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Home > Dogs > How Prone Are Golden Retrievers to Ear Infections? Vet Approved Facts & Tips

How Prone Are Golden Retrievers to Ear Infections? Vet Approved Facts & Tips

Veterinarian performing cleaning hearing a dog Golden Retriever

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Dr. Paola Cuevas

Veterinarian, MVZ

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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An ear infection is one of the most common ailments in dogs. About 20% of all dogs will suffer from one at some point in their lives, and Golden Retrievers are not immune. An ear infection will cause dogs to shake their heads or scratch their ears, have red and swollen ears, and give off a foul odor. This condition is painful for your Goldie and can have serious consequences if left untreated. Keep reading to learn more about ear infections in this breed, why Golden Retrievers are more likely to get these infections than others, and what you can do to prevent them.

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Why Are Golden Retrievers Prone to Ear Infections?

According to the Golden Retriever Club of America, ear infections are the 10th most common confirmed veterinary health condition in Golden Retrievers.1 Other common conditions in this breed include hot spots (52%), food allergies (44%), and flea dermatitis (50%). Fortunately, although ear infections are recurrent, they usually do not lead to complications when treated in time.

There are a few reasons that Golden Retrievers are prone to ear infections:
  • Floppy ears. The droopy ears that characterize Golden Retrievers so well also make them more susceptible to ear infections. Their loosely hanging ears trap moisture and heat, which facilitates the development and growth of bacteria and yeast.
  • Love of water. Bred to hunt waterfowl, Goldies are known for their immense love of water. But the water that enters their ear canals can lead to an ear infection.
  • Underlying conditions. Golden Retrievers are prone to suffering from allergies and thyroid disease. Thus, ear infections may be a secondary health problem related to these breed-specific conditions.

What Are the Causes of Ear Infections?

Ear infections in dogs can be caused by bacteria or yeast that get trapped inside the dog’s ear canal. These can be environmental factors, like dust, debris, or an allergic reaction to food or flea bites.

Older dogs may be more prone to ear infections because they have weaker immune systems that can’t fight off infections as efficiently.

Golden retriever about to undergo operation
Image Credit: Eduard Goricev, Shutterstock

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Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs

Common signs of ear infections in dogs are relatively easy to recognize:
  • Swelling and redness of the ear canal
  • Sour smell coming from the ear
  • Itching and scratching
  • Dark discharge
  • Pain or sensitivity around the ear
  • Frequent shaking and tilting of the head

Although ear infections in dogs are common and generally treatable, they can be recurrent. Follow these tips to help reduce the frequency of these infections.

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Top 3 Tips for Preventing Ear Infections in Your Golden Retriever

1. Have Your Dog Checked Out Regularly

An ear infection could be a sign that something else is going on with your dog. Only by treating these underlying causes can ear infections be prevented. Causes include allergies, objects stuck in the ear canal, hormonal and autoimmune diseases, and tumors. Having your dog checked by the vet early will also help avoid painful complications for your pet, such as a ruptured eardrum, inner ear infection, and even hearing loss.


2. Keep Your Dog’s Ears Clean and Dry

Golden Retrievers have floppy ears, which create warm, moist havens for bacteria. Thoroughly cleaning and drying your Goldie’s ears once a week will help prevent bacteria buildup. Use a clean cloth towel to dry the inner ear flap.

Note: To thoroughly clean the ears, use a solution recommended by your veterinarian based on your dog’s specific needs, and gently massage the base of the ear with a cotton ball soaked in the solution. Don’t use a cotton tip in the ear canal, as this may push wax and debris deeper (and cause your dog pain).

red golden retriever
Image Credit: irinaorel, Shutterstock

3. Feed Your Dog a High-Quality Diet

Food sensitivities or allergies can predispose some dogs to get ear infections. Check to see if your pup’s favorite food contains chicken, wheat, or dairy, as these ingredients can trigger an allergic reaction. You can also ask your veterinarian to recommend supplements, such as probiotics, omega-3 fatty acids, and fish oil, as these can help reduce inflammation caused by skin allergies in your dog’s ears.

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Final Thoughts

Ear infections are painful, uncomfortable, and typically recurrent. Golden Retrievers are prone to this condition due to their ear configuration, love of water, and predisposition to thyroid disease and allergies. If you spot any symptoms of an ear infection in your golden pup, you should see the vet immediately to prevent it from getting worse. Fortunately, ear infections are usually easily treated with vet-prescribed antibiotics. There are also things that you can do to keep them from coming back, like feeding your dog a high-quality diet, keeping their ears clean and dry, and treating any underlying cause that may be triggering ear infections.


Featured Image Credit: 135pixels, Shutterstock

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