Can Dogs Get Ear Infections From Swimming

Just like humans, dogs aren’t comfortable during the hottest days of summer. With the need to regulate their body temperature (homeostasis), they tend to drink more water or find solace in a cooler place away from the sun. One of the ways you can help your furry friends is to allow them to swim so that they can cool down faster. 

can dogs get ear infections from swimming
Can Dogs Get Ear Infections from Swimming?

However, many pet owners often worry about whether or not their dogs could risk getting an ear infection from swimming. Of course, an ear infection can be incredibly frustrating for a dog. As such, it’s important to know the risks associated with allowing your dogs to swim, particularly regarding whether or not your dogs could get an ear infection from swimming.

To answer this question, yes, dogs can get ear infections from swimming. The most common ear infection dogs may develop after swimming is referred to as swimmer’s ear. Swimmer’s ear is an infection of the external ear canal as a result of water retention, facilitated by the dog’s uniquely shaped external ear canal.

Fascinating, right? Keep reading to learn more!

Dogs Can Get Ear Infections From Swimming

Dogs are prone to ear infections because of their L-shaped outer ear canal that limits water from draining from their ears after swimming. This is quite unlike wild dogs that instead have an erect ear pinna that facilitates air circulation and improves water evaporation from their ear canal. In this way, domestic dogs are far more prone to swimmer’s ear than wild dogs.

The water retention of domestic dogs’ ears serves as a conducive environment for bacteria growth, therefore exposing their ears to inflammation, bacterial infections, and yeast infections. Swimmer’s ear can be severe or mild and may require veterinarian intervention to treat.

Below are some of the symptoms or clinical signs you can look for if you suspect your dog to have swimmer’s ear:

  • Pain while touching the ear
  • Redness of the ear(s)
  • Bleeding and scabs around the ears (caused by scratching)
  • Pawing of the ears
  • Shaking of the head
  • Foul-smelling odor from the ears
  • Rubbing of the head against the wall or floor
  • Dark discharge from the ears
  • Muffled hearing
  • Restlessness

However, a swimmer’s ear is different from other ear infections. Aside from water retention in the outer ear canal, there are multiple other potential causes for bacteria growth. Your dogs may also have some underlying conditions predisposing them to ear infections after swimming.

These conditions may include underlying allergies such as atopy (genetic predisposition to develop some allergic diseases), environmental allergies, and food allergies. These allergies can also facilitate swimmer’s ears when they swim. Other factors that can cause ear infections in dogs include parasites, endocrine disorders, tumors, and systemic immuno-suppressive disorders in the ear canal.

To work out whether your dogs are suffering from swimmer’s ear or other ear infections due to different causes, monitor how the infection emanates and trends. Try to see if they exhibit any of the earlier-mentioned clinical signs before swimming. If this is the case, you can be confident that the signs are likely not due to swimmer’s ear. You can also consult your veterinarian if you are unsure.

dog with ear infections
Dog with ear infections

Do I Need To Clean My Dog’s Ears After Swimming?

Yes, you should clean your dog’s ears after swimming. You don’t need to outright ban your dogs from swimming because it will typically do them more good than harm. However, it’s important to clean their ears after swimming to prevent the risk of infection.

It’s best to use a veterinarian-prescribed ear cleaner after every swim to prevent the swimmer’s ear or any similar infection from setting in. Once you have a veterinarian-prescribed ear cleaner, you can use the following steps to get your dogs’ ears clean after every swim:

  • Begin by holding up your dog’s ear flap to straighten out the L-shaped ear canal.
  • Dip and fill the canal with the cleaner until it drips out.
  • Continue massaging the base of your dog’s ear to loosen any debris therein.
  • Let go of the ear, and allow the dog to shake their head.
  • Then, remove the debris on the ear flap with clean tissues or cotton balls.

Resist using a cotton swab to remove the debris as that can push the debris further down your dog’s ear canal and damage their eardrum. You can also insert cotton balls into each of the ears to prevent water from entering before you bathe your dog.

stuart and his dog

Family Dog Expert Author

Hi there! I’m Stuart, a devoted dog lover and family dog expert with over a decade of experience working with our furry companions. My passion for dogs drives me to share my knowledge and expertise, helping families build strong, loving bonds with their four-legged friends. When I’m not writing for SirDoggie, you’ll find me hiking, playing with my beautiful dog, or studying music.