French bulldogs get ear infections on a regular basis. In fact, Frenchies and chronic ear infections go hand-in-hand.
The shape of their ears makes it easy for water or foreign objects to get pushed and trapped in their narrow ear canals.
Just giving your Frenchie a bath can be a challenge because of the risk of getting water in the ears. Some pet owners use shower caps during the process just to protect their dog’s ears from moisture.
Does your dog like to rub his face and ears over the furniture, floor, or ground? That doesn’t help matters.
Dust, pieces of fabric, small twigs, pebbles, and grass seeds, and dirt are just a handful of environmental objects that can get stuck in the French bulldog’s ear.
Can you treat a French bulldog’s ear infection at home?
Chronic ear infections are a problem for your dog and your wallet. The question is, can you treat ear infections in dogs at home? We’ll talk about that later in the post, but the answer is both “yes” and “no”.
Keep reading to learn more about ear infections in French bulldogs.
This guide is designed to help pet owners understand the causes, treatment, and prevention of ear infections in French bulldogs.
We’ll talk about things you can do at home after a diagnosis of bacterial or fungal ear infection.
Anatomy of a French Bulldog’s Ear Canal
French bulldogs, like other brachycephalic breeds, have a unique head shape. Their short snout and wide, flattened skull affect the structure of their ear canals. This makes them more prone to ear infections.
The ear canals of French bulldogs are shorter and more horizontal than those of dogs with longer snouts. This means that their ear canals don’t allow for proper circulation. This can lead to a buildup of moisture and bacteria in the ear canal.
Additionally, their ear canals are usually narrower and twisted. This makes it hard for debris and wax to be removed naturally.
Unfortunately, the problems don’t stop there. The skin folds around their ears can trap moisture and bacteria, creating an ideal environment for ear infections.
Unique Causes of Ear Infections in French Bulldogs
It’s not uncommon for dogs with floppy ears (basset hounds and cocker spaniels, for example) to develop ear infections. If the ears are not wiped dry after swimming or bathing, moisture gets trapped inside. This makes an ideal breeding ground for bacteria and yeast growth.
The issues are a little more complicated with French bulldogs and the main reason has to do with the shape of their heads.
1. Ear Mites (Otodectes cynotis)
Ear mites are microscopic parasites that infest the outer ear. These tiny parasites wriggle around in your dog’s ears, leaving your dog scratching and pawing at his ears.
Unfortunately, mites are very contagious between animals. If left untreated, ear mites can lead to bacterial infection, partial or total deafness in dogs.
Signs of ear mites in dogs include:
- Intense itch
- Head shaking (severe head shaking can lead to ear hematomas)
- Scratching (pawing) at the face and ears
- Discharge from the ear that looks like coffee grounds.
- Redness in or around the ears
It’s important to have a veterinarian make the diagnosis of ear mites.
Signs of ear mites in dogs are similar to signs of other ear problems, like yeast infections. Using ear mite medications on a yeast infestation can make the problem worse.
Watch the following video on natural remedies for ear mites in dogs:
2. Foreign Bodies
Dogs often encounter things like grass seeds, dirt, or sand that can get trapped in their ears. It doesn’t take a large amount for this to happen.
Unfortunately, because of the shape of the Frenchie’s ears (and narrow canal) it can be difficult to clear these items out of the ear canal. You likely won’t even know there’s anything in the ear canal until the dog develops signs of an ear infection.
While it’s not common for dogs to develop tumors in their ears that lead to ear infections, it can happen. Tumors in the ear canal can cause inflammation, pain, discharge, and other symptoms that mimic ear infections.
In some cases, tumors can cause ear infections by blocking the ear canal and preventing proper drainage.
The incidence of ear tumors varies depending on the breed, age, and sex of the dog.
Any growths or abnormalities in your dog’s ears should be evaluated by a veterinarian.
The veterinarian can perform a physical examination, take a sample of any discharge or tissue for testing, and perform imaging tests to determine the cause of the problem.
Early detection and treatment of tumors in the ear can improve the chances of a successful outcome.
4. Environmental Allergies (Atopic Allergic Dermatitis)
Environmental allergies can cause ear infections in dogs. This is due to the inflammation and irritation they cause in the skin of the ear canal.
Unfortunately, French bulldogs are prone to several common environmental allergies.
According to the American Kennel Club, 50% of dogs with allergic skin disease wind up with ear disease. Another 80% of dogs with food allergies end up with ear infections.
How do allergies cause ear infections in dogs?
