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Wet dog shaking off water

The essentials

  • Dogs have long ear canals — The structure of their ears makes it incredibly easy for moisture to get trapped inside.
  • Water in dogs’ ears is a common cause of infection — Severe ear infections can lead to pain, itchiness, and even hearing loss.
  • Pay attention to your puppy’s ears — Keeping your puppy’s ears clean and dry is only part of the process.

There’s nothing quite as annoying as going for a swim only to leave with water in your ears. This issue is even more troublesome for dogs. The L-shaped structure of your dog’s ears  makes it near impossible for them to get water out after swimming or bathing — no matter how much they shake and wiggle. Look out for foul odors, pawing at the ear, ear swelling, or excessive head tilting as potential signs of water in your puppy’s ear. Water that remains stuck can lead to risky infections.

You can keep your pup’s sensitive ears dry and prevent ear infections with a few simple steps and helpful products. If you suspect an ear infection, read on for signs of trouble, as well as some methods to help make your dog feel better.

How to remove water from your dog’s ears

The best way to prevent ear infections is to thoroughly dry your dog’s ears anytime they’re exposed to water. While they’ll likely shake their head and body vigorously after a bath or swim, it’s difficult for dogs to get water out entirely. You can step in with a towel and a few supplies by following these steps:

  1. Dry what you can. Start by gently drying the outside of your puppy’s ear with a towel. Opt for fabrics that are soft, comfortable, and highly absorbent, such as microfiber.
  2. Use a vet-recommended ear cleaner. You can use a cotton ball or gauze to apply the cleaner but never use cotton swabs (often known by the brand name Q-tips), which can damage the eardrum or ear canal.
  3. Clean gently. If they don’t have pointed ears, lift your dog’s ear upward to apply the cleaner. Gently rub the base of the ear to help the cleaner move into your dog’s ear canal.
  4. Wipe off excess cleaner. Use a clean cotton ball to wipe away excess cleaner and debris from their ears.
  5. Apply medication after cleaning the ears. If your dog has an ear infection, you can follow the same steps to apply medication, such as ear drops, after going through the cleaning process. Allow the ear cleaner to fully dry for about 30 minutes before applying any medication. Some medications will require daily use, while others are only necessary a couple of times a week.

What can happen if my dog has water stuck in their ear?

Dogs have long, L-shaped ear canals that make it hard for them to remove water that gets trapped inside after a bath or swim. Moisture in their ears can allow bacteria or fungi to thrive. This can then lead to several different types of infections that, if left untreated, can even cause hearing loss.

Common ear infections in dogs

Yeast infections. Trapped moisture is a common cause of yeast infections in dogs. When water is trapped in or around their ears, it creates a moist environment that allows yeast to overpopulate.

Bacterial infections. One of the most common causes of ear infections in dogs is bacteria. Though species of bacteria exist naturally in your pup’s ears, the environment changes when moisture gets trapped inside. This creates the perfect conditions for bacteria to thrive.

Otitis externa. This refers to general inflammation of the external ear canal and can include issues like swimmer’s ear . Many things can cause otitis externa, including allergies, parasites, fungi, or excessive moisture. This type of infection can range from mild to severe, in which case you’ll need help from a vet. Swimmer’s ear is usually treatable at home with a vet-approved cleanser.

Breeds most at risk of developing ear issues

Some dog breeds are more susceptible to ear infections than others. While you love Fido’s adorably long and floppy ears, breeds with this type of ear are prone to infections. Droopy, long ears make it even more difficult for pups to fully dry their ears, so water is more likely to get stuck inside. Here are some breeds that are most at risk of developing ear infections, all of which require extra care after swimming and bathing:

Our favorite post-swim products for pets

Preventing water from staying in your dog’s ears

Keeping water out of your puppy’s ears entirely can minimize the risk of ear infections, but there are also some additional preventative measures you should consider:

  • When possible, avoid their ears when using water — Take care to avoid their ears during bath time or when playing with the hose.
  • Leave their ear hair alone when grooming — Excessive ear hair can increase their chance of infection since hair traps water, debris, and bacteria. If your pup does have an ear infection, you can trim their ear hair. Otherwise, leave their ears alone. Unnecessary plucking can cause redness and increase their risk of infection.
  • Dry their ears after water-based activities — Some dogs love to swim and play in water. But after every bath or trip to the beach, make sure you thoroughly dry your dog’s ears with a towel and cotton balls.
  • Keep up with regular cleans for infection prevention — Ear flushes and drying ear drops can help. Use a vet-recommended ear cleaner after every swim.

Frequently asked questions 

How can I get water out of my dog’s ears?

You can use a towel and a cotton ball to help dry your dog’s ears. You may also need to use a vet-recommended drying solution to ensure your pup’s inner ear is free of moisture.

What happens if water gets in my dog’s ears?

When water is trapped in your dog’s ears, it creates a moist environment that allows bacteria and fungi to thrive. This can lead to infections that, when severe, could even cause your pup to lose their ability to hear.

How can I tell if there’s water in my puppy’s ears?

Water in your dog’s ears can be uncomfortable and lead to painful infections. Your dog will typically show some signs they’re in distress, some of which include shaking their head, rubbing their ears against furniture or the floor, and pawing at their ears.

Can a dog get an ear infection from water?

Yes, your dog can get an ear infection from any body of water, whether that’s a pool, an ocean, a sprinkler, or even the bath.

What are the signs of ear infections in pups?

Discharge is a common sign of ear infections in dogs. Their ears and ear flaps may also be red, stinky, swollen, or crusted.

How can I get rid of my dog’s ear infection without going to the vet?

If you suspect an ear infection, you should always consult a veterinarian. Your vet will be able to figure out the cause of the infection and determine the best course of treatment. Although rare, severe ear infections can spread to other parts of your dog’s body and interfere with heart rate and breathing.

Can doggie ear infections go away on their own?

Ear infections rarely go away on their own. The longer you go without treating the infection, the worse it will get. If left untreated, your pup could eventually require surgery or even lose their hearing.