Ear Infections in Curly-Coated Retrievers: Causes and Symptoms

Ever noticed how our curly-coated retriever friends have this adorable way of tilting their heads when they’re trying to figure out where a sound is coming from? It’s one of those endearing traits that make us love them even more. But did you know those cute, curly ears are also more susceptible to ear infections?

Yeah, it’s a bummer, but it’s crucial to be aware of. Ear infections can be pretty uncomfortable for our furry pals, and if left untreated, they could lead to more serious health issues. That’s why we’re here today to delve into the world of ear infections in curly-coated retrievers.

We’ll explore what causes these infections, how to spot the telltale signs, and how we can help our four-legged friends stay happy, healthy, and ready to chase their tails or a favorite ball. Ready to become your dog’s number-one health advocate? Let’s get started!

Anatomy of a Dog’s Ear

Your dog’s ear is like a mini, intricate cave system. It’s not just the fluffy part we see and love to scratch behind. It actually consists of three main sections – the outer ear (the part we can see), the middle ear, and the inner ear (both hidden deep inside).

Now, unlike our simple, straight ear canal, dogs have an ‘L’ shaped one. Imagine it like a wind tunnel that goes down vertically and then takes a sharp turn inward. This unique shape makes it a perfect hideout for bacteria, yeast, and other pesky things that cause infections.

The plot thickens with our curly-coated retrievers. Their beautiful, curly hair doesn’t just cover their bodies; it also grows in their ears. While it adds to their charm, it can also trap moisture, dirt, and debris inside the ear canal. Think of it as creating a cozy, warm environment that bacteria and yeast absolutely love!

Plus, those adorable curls can reduce airflow into their ears, keeping the area damp and warm – again, a dream come true for infection-causing organisms.

Causes of Ear Infections in Curly-Coated Retrievers

ear infections in curly-coated retrievers

Like we just said, our curly-coated retriever friends are more susceptible to ear infections due to the shape of their ear canal and all that hair. But other factors can increase the risk of developing an ear infection.

Endocrine Disorders

So, you know how humans can have hormone issues, like thyroid problems? Well, our curly-coated retriever pals can experience something similar. It’s called an endocrine disorder, and it can cause ear infections. Surprising, right?

Now, the endocrine system is like the body’s chemical messenger service. It comprises glands that produce hormones to regulate everything – from growth and metabolism to mood and reproduction. One key player in this system is the thyroid gland.

When the thyroid gland gets a bit out of whack – either producing too much or too little hormone – it can lead to a condition known as thyroid disease. This can throw a lot of things off balance in the body, including the immune system.

You see, a healthy immune system is a critical line of defense against infections, including those in the ears. When a dog has thyroid disease, its immune system may not function as well as it should. This can leave our curly-coated retrievers more susceptible to ear infections.

Ear Mites

Ear mites are tiny parasites that love to hang out in the warm, dark environment of a dog’s ear canal. Picture them as microscopic squatters setting up camp inside those cute, curly ears. Not a pleasant thought, is it?

These little critters feed on the oils and wax in your dog’s ear canal. Now, this doesn’t just make them a nuisance but can also lead to inflammation and, you guessed it, infections.

You see, as the mites feast and multiply, they can irritate the ear canal. This irritation can then lead to an inflammatory response from the dog’s body. And where there’s inflammation, there’s often an increased chance of secondary infections – because the body is busy dealing with the invaders and might be unable to fend off bacteria as effectively as usual.


So, here’s the deal. When a dog has an allergy, its body reacts to a usually harmless substance as if it’s harmful. This could be anything from a specific food, to dust mites, to grass. The immune system goes into overdrive trying to ‘fight off’ this perceived threat.

Now, one of the ways a dog’s body might react is by producing more ear wax than usual. Think of it as the body’s misguided attempt to trap and get rid of the allergen. But, while it means well, this increased wax can cause problems.

Why? Well, because all this extra wax can clog up the ear canal. It’s like a traffic jam in there. And this blockage creates a warm, moist environment that’s a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast – the main culprits behind ear infections.

So, while allergies might seem unrelated to ear health at first glance, they can be a hidden cause of ear infections in our curly-coated retrievers.

