It’s not uncommon for Yorkshire Terriers to experience an occasional ear infection. The Merck Veterinary Manual1 states that dogs have deep ear canals, creating a more effective funnel for carrying sound to the eardrum. The upside is that this long “L-shaped” canal allows dogs to hear four times better than the average human. The downside, however, is that it also makes your pup more susceptible to infection.
Dog ear infections usually begin as a minor issue in the outer ear, but can quickly advance to middle-ear or inner-ear infections, resulting in serious health problems like balance issues, deafness, or partial facial paralysis.
Although ear infections are somewhat common, there are steps you can take to prevent an infection from starting. Keep reading to learn about the three kinds of Yorkie ear infections, their causes, symptoms, and treatments, and steps for prevention.
In this guide:
- The 3 types of infections
- Causes of Yorkie ear infections
- Symptoms of Yorkie ear infections
- What to do if you think your Yorkie has an ear infection
- How to prevent infections in the future
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The 3 types of dog ear infections
- Otitis Externa: The inflammation of the layer of cells that line the external ear canal. It is common among canines.2
- Otitis Media: The inflammation of the middle ear: the tympanic bulla, the opening of the auditory tube, and the ear ossicles. Infection in this part of the ear is not as common but is often the result of recurring, unresolved external ear infections.3
- Otitis Interna: The inflammation of the inner ear: the cochlea, vestibule, and semicircular canals. It is not common in canines.3
Causes of Yorkie ear infections
The cause of ear infections is often excess moisture in the ear canal. Yorkies with floppy ears are more susceptible to ear infections than those who have ears that stand up. (Learn more about Yorkie ears and floppy ear syndrome.)
Puppies may be more susceptible to ear infections than adult dogs, and it’s common for Yorkies with skin or food allergies to develop them.
- Excessive moisture from swimming, bathing, or the environment
- Allergies related to an adverse food reaction, atopic dermatitis, or contact dermatitis
- Parasites, such as Yorkie ear mites
- Autoimmune disorders
- Endocrine diseases, such as hypothyroidism or Cushing Disease
- Epithelialization (wound healing) disorders
- Foreign bodies
- Glandular disorders, like sebaceous gland hyperplasia
- Fungi, such as Aspergillus
- Viruses, such as distemper
- Overcleaning the ear
Symptoms of Yorkie ear infections
Telltale signs that your Yorkie has an ear infection are head shaking, whining in pain when you touch the head, and scratching at the ear. However, you may see different symptoms depending on which type of infection your pup has. It’s crucial to get your dog to the vet when you see these symptoms.
- Pain when touched or when opening the mouth
- Head shaking
- Scratching at the infected ear
- Dark discharge
- Redness and swelling of the ear canal
- Crusting or scabs in the ears
- Head shaking
- Decreased hearing due to fluid in the middle ear
- Horner’s Syndrome symptoms: a sunken appearance to the eye, dry eye, a small pupil, a droopy upper eyelid, and a prominent third eyelid
- Holding head on a tilt to the side
- Facial nerve paralysis
- Holding the head on a tilt to the side
- General incoordination, like falling to the side or circling
- Nystagmus: a vision condition in which the eyes make repetitive, uncontrolled movements, affecting balance and coordination.
What to do if you think your Yorkie has an ear infection
Don’t treat ear infections at home
If you think your Yorkie may have an ear infection, it’s best to have your dog seen by a veterinarian right away, even if you think it’s just a minor one. You shouldn’t attempt to treat it at home.
Ear infections can be quite painful, and even minor conditions can make other activities like eating and sleeping difficult. If left untreated, outer-ear infections can lead to more severe middle- and inner-ear infections and can potentially lead to meningitis.
Be prepared with helpful information
One of the best things you can do to get to the root of the problem is to provide your vet with some background information. This is especially helpful if you are seeing a new veterinarian or if this is your dog’s first infection.
Inform your vet of:
- A list of all current medications
- Any known allergies or other underlying medical conditions
- Prior history of recurrent ear infections and treatment
- Current food, how long the dog has been on this food, and any recent dietary changes
- Current symptoms and how long you’ve noticed them
- Recent water activities, like swimming, ear washing, or baths
- Any recent hair trimming or plucking
What to expect at the vet appointment
Most likely, your vet will complete a physical and look at your dog’s skin for possible causes of inflammation. Next, they’ll examine both the unaffected ear and infected ear, using an otoscope to look for signs of swelling and infection.
A skin sample may be necessary to test for the presence of yeast, bacteria, or inflammatory cells. If this is a chronic issue, your vet may want to perform diagnostic imaging to help determine the cause.
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Yorkie ear infection treatment & remedies
Most likely, your veterinarian will show you how to cleanse the infected ear with a medicated ear wash. This can usually be done by either spraying the medicated solution into the ear or by placing a soaked cotton ball into the ear.
This is usually followed by rinsing the ear with warm water and draining. You should do this as often as the veterinarian prescribes, usually several times a week.
If the pain from washing out the ear is too severe for the dog, your vet may prescribe a topical steroid medication to reduce the pain and inflammation before regular cleansing can begin. In more severe cases, they may prescribe antibiotics.
Most minor outer ear infections heal quickly, within one to two weeks of starting treatment. Regular cleansing is usually continued until all signs of infection are gone. More severe infections may take longer to heal and may require additional types of treatment.
Yeast and bacterial infections are usually examined by your vet every other week until there is no sign of contamination, which can take from two to four weeks.
It’s important to follow the protocol your veterinarian provides, such as finishing up the prescribed medication or attending follow-up appointments, even when there are no longer visible symptoms of an infection and your pup’s ear looks better. Failing to follow protocol may lead to a recurrent or more resistant infection.
How to prevent infections in the future
If you don’t already know how to clean your dog’s ears, ask your vet and check out our guide to cleaning Yorkie ears. Your vet may have you continue using the same cleansing wash, or have you switch to a different solution after the bacteria is eliminated.
Excess moisture is a main cause of ear infections. Try to avoid getting water directly into your Yorkie’s ears while giving baths. You can use a cleansing wash or use a wrung-out washcloth to wipe the floppy part of your dog’s ear, but avoid putting the washcloth into the ear itself.
If your Yorkie enjoys swimming, using a topical astringent may reduce the chances of ear infections. After baths and swimming, apply the solution, then dry the inside of the ear to prevent moisture from accumulating.
If your Yorkie has had chronic ear infections, your vet may advise clipping the hair short on the inside of the pinna (external ear flaps). You may even be advised to pluck the hair from the ear canals. However, this is not to be done unless advised by your veterinarian. Removal or trimming of the ear hair improves the ventilation and decreases the humidity in the ears.