Ear Infection in Poodles: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention


An ear infection is one of the most painful things a dog can experience. Unfortunately, it’s all too common for canines, especially for those with long, floppy ears like the poodle breed. Knowing the causes of ear infections in poodles and how to treat and prevent them can save your beloved furry friends from aches and pains.

Ear infections in poodles are caused by allergies, excessive moisture, ear mites, wax buildup, endocrine or autoimmune disorders, foreign bodies, or excessive cleaning. Treatment involves applying a topical medication given by a veterinarian. Ear infections can be prevented by thoroughly cleaning and drying the ears regularly.

Whether your poodle has recurring ear infections or it’s a one-time thing, it’s essential to know the ins and outs of ear infection in poodles. This blog will explain the different causes associated with ear infections, the proper way to prevent them from occurring in the future, and the available treatments. 

Ear Infection in Poodles — Causes

Ear infections are somewhat common in dogs, with as many as 20% being struck with some form of ear disease in their lifetime. This is caused by the way a dog’s ear canal is shaped; the ear canal is an “L” shape that can hold onto fluid easily. Dogs with floppy ears like a poodle are more susceptible to ear infections. 

There are three different types of ear infections that can occur in a poodle, including:

  • Otitis Externa – (most common) This type of ear infection occurs when the layer of cells that line the outside area of the ear canal becomes inflamed.
  • Otitis Media – This infection affects the middle ear canal and most likely occurs when the infection spreads from the external ear canal.
  • Otitis Interna – This infection affects the inner ear canal and can be very severe. Left untreated, otitis interna can cause deafness and paralysis of the face. It occurs when external infections are left untreated for an extended period, which is why it is critical to treat ear infections in your poodle right away.

Almost every ear infection in a poodle will start at the external canal, causing ‘Otitis Externa.’ The most common causes of ear infections in dogs are yeast or bacteria, although sometimes it can be a combination of both. 

Some potential causes of ear infections in poodles are:

  • Moisture — Extra moisture in the ear canal creates an environment in which bacteria and yeast can thrive. Poodles are even more susceptible to moisture trapped in the canal due to their floppy ears.
  • Allergies — Sometimes, ear infections can stem from an allergy, with 50% of ear infections related to allergic skin disease and 80% related to food sensitivities.
  • Endocrine/autoimmune disorders — Certain endocrine and autoimmune disorders such as thyroid disease can put a dog at a higher risk for developing ear infections.
  • Excessive wax — When a dog’s ear canal has an excessive amount of wax buildup, it can quickly turn into an ear infection when not dealt with properly.
  • Foreign body in the ear canal — Dogs can find themselves in some unique situations in which a foreign body can enter the ear canal. When left inside for too long, the foreign body can cause an infection.
  • Injury to the ear canal — Any type of injury that affects the ear canal specifically can lead to infections.
  • Cleaning too often — While cleaning a dog’s ears is suggested to prevent ear infections, cleaning excessively and too regularly can do more harm than good. This is why it’s essential to follow proper instructions when it comes to cleaning a poodle’s ears.
  • Ear mites — Ear mites can also be a cause of ear infection. However, ear mites are typically found in puppies and are less common in adult poodles. 

Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Poodles

Knowing the symptoms of an ear infection is crucial to keeping your poodle in good health. When any of the symptoms arise, it is vital to seek out medical attention right away. As previously mentioned, an ear infection left untreated can lead to a deeper, more severe problem that can cause deafness and paralysis. Aside from this, ear infections are uncomfortable and painful for a poodle.

The most common symptoms of an ear infection in a dog include:

  • Excessive head shaking
  • Tilting head to one side
  • A distinct odor emitting from the ear
  • Excessive scratching of the ear
  • Sudden lack of balance and coordination
  • Back-and-forth eye movements
  • Redness and inflammation of the ear canal
  • Swelling of the ear
  • Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge

These symptoms can also be a sign that your poodle is struggling with ear mites. However, ear mites are most commonly found in puppies, not adults. This doesn’t mean it is impossible, though. If a poodle is showing any of the signs mentioned above, a trip to a veterinarian is essential as it could be an infection, mites, or another serious issue.

Allergies and Ear Infections

Remember that poodles tend to have seasonal allergies and food allergies. If a poodle is experiencing recurrent ear infections, it may be because of an allergy. Food allergies can cause the lining of the external ear canal to become inflamed. In turn, this raises the temperature and moisture in the canal, creating an ideal environment for yeast and bacteria.