Foreign Bodies

In the medical world, a foreign body is any object that ends up where it shouldn’t be. And for our curly-coated retrievers, those objects can sometimes find their way into those cute, curly ears and cause some trouble.

Imagine you’re a dog having a blast at the park, racing through tall grass, sniffing out all the intriguing scents, and maybe even digging a hole or two. Now picture a tiny grass seed, dirt, or a small insect hitching a ride back home in your ear without you noticing. That’s a foreign body!

Once inside the ear, these foreign bodies can cause irritation and inflammation. Think about how annoying it is when you have something stuck in your shoe; now imagine that feeling in your ear! This inflammation can then make the ear more susceptible to infections.

Plus, remember the unique ‘L’ shape of a dog’s ear canal? This makes it harder for any foreign bodies to find their way back out. So they can hang around causing problems until they’re physically removed.

Excessive Cleaning

The truth is, our canine friends need very little help in keeping their ears clean and healthy. In fact, too much cleaning can actually be harmful. How so? Well, it can disrupt the delicate balance of bacteria and wax that exists inside a dog’s ear canal.

That’s why gentle cleaning using specific products designed for dogs is important – to remove any dirt or debris that might be present without causing any damage.

And this is especially true for our curly-coated retrievers, as excessive cleaning could push wax and bacteria further inside the ear canal – creating a cozy environment where infections can easily take hold. So it’s best to leave the ears alone unless visible dirt or debris needs to be removed.

Autoimmune Disorders

Autoimmune disorders occur when the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks its own tissues. This can happen with any type of dog, but it’s especially common in certain breeds – including our curly-co retrievers.

An autoimmune disorder means that a dog’s immune system constantly works overtime to attack ‘foreign’ cells. And this can take away from its ability to fight off infections.

This is why dogs with autoimmune diseases are more likely to suffer from ear infections. It’s also why these pups often need regular doses of medication and other treatments to manage their condition and reduce the risk of secondary infections.

Injury To The Ear Canal

Even a small ear canal injury can increase your dog’s risk of an infection. That’s because any damage to the delicate tissues in there can create portals for bacteria and yeast to enter.

It could be something as simple as repeated tugging on those floppy ears, aggressive cleaning with cotton swabs, or maybe even an insect bite – but, whatever the cause, it’s important to be aware that injuries can lead to infections. So it’s best to take extra care with those cute ears!

Symptoms of Ear Infections in Curly-Coated Retrievers

ear infections in curly-coated retrievers

Now that we know what can cause ear infections let’s look at some signs and symptoms that could indicate an infection is present.

Scratching and Rubbing of the Ear and Head

This is often the first clue. If your dog seems to be pawing at their ear more than usual or rubbing their head against the furniture, it’s as if they’re sending you a Morse code message: “My ear feels funny!”

Odor in the Ear

Now, onto clue number two. Dogs have their own unique smell – a doggy odor we all know and love. But if you notice a strong, unpleasant smell coming specifically from their ear, that’s a sign something might be up. It’s like the dog’s ear is a little kitchen, and something is cooking that definitely doesn’t smell appetizing.


If your dog’s ear looks redder than usual, this could be a sign of inflammation – the body’s natural response to an infection. It’s like the body’s way of putting up a “Road Closed” sign while it tries to deal with the problem.


Swelling is another sign the body is responding to an infection. Imagine it as the body sending in extra troops to fight off the invaders, causing the area to puff up.


Finally, if you notice a yellow, brown, or bloody substance coming from your dog’s ear, this is a pretty clear sign of an infection. The body attempts to evict the unwanted guests causing the infection.

Now, spotting these symptoms in curly-coated retrievers requires a keen eye. Their beautiful curls can sometimes hide what’s going on inside the ear. So, you might need to part the hair to get a good look gently.

By knowing these signs, you’re well-equipped to catch any potential ear infections early.

The Impact of Ear Infections on a Curly-Coated Retriever’s Life

Ear infections can have quite an impact on a curly-coated retriever’s life, especially if left untreated. Much like having a constant itch you can’t scratch or a song stuck in your head that won’t leave, it’s an ongoing annoyance that can really bring down their spirits.