When people have allergies, they sneeze. When dogs have allergies, their skin becomes itchy. This is known as “atopy” and it’s something that French bulldogs often have. The feet, belly, folds of the skin, and ears are typically affected.
When the skin in the ear becomes inflamed and itchy, the dog may damage the skin through excessive scratching. As the skin barrier breaks down, wax production increases in the ear canal.
This overproduction of wax gets trapped in the narrow ear canal of the French bulldog. According to Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, “Accumulation of ear wax, skin oil, and other debris feed the bacteria and fungi that live in the normal ear canal.”
The result? A painful, intensely itchy ear infection.
Allergic skin disease commonly causes the over-production of ear wax. Yeast infection is the most common type of ear infection in dogs. This yeast overgrowth creates a brown or gray ear discharge. It’s very itchy and smells foul.
5. Endocrine Issues & Autoimmune Disorders
Endocrine disorders affect the normal functioning of one or more glands in the endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for producing hormones that regulate bodily functions, including the immune system.
Hormonal imbalances caused by endocrine disorders can affect the immune system’s ability to fight off infections. In some cases, it can leave your dog more prone to ear infections.
Endocrine disorders that can contribute to ear infections in dogs:
- Cushing’s disease
- Diabetes mellitus
6. Poor Hygiene
It’s essential for French bulldog owners to regularly clean their dog’s ears to prevent ear infections. The accumulation of wax build-up can lead to ear infections in dogs.
While cleaning your dog’s ears is important, it’s just as important not to over-clean their ears. This is because over-cleaning can lead to infection and irritation.
According to the Merck Veterinary Manual, a dog’s ears should be kept dry and well ventilated. You can use topical astringents, particularly in dogs that swim regularly.
Use a cotton-ball or gauze to gently wipe any visible debris away from your dog’s ear.
Squeeze a veterinarian-approved ear cleaning solution gently into your dog’s ear canal. You’ll need to gently massage the base of the ear to help the product remove debris and wax buildup.
Be prepared to stand back when you release your hand so that your dog can give his head a good shake.
Check and clean away and more debris that was dislodged. When cleaning your dog’s ear canal, never let your finger go deeper than one knuckle.
If your dog seems to be in pain during this process, stop.
TIP: Don’t let the tip of the bottom touch your dog’s ear because it can introduce bacteria.
Too much hair inside the ear may cause bacteria to build-up, leading to an ear infection.
Common Signs of an Ear Infection in Dogs
Ear infections in dogs can be bacterial or fungal in nature. As a result, your dog may not show all of the following symptoms.
If your dog has been really scratching his or her ears, doing a lot of intense head shaking, and appears uncomfortable, have a look in the ear for signs of an infection.
Signs can include all or some of the following:
- Loss of balance
- Foul odor (may signify a yeast infection)
- Head shaking
- Redness in the ear
- Itchy ears
- Discharge from the ear the looks like coffee grounds
- Bloody discharge
- Dog rubs his ear(s) on the floor or furniture.
- Scabs just inside the ear
- Inflammation of the ear
Types of Ear Infections in Dogs
There are 3 different kinds of ear infections including the following:
Inner ear infections (otitis interna)
Otitis interna is the least common ear infection in dogs. This is a serious condition that can leave a dog with balance problems, head tilting, and deafness.
Middle ear infections (otitis media)
Otitis media is less common in dogs and affects that middle ear. It can be caused by a bacterial infection that spreads from the external ear canal.
Outer ear infections (otitis externa)
Otitis externa is the most common ear infection in dogs. It affects the middle air and can be caused by a bacterial infection that spreads from the external ear canal.
This type of infection is often caused by allergies or parasites.
Complications of Severe and Chronic Ear Infections in Dogs
Ear infections are uncomfortable enough, but if the infection isn’t treated or persists, it can lead to other problems.
Left untreated, ear infections can cause serious health issues including the following:
Hematomas develop when dogs shake their heads vigorously. When they do this, blood vessels in the earflap can rupture. Once a blood vessel ruptures, it bleeds into the tissues of the pinna (ear flap).
The result is a blood blister that can vary in size and appearance. These are more likely to occur in dogs with floppy ears. French bulldogs are not especially prone to hematomas.
Balance and Coordination Issues
Dogs with an inner ear infection may develop a head tilt toward the side of the affected ear. This can completely alter your dog’s sense of balance. It may cause your dog to walk properly.
Some dogs will lean or even fall toward the side of the infected ear.
