PetMeds® My Dog Has Red Ears – Is It An Ear Infection?


Ear disease is one of the most common presentations in the veterinary clinic. The rest of the skin and coat may or may not be involved in the ear condition. Pets with ear disease can often present with red itchy ears with varying amounts of discharge, odor and sensitivity, with one or both ears involved. The most common cause of red ears is underlying allergies, either to inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies.

Ear mites, while common in young pets, are rarely involved in red itchy ears of older pets. Many times red ears are often accompanied by secondary yeast or bacterial infections of the ear which can be uncomfortable and frustrating to cure. There are great products such as Zymox Otic and Zymox Otic with Hydrocortisone, which can not only treat active yeast or bacterial infections but also excellent as preventatives for ear disease.  If there is an accompanying odor and discharge, the ear cleaners Epi-Otic and Zinc Otic are often my favorites to reach for in cleaning waxy ears. However, it’s important to note that if an ear is only transiently red for a brief period of time,  that means a pet is usually only warm or excited, and an ear infection is less likely.

Have pet health questions? For any medical concerns, we always recommend you consult your veterinarian. However, for non-emergency questions, you can contact Dr. Dym directly using our Ask the Vet form.

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108 Comments

  1. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 3, 2014 at 4:13 pm

    Best to have vet exam and evaluation as may need topical ear antibiotics and/or anti fungal ear meds. You could try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds.

  2. I have a 5yr old male pit bull. He is an inside dog. I have noticed that his ears are turning red and warm. He shakes his head and scratches them. He seems to do it more in the evening. I don’t see anything in his ear like wax, debris etc. No funky or sweet smell. I will squeeze the bottom of his ears (he loves it when he starts getting itchy and comes to me) and it sounds squishy. Any ideas?

  3. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianNovember 9, 2014 at 5:31 pm

    Most likely ear infection from underlying allergies in this breed. You could try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds, however vet exam and evaluation is recommended if signs persist or worsen.

  4. I have a 7 year old terrier mix with red and very dry inside of his ears which i think is a yeast infection but now i’ve noticed his coat is becoming dry and flaky and some hair thinning …Can a yeast infection spread to his coat is that possible

  5. I have a 11 month old italian greyhound/chihuahua and he has been shaking his head a little for a couple months but it seems to only get really bad randomly. But it seems to start after eating lately and you can see redness start from the inside of the ear and kind of grow outward and he will shake his head violently and after an hour or so die down. Sometimes with discharge and odor. Im not sure if it food allergy or just coincidence but the only dog food he has been on since he was little was puppy chow

  6. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 6, 2014 at 5:07 pm

    Most of time this set of issues are due to chronic inhalent/contact allergies in dogs known as atopy. Food allergies are also possible but much less common. See vet for allergy workup. you could try zymox otic HC for ears, which is a great natural ear product from 1800petmeds.

  7. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 6, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    Yeast infections may sometimes occur both in/on the ears and the skin as well. Typically there is a musty or strong odor, as well as sometimes darkening or blackening of the skin with yeast infections. Also could have underlying allergies causing the dry flaky skin and hair thinning. I would consider adding a good quality fatty acid like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds to meals.

  8. My dogs left ear is red. He keeps shaking his head but other than that t doesn’t seem to bother him. I clean his ears all te time since he is a hound and has droopy ears and I even took him to the vet. They said I must be doing something cause he doesn’t look like anything is wrong but he is still shaking and scratching . I still continue to clean them and put hydrocortisone on the red part. Could it be since its winter his ear is dry and I need toget him a humidifier? I’m not sure what to do

  9. Just used Zymox yesterday on our dog and his one ear is red today. Should i stop using it

  10. My Lab mix keeps shaking his head and I checked his ear and cleaned it out with tea tree oil yesterday but he still shaking his head and itching at it is there anything else I can do to help him?

