus. 

If your dog has an inner ear infection, he probably has a middle or outer ear infection as well. Your dog may shake his head a lot or rub at the affected ear. Pain from the ear can make it hard for your dog to open his mouth. You may see thick, viscous discharge from the ear; your dog may appear depressed, and experience lowered appetite and vomiting.

If your dog's infection isn't treated, he could lose his hearing. 

Diagnosing and Treating Inner Ear Infections in Dogs

Your vet may need blood tests, X-rays and swabs in order to determine the cause of your dog's ear infection and his overall state of health. X-rays can show your vet if there is a tumor or growth inside your dog's ear, while blood tests and swabs can help your vet determine if there is a fungal, bacterial or parasitic cause for the infection.

Treatment can involve cleaning the ear canal with a saline solution and removing anything that might be lodged in the ear. Your vet might puncture your dog's eardrum, to relieve pain and pressure. 

Oral antibiotics or antifungals are usually prescribed, and must be taken for three to sex weeks. Topical medications may be used in some cases. If your dog has a growth in his ear, he may need surgery.