One of the most immediate impacts is discomfort and pain. Imagine how you feel when you have an ear infection – it’s not pleasant, right? Now think about how much more acute a dog’s senses are, including their sense of hearing. This discomfort can lead to changes in behavior, such as increased irritability or decreased appetite.

Untreated ear infections can also lead to hearing loss over time. This can be a significant blow for a dog whose hearing is essential for understanding its environment. It’s like being at a party where everyone else can hear the music and join in the dance, but they can’t.

Repeated ear infections can cause the tissue in the ear to become thickened and scarred, which can further reduce hearing and make future infections more likely. It’s a bit like a snowball effect – one problem leads to another, which leads to another, and so on.

Additionally, constant shaking and scratching due to discomfort can lead to physical injuries. Picture your dog shaking their head so hard that they end up with a blood blister, known as an aural hematoma, on their ear flap. These often require surgical intervention.

Finally, the body’s effort to fight repeated infections can affect your dog’s overall health. It’s like running a marathon without any training – eventually, their body will start to feel the strain.

So, while an ear infection might seem minor at first, it can have a major impact on a curly-coated retriever’s quality of life if left untreated. But remember, we have the power to prevent this by paying attention to the signs and getting appropriate treatment as soon as possible!

How To Treat Ear Infections in Curly-Coated Retrievers

Treating ear infections in our curly-coated retrievers is all about getting the right help, using the right tools, and following the right steps.

First and foremost, if you suspect your curly-coated retriever has an ear infection, it’s important to consult with a veterinarian. They can accurately diagnose the issue and recommend the best course of treatment. It’s like having a trusted guide on this journey toward your dog’s recovery.

Depending on whether the infection is caused by bacteria or yeast, the vet might prescribe antibiotics or anti-fungal ear drops. Think of these drops as the special forces sent in to tackle the problem head-on.

Your vet may also prescribe oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications if the infection is severe. These work from the inside out, helping your dog’s body fight off the infection and reduce inflammation.

Cleaning your dog’s ears regularly is also a key part of treatment. However, it’s crucial to use a vet-recommended cleaner and follow their instructions. Some substances, like vinegar or peroxide, can actually leave the ears too wet and promote bacterial growth, while others, like alcohol, can be too harsh and irritate the ears.

And remember those pesky foreign bodies we talked about? If one of those is causing the infection, the vet will need to remove it.

Ways To Prevent Ear Infections

ear infections in curly-coated retrievers

Prevention is always better than cure, so let’s look at a few ways to help our curly-coated retrievers avoid ear infections.

Regular Ear Checks

Regular ear checks are like routine health check-ups for your curly-coated retriever’s ears. They are crucial in preventing ear infections and ensuring your furry friend’s overall health.

Now, you might be wondering, “What exactly does a regular ear check involve?” Well, it’s all about taking a good look (and smell!) inside your dog’s ears regularly. You’re essentially playing detective, looking for any early signs of trouble.

When you do an ear check, you’re looking for things like redness, swelling, or any unusual discharge. If your dog’s ear seems to be more red or swollen than usual, or if there’s a strange substance in their ear, these could be signs of an infection.

And don’t forget to use your nose as well – a strong, unpleasant odor can often be a telltale sign of an ear infection. It’s like having a superpower – your sense of smell can help you detect problems before they become serious!

By doing these regular checks, you can spot any potential issues early on and get them treated before they develop into a full-blown infection. It’s a proactive approach to your curly-coated retriever’s ear health and one of the best ways to prevent ear infections.

Keep Those Ears Clean

Ear cleaning helps remove any wax, dirt, or debris buildup. It’s kind of like doing a little spring cleaning in there. This isn’t just about hygiene; it’s also about creating an environment that’s less inviting for bacteria and yeast. They love to grow in warm, moist, dirty places – so a clean, dry ear is much less appealing to them.

When cleaning your dog’s ears, it’s important to use a vet-approved cleaner and follow their instructions carefully. Some home remedies or over-the-counter products may be too harsh or inadvertently create a more favorable environment for infections.

Gently wipe around the outer part of the ear and only go as far into the ear canal as your finger easily reaches. Never use a cotton swab or anything similar, as this can push debris further into the ear or even damage the ear canal.

If you’re unsure how to properly clean your dog’s ears, here’s a video