Whining, scratching, and head shaking are a few telltale signs that your dog has an ear infection. Ear infections are painful for dogs
Facial paralysis can occur in dogs with internal ear infections (otitis interna). This can happen if the facial nerve becomes damaged due to the infection.
Signs of facial nerve damage in dogs include:
- Difficulty eating
- Dropping food
- Unable to blink.
- Develop dry eye (keratoconjunctivitis sicca)
- Develop signs of Horner’s syndrome
- Long-term paralysis may cause the face to twist.
- Reluctance to move.
- Dog’s head may swing from side to side (even at rest)
- Nystagmus (short and rapid side-to-side movement of the eyes)
Chronic ear infections can cause the epithelium lining of the ear canal to thicken. In other words, the ear reacts to the frequent infections by creating a shield.
Chronic hyperplasia causes irreversible calcification of the ear. As a result, dogs may experience full or partial hearing loss.
Persistent ear infections can damage the ear canal. Scarring of the ear can lead to calcification (full of calcium deposits). This can happen after years of ear infections and inflammation. Sadly, calcification is irreversible.
Permanent scarring and narrowing of the ear canal can cause varying degrees of deafness in dogs.
Treating Ear Infections in French Bulldogs
Once a diagnosis is made, the veterinarian will clean your dog’s ears with medicated ear drops. The vet may prescribe something to clean your dog’s ear along with a topical medication that you administer from home.
Ultimately, the treatment plan depends on the underlying cause of the ear infection. If your dog has scratched the skin around his or her ears, the veterinarian may prescribe oral antibiotics to avoid further infection.
How long does it take an ear infection to get better?
If treated in the early stages, a dog’s ear infection usually starts to clear up in a week or two.
If the ear infection is severe or caused by an underlying condition, it could take much longer. Sometimes, more severe cases result in chronic or repeated ear infections throughout your dog’s life.
Read More About French Bulldog’s!
Can I treat my French bulldog’s ear infection at home?
It’s not a good idea to start treating a dog’s ear infection from home using natural methods or over-the-counter medicated drops until a veterinarian has seen your dog.
The reason for this is because the vet needs to determine whether your dog has an ear infection or whether something else is going on.
If there is an infection, the veterinarian will want to find out the cause and whether there is an underlying condition that should be treated.
Once all those things have been determined, you can ask the veterinarian about less expensive at-home options for treating your dog’s discomfort.
Preventing Ear Infections in French Bulldogs
The best way to treat an ear infection is to prevent it in the first place. The following are some best-practices for helping your dog avoid painful ear infections.
Clean the ears.
As mentioned earlier in this post, it’s important to remove any visual signs of ear wax or debris from your dog’s ears.
Watch the following video to the end to learn how to safely clean your dog’s ears
Flea, Tick, and Heartworm Preventatives
Other topical options include topical medications used to prevent flea, tick, and heart worm infestations. The reason is because they contain ingredients known to kill ear mites.
These products usually contain one of the following ingredients:
Product names you may recognize include Revolution, Nexgard, Bravecto, and Simparica.
Will an ear infection clear up on its own?
Bacterial ear infections will not clear up on their own. Untreated ear infections can lead to permanent damage.
Untreated ear infections can lead to pain and hearing loss in dogs.
Ear infections are a nuisance and a major issue for some dogs. Pain and constant discomfort do nothing to help a dog’s quality of life. Sometimes, despite a pet owner’s best efforts, dogs will continue to get ear infections throughout their life.
French bulldogs are especially prone to ear infections. This means owners need to remain vigilant about keeping their ears clean and reporting any signs of an infection to a veterinarian asap. The earlier an ear infection is treated, the better the outcome.
“Ear Mites in Dogs | Treatment and Symptoms | Blue Cross.” Blue Cross, www.bluecross.org.uk/advice/dog/health-and-injuries/ear-mites-in-dogs. Accessed 10 May 2023.
“Ear Mites in Dogs.” Small Door Veterinary, www.smalldoorvet.com/learning-center/medical/ear-mites-in-dogs. Accessed 10 May 2023.
“Yes, You Should Worry About Ear Mites | Animal Clinic of St. George.” Animal Clinic of St. George, 23 Sept. 2019, animalclinicofstgeorge.com/yes-you-should-worry-about-ear-mites.
DVM, Elizabeth Racine. “Dog Ear Infections: Symptoms, Causes, Treatment, and Prevention.” American Kennel Club, www.akc.org/expert-advice/health/dog-ear-infections. Accessed 10 May 2023.