  11. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianDecember 25, 2014 at 10:05 am

    Your dog has likely underlying systemic inhalent/contact allergies known as atopy, which you can read about on line, and which likely needs some sort of systemic therapy, rather than just topical meds to control signs. You could try benadryl at dose of 1 mg per pound twice daily, as well as adding fatty acid to meals like nordic naturals pet omega 3 from 1800petmeds. See vet for allergy workup if signs persist.

  12. My dog ears are inflamed red and has build up, he has been scratching a lot and this is the first time i have noticed it, i adopted him from a family member where he wasn’t in the best of care. What is your solution on home remedy’s before taking him into the vet to try and fix the issue at hand?? He is 1 year old and i cant determine his breed, he seems to be part shitzu.

  13. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 7, 2015 at 11:19 am

    You can try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds, but if ear issues persist, I would recommend vet check

  14. My chihuahua, Lucy, has one bright red (inside) ear and the other is perfectly fine. Lucy’s red ear dosnt seem to bother her that much, but she has recently been shaking her head and sometimes scratching her red ear.

  15. I Have a mini Pincher half pitt and he shakes his head and when he cratchea his ear he cries.. It is red and it has some liquid in it… I’m taking him to the vet this week.. My other dog licks his ear is that okay?

  16. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 16, 2015 at 1:06 am

    The other dog licking the ear is not a problem, however most likely needs vet exam and evaluation to make sure no ear infection. You could try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds to see if it may help.

  17. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 16, 2015 at 1:25 am

    Most likely allergies and secondary ear infection. Try antihistamine like chlorphenirimine at dose of 1/4 of a 4 mg tablet twice daily. See vet for evaluation for ear infection

  18. Our almost 5 month old puppy has one red, irritated ear- it’s the side she lays on right overtop of the furnace vent. It’s winter and she’s a pit bull and always cold. We began making her move from the register but she shakes her head often and whines when she scratches the irritated ear. A vet recommended fish oil for dry skin and to keep an eye out for an ear infection. We gave her one fish oil pill with dinner
    (1,000mg) and she threw up this morning, should we adjust the dosage? Any other thoughts on this? Thank you!

  19. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 23, 2015 at 7:47 pm

    THis is likely due to some sort of underlying allergy, however. The fish oil is great idea. Also consider zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds to soothe ears.

  20. My 3 year old yellow lab has a red streak in her inner ear she has been shaking her head a lot and now both eyes have become swallon. I flushed her eyes and gave her benadryl, her ear concerns me, could it be just allergies or would an ear infection do that to her eyes?

  21. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianJanuary 25, 2015 at 3:45 pm

    Allergies and secondary yeast and/or bacterial infections may be involved with both eye and ear issues. Best to give benadryl for now, and then see vet for exam and evaluation if symptoms persist or worsen.

  22. Hi. Was just wanting some advice. I have an 18 month old blue merle border collie and I am a bit concerned about one of his ears. One of his ears sounds like there is water stuck in it when it is being rubbed at the base. He doesnt scratch it a lot and it only seems to bother him when his ears are being rubbed. There is no sign of redness or irritation to his ear. I am
    Just a bit concerned about what this could be. I was advised by the pet shop to get some drops that will treat ear mites and loosen any wax in his ear. Will these work? Thank you in advance

  23. Dr. Michael Dym, VMD veterinarianFebruary 16, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    I would not assume ear mites. Best to have vet check and evaluation for yeast and/or bacterial infectino. You could also try zymox otic HC from 1800petmeds.

  24. Thank you. Took him to one vet and they have said its not an ear infection or ear mites as his ears are too clean. Was told it was a wax build up and given some different drops. Im assuming they are workig because he has become more verbal but then these drops are making him scratch at his ears more. Have been wiping his ears a few hours after using these ear drops and wax does seem to be coming out. Stull abit concerned so going to go tona different vet for a aecond opinion. Will definitely have a look at the stuff you have mentioned as well. Thank you

  25. Hi. Just a quick question. Im in the Uk and have been havig a look for the stuff that you have recommended. Is the hc with hydrocortisone? Sorry to ask. I googled it and it is for sale on amazon.co.uk and also has different percentages next to it. Which would be the best to use. Thank you

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