If an ear infection is associated with a food allergy, the symptoms mentioned in the above section may be accompanied by the following:

  • Itchy skin
  • Digestive issues such as vomiting or diarrhea
  • Hyperactivity
  • Weight loss
  • Lack of energy
  • Aggression (in extreme cases)

If the ear infection is associated with a seasonal allergy instead of a food-related allergy, the following symptoms may occur:

  • Excessive rubbing of the nose
  • Recurring ear infections in certain seasons of the year
  • Red and swollen eyes
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Lack of Air Flow Related to Ear Infections

Another cause of ear infections, specifically in poodles, is poor airflow. Since a Standard poodle’s ears are designed to drop down, creating the “floppy” appearance, the airflow can be blocked. When this happens, the canal becomes the ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast to thrive. Eventually, this can lead to an ear infection. 

Hair is also a concern when it comes to poodle ears. Poodles are one of many breeds known for growing excessive ear hair. This abundance of hair contributes to the lack of airflow in the ear canal, which causes the poodle to be more susceptible to infections. 

Treatment for Ear Infections in Poodles

It is highly recommended to bring your poodle to a veterinarian if they have an ear infection. This is because ear infections do not merely go away. Several things can cause ear infections – from bacteria to yeast – and it is essential to know what is causing the infection to handle it properly. 

When bringing a poodle to the veterinarian, the following will occur:

  • They will first need to identify the cause of the ear infection. Some dogs may have underlying causes or ailments that should be identified, such as an autoimmune disease, thyroid disease, or allergies. 
  • Then, the vet will likely clip the fur surrounding the canal to get a better view. At this point, any pain will also be managed.
  • When your poodle is ready, the veterinarian will perform a thorough but gentle cleaning of the ears and dry them. (If the poodle is in excessive pain, general anesthesia may be administered. This is likely only necessary for infections involving the middle and internal ear canals.)
  • When the cleaning is completed, and the cause of the infection has been found, the veterinarian will advise the owner on how to clean the ears at home. In some cases, topical medication or antibiotics may be prescribed. If topical medication is necessary, most veterinarians will not recommend using it until after the recheck appointment, as any discharge can render the topical medication inactive and useless.

There are different methods of treatment for a dog’s ear infection, depending on the severity, which includes:

  • For moderate infections, topical medications, which contain antibiotics, antifungal properties, and glucocorticoids, will be used to coat the outer layer of cells found in the external ear canal. 
  • In more severe cases, antibiotics and medication may be administered by mouth or injection. This is only used in infections that are deeper in the canal or when ear infections are long term and recurring.
  • When the infection is extreme, a combination of antibacterial drugs and corticosteroids are used. Together, these ingredients work to reduce the smelly discharge, eliminate pain and swelling, and stop the overproduction of glandular secretions. 

For poodles suffering from parasites, a different approach is taken. Topical products that contain a blend of antibacterial and antiparasitics ingredients are necessary to eliminate parasites. 

It is vital to continue the necessary treatment plan until the infection is gone entirely. It generally takes around 2 to 4 weeks before the infection is gone. Discontinuing a treatment plan too early can lead to a more intense return of the infection. However, for some poodles, a treatment plan may be necessary indefinitely if the infections are recurring. 

The veterinarian will likely want to see the poodle when the treatment plan is over to ensure that the infection is gone entirely. Depending on the cause of the infection, there may be other treatment plans, such as in the cases of autoimmune diseases, thyroid diseases, or allergies. 

What About Home Remedies for Ear Infection Treatment in Poodles?

Poodle owners are strongly advised to avoid home remedies when it comes to treating ear infections in their dogs. Some websites may suggest using ingredients such as a vinegar dilution to treat an infection, but this (alongside other home remedy suggestions) should be avoided. 

  • Home remedies can cause excessive swelling of the ear canal while also increasing glandular secretions. This extra fluid and moisture can lead to a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria, which will only fuel the ear infection. 
  • Furthermore, home remedies that utilize substances that typically would not irritate the ear canal, such as grooming powders, can irritate when the ear is swollen and inflamed because an inflamed, infected ear can react differently to certain substances. 

How to Prevent Ear Infections in Your Poodle

The best way to help a poodle stave off ear infections is to prevent them. Luckily, there is a multitude of ways to prevent an ear infection from occurring in your poodle. 

Here are a few easy ways to prevent ear infections in a poodle:

Remove Excessive Ear Hair

One of the major contributing factors to ear infections in a poodle is the abundance of hair. These hairs ultimately block airflow, creating a dark and moist environment for bacteria and yeast to thrive. With this in mind, one of the best preventative measures for poodles is to remove and pluck the extra hairs. 

