Water In Dog’s Ears: Prevention and Treatment

Written by: Milica Brzakovic
Is your dog a great swimmer who enjoys spending time in the water? This is good in so many ways, but is it good for your dog's ears? Is it dangerous to get water in the ears all the time? That's what this article is about!

If your dog spends a lot of time in the water during summertime it’s inevitable that some water will get in your dog’s ears, and in some cases lead to “swimmer’s ear”.

So what can you as a caring dog owner do if you don’t want to ruin the fun but you still need to be responsible?

The first step is to inform yourself and that’s what we’re helping you with today.

If your dog likes to swim there are some things you should be prepared on and think about. Water in your dog’s ears is one of them.

Even though some water in the ears is normal and isn’t a problem, in some cases it’s more difficult for water to escape. This can lead to an ear infection, or otitis externa if you want to use the medical term.

Ear Infections In Dogs

This is a common condition most dogs suffer from at least once in their life. Dogs, like people, can accumulate water in their ears after swimming. However, the chances of this happening are bigger with dogs than people, because of their L-shaped structure.

The moist environment created when ears are filled with water is a good home for yeast and bacteria, which can result in an ear infection. Bacteria and yeast love the dark and damp environment in the ear canals, so they become comfortable there really quickly.

Dogs with floppy ears, for example Golden Retrievers, Beagles and Cocker Spaniels, are usually more prone to ear infections than dogs with upright ears. This is because floppy ears fold over the ear canal and that way retain moisture inside. Dogs with hair in the canal, like the Maltese, are more susceptible to ear infections as well.

When it comes to different types of water dogs can swim in, such as lakes, oceans and rivers, there isn’t a difference between them when it comes to ears and all types of water can create welcoming environments for bacteria and yeast.

What Symptoms Indicate An Ear Infection?

The most common sign that can reveal that your dog is suffering from ear infection is itchy ears. In the later phase, when bacteria and yeast overgrow within ears, yellow or black debris may be visible from the ear canal. Other symptoms are:

  • Inflammation or redness
  • Pain due to touch of ears
  • Scaly skin around and inside the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Unpleasant odor
  • Behavioral changes, like irritability or depression

If you want to establish if your dog has an ear infection, here’s what you should do and ask yourself:

Does my dog smell bad?

In a healthy state, dogs’ ears don’t smell bad. They should be clean and the skin should be a normal color. However, if your dog is suffering from an infection, the smell won’t be very pleasant.

Is my dog scratching its ears?

Even though most dogs scratch occasionally, it’s not a good sign if your dog scratches its ears all the time. If that’s the case, something is either stuck in their ears or they have an ear infection.

Run the cotton ball test

Use a cotton ball in order to see if there’s any brown debris present in your dog’s ears. If you see that there is, it’s often a sign of an infection. There’s no such thing as “normal dirt”, so brown debris is a pretty safe indicator.

How Are Ear Infections Treated?

If you suspect that your dog is suffering from an ear infection, take him or her to the vet in order to establish a treatment plan. They usually consist of antibacterial or antifungal ear drops, depending on the cause. The doses are usually daily.

It’s also possible for your vet to prescribe antibiotics or corticosteroids in case of lingering skin infections and inflammations. However, if your dog is dealing with chronic ear infections these drugs tend to loose their effect.

If you want to try to deal with the infection yourself, there are some home remedies you could try. Check out the video below and find out more!

Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?

Ear infections can’t be prevented in all cases of course, but there are still some things you could do in order to reduce the chances of it, especially if your dog enjoys swimming a lot.

After swimming, allow your dog to shake out excess water in their ears and dry them carefully. Also, if your dog has hair within the ears, don’t forget to maintain and groom the hair in order to prevent debris from sticking in the ears.

Another thing you can do before bathing and swimming is to put a little cotton in each ear. That way you can reduce the amount of water entering the ears.

However, a regular, ear cleaning process at home is the best way from preventing an infection. Let’s take a closer look!

Which Ear Cleaning Solution Do I Choose?

Ear cleaning solutions can be bought from your vet, but they usually consist of chemicals that loose their effect over time.

This is why a natural and organic formula with antibacterial and antimicrobial properties is the best way to go. The purpose is to break down waxy buildup that can welcome bacteria. Solutions containing essential oil and organics including comfrey, calendula or arnica will ease the itching and repel water from getting into the ears during swimming or bathing.

Examples of good drying agents are blends of organic apple cider vinegar or white vinegar with sterile water. Vinegar is a good choice as it’s a good anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent and it also balances the ear’s pH.

Another thing you can do at home is simply making pure, green tea which you should cool down and drop it in your dog’s ear. You can also mix virgin oil with sterile water and rubbing alcohol.

If you prefer buying a natural solution that has already been mixed for you, many veterinarians suggest blends like Ear Clean for instance.

Last but not least – when you’re cleaning your dog’s ears be sure to use gauze or cotton, not Q-tips. Q-tips can rupture the tympanic membrane or the ear drum so try not to use them.

How To Get Water Out Of Your Dog’s Ear

water in dogs ears

The best thing you can do in order to avoid infections is to remove water and dry your dog’s ears after swimming or bathing. Here’s what you need:

  • Ear cleaning and drying solution
  • Cotton balls
  • Soft towel

Now, follow these 6 steps in order to remove water:

1. DRY the ears as gently as you can with a soft towel. If its ears are floppy, be extra careful as you don’t want to miss a spot. Lift the ear and dry the underside.

2. PLACE a couple of drops of the ear solution in the ear. If you’re using a home remedy place the drops with a medicine dropper. Be sure not to push it into the ear canal.

3. MASSAGE the base of the ear for a couple of minutes. That ensures the distribution of the solution in the ear canal.

4. Encourage your dog to SHAKE its head. This will dislodge any potential debris in the ear.

5. WIPE the inner side of the ear flap with a cotton ball. Be sure to remove any liquid or debris you can see.

6. REPEAT with the other ear just as thoroughly.

Bear in mind that cleaning too often isn’t good for your dog’s ears and can even damage the ears. Therefore, consult with your vet about the frequency of cleaning and what products to use.

Can Ear Plugs Help?

Ear plugs are common with us humans, when we want to prevent water from getting into our ears. However, that’s not the case with dogs.

Ear plugs in dogs are not a common way to prevent water in the ears just as yet. The right size, placement and removal of ear plugs are very important and due to the variety in dogs’ ears it’s very difficult to find ear plugs that do the job.

Inappropriate size, placement and removal of ear plugs can lead to various problems, like an ear plug getting stuck in the ear canal or smaller issues, like ear plugs falling out. This is why the prevention methods listed above are a much better way to go if you don’t want your dog getting water in the ears.


If your dog is an avid swimmer, some water in the ears is inevitable. Unfortunately, this can lead to an ear infection, or a so called swimmer’s ear. This is not uncommon at all, so if your dog is suffering from it you’re definitely not the only one.

All dogs can get affected, but breeds with floppy ears are more prone to it than other breeds. If you know that your dog loves to swim and spend time in the water, there are some things you can do in order to prevent ear infections. Ear cleaning solutions and drying the ears carefully are one of the main things you can apply.

It’s important to be aware of possible treatments and prevention methods when it comes to water in your dog’s ears. That way you can be a responsible dog owner who can help your dog if needed, but also let him or her play and swim without ruining the fun!