To remove hair from a poodle’s ear, do the following:

  1. Pick the best time. Trying to pluck a poodle’s hair when they have just woken up and are full of energy can lead to a struggle. Find a time that is good for the owner and the dog. When a poodle is relaxed or tired, they will be more likely to allow you to pluck their ear hairs. 
  2. Find a comfortable position. There is no “one size fits all” position for plucking poodle ear hairs. Try different arrangements that allow for the comfort of the owner and the dog. There should be a good view of the ear, where the owner can gently bend the ear back and have a full view of the hairs needing to be plucked.
  3. Start by applying powder to the ear. Before any plucking occurs, you should place powder in the ear. Power will ensure there is a better grip for plucking. A powder such as the Gold Medal Groomers Ear Powder, found here on Amazon, is an excellent choice as it works to dry, remove odor, reduce itching, and allow for better grip. 
  4. Use a hemostat to remove hairs. A hemostat is recommended when plucking a poodle’s ear hairs because they are constructed with a shape that makes it easy to grip hairs. Stainless steel hemostats are recommended as they can be easily disinfected. Briggs Precision Kelly Forceps Locking Tweezers Clamp, found here on Amazon, is a great choice.
  5. Use a rapid motion to remove hair — including the root. Think of the phrase “Rip it off like a Band-Aid.” The more hesitation, the less likely a poodle will be relaxed and ready for their hair to be pulled. Rapidly remove the hair using the hemostat, ensuring that the hair’s root is also removed. 

Some tips that will make plucking the ear hairs easier include:

  • Tip 1: Tone of voice matters — The tone of the owner’s voice matters in this situation. Being overly soothing can be a signal to the poodle that it’s okay to be anxious or nervous about the situation. Do not be overly soothing and do not show any signs of nervousness. Instead, speak in a confident, matter-of-fact tone.
  • Tip 2: Don’t use your fingers — Some dog owners will rely on plucking poodle hair with the fingers. While this works in theory, plucking with bare fingers will more than likely not remove the root, which is essential when plucking a poodle’s ear hairs.
  • Tip 3: Consider a relaxing ear rub when finished — Rubbing the base of the ears will relax a poodle and allow him to feel relaxed and satisfied with what just happened.
  • Tip 4: Don’t forget to sterilize the hemostat — Sterilizing the hemostat is vital to stave off any potential infections from leftover bacteria on the equipment. 

Keep an eye on how quickly the poodle’s hair grows in. On average, poodles should have their ear hair removed around 2 to 4 weeks. 

Clean Your Poodle’s Ears Regularly

It’s not enough to just remove the hairs in a poodle’s ears, though. Since a poodle’s ear is designed with a long flap that holds in moisture, it’s easy for bacteria and yeast to thrive. Combined with wax buildup, it’s the ideal environment for an ear infection to occur. Therefore, it’s relatively common for Poodles to suffer from recurring ear infections. 

Some wax is beneficial to the poodle. A small amount of wax will work to trap particles and debris from entering the canal further. That is why cleaning excessively can actually do more harm than good. With that in mind, cleaning should only be done every 1 to 2 weeks. 

Here is how to properly clean a poodle’s ears:

  1. Start by purchasing a quality ear cleaning solution and dropper head. Never clean a poodle’s ears with plain water. A quality ear cleaning solution is necessary. A dropper head will be used to disperse the solution into the ear canal. Nutri-Vet Ear Cleanse for Dogs, found here on Amazon, is recommended as it is gentle but veterinary formulated for success.
  2. Disperse the solution into the ear canal. Using the dropper head, drop a few squirts of the ear cleaning solution into the canal.
  3. Using a cotton ball, massage the base of the ear. Placing a cotton ball will ensure the solution stays inside of the ear. Gently massaging the base will allow the cleaning solution to reach all areas of the canal and capture dirt, debris, bacteria, etc.
  4. If a bad odor is present, continue steps 2 and 3. Continue to clean the ear until the odor is gone. 
  5. Use a clean cotton ball or gauze to wipe the ear. When the cleaning is completed, use a clean cotton ball or gauze to wipe the ear until it is dry. This is important as any leftover moisture can lead to an infection. Do not use a Q-Tip because they can damage your poodle’s ear canal. 

If cleaning has not been regular, sometimes a poodle may end up with excessive wax or debris in the ear that is packed and not easily removed. If there is an issue with cleaning at home due to excessive wax or debris, or the canal is simply far too difficult to clean at home, it may need veterinarian attention.

When this occurs, a veterinarian will need to perform a flush on the poodle. The flush is simply a flexible catheter that can squirt saline solution deep into the dog’s ear canals. This solution will remove any accumulated wax, debris, or other discharge that may be lodged in the ear canal. In some cases, an anesthetic may be required for the procedure.

Examine Your Poodle’s Ears Weekly

As cleaning should take place 1 to 2 weeks and plucking every 2 to 4 weeks, minor ear infections shouldn’t go unnoticed. However, you should also examine a poodle’s ears weekly for any signs of infection. The sooner an ear infection is recognized, the easier it will be to cure it. An infection that does not get treated immediately can lead to severe problems.

When examining the ears, there are certain things to look for, including:

  • Any signs of redness or inflammation
  • Excessive dirt or debris
  • Scratches or other injuries
  • Parasites
  • Discharge, especially when paired with an unpleasant odor

These can all be signs of an infection or an impending infection. The best thing to do is to clean the ears using a cleaning solution, following the proper steps listed above. If there is still redness, inflammation, discharge, and odor present, it may be time to consult a veterinarian for further treatment.

Keep Your Poodle’s Ears Dry

Poodles find themselves more prone to ear infections because of their long, floppy ears. While these ears may be one of the reasons for purchasing this breed as a pet, they are also the culprit for providing an ideal environment for yeast and bacteria to grow. Since the ears are designed with a long flap, moisture can be caught, which can lead to infection.

The best way to stave off infection is to keep a poodle’s ears dry. This does not require any fancy equipment or product. Simply dry the ears off as much as possible, especially after the poodle goes for a swim or has a drink of water. 

Wash the Ears Using a Specialty Shampoo

Another great way to prevent ear infections from occurring is to wash your poodle using specialty shampoo. Veterinary Formula Clinical Care Antiparasitic & Antiseborrheic Medicated Dog Shampoo (Link to Amazon) is highly recommended and is a cost-effective solution that is formulated explicitly for dogs by veterinarians.

With this specialty shampoo, dog’s get the following benefits:

  • It is designed for gentle healing. This medicated shampoo contains gentle ingredients that work fast and efficiently with antiparasitic and antiseborrheic properties. A combination of coal tar, salicylic acid, and micronized sulfur work together to treat scaling, relieve mange and other parasites, and destroy fungus and bacterias. It’s also hydrating and healing.
  • It works quickly. This medicated shampoo is also designed to work faster than others when it comes to relieving inflammation, waxy skin, rashes, bald spots, itchiness, and more. 
  • Veterinarians recommend it. Since it is a medicated shampoo that is paraben, soap, and dye-free, it’s recommended by veterinarians for being gentle yet effective. It has been proven to be able to treat fungus and bacteria safely.

This veterinary formulated medicated shampoo will help to stave off infections. It will also be able to relax a dog who is currently being treated for infection as it is soothing and can help to relax itchiness and other irritants when dealing with an infection.

Are Poodles Prone to Ear Infections?

Unfortunately, several dog breeds are more susceptible to ear infections than others — and poodles are one of them. There are a few reasons why a Poodle is more prone to ear infections than other breeds. 

These reasons include:

  • Extra hair in the ear canal
  • Lack of airflow due to a more extended ear flap
  • Prone to allergies

The extra hair and lack of airflow are the main contributors when it comes to poodles and ear infections. This is because hair and lack of airflow allow for moisture and debris to settle in the ear canal. Over time, this creates a breeding ground for yeast and bacteria, which can lead to an infection.

Another contributing factor is allergies, whether seasonal or food-related. Poodles are known to be sensitive on the inside and the outside. When an allergy occurs, it can settle into an ear infection. Finding out whether a poodle has an allergy is essential when it comes to preventing ear infections.

The good news is that there are plenty of preventative measures an owner can take to reduce the chances of ear infections. Proper cleaning and hair removal are two of the best ways to ensure the ears stay healthy and strong.

Conclusion

Poodles are highly susceptible to ear infections because of their ears and sensitivities. With proper prevention, ear infections can be avoided or kept to a minimum. When an infection is suspected, timely treatment is recommended. Minor ear infections can be healed in as little as two weeks. Without proper treatment, more severe infections and injuries may occur. Always follow through with a treatment plan entirely for the best results.

Brent Hartman

I'm Brent Hartman. I've been a dog lover my entire life and have owned many animals over the years. When my black lab Angus passed away, I was looking for another friend to share my life with. As a result of my research, I've come to love poodles and wanted to share some of what I've learned with you. Whether you're looking to adopt a poodle, or already own one, I created Poodle report to be the ultimate guide to help you find the answers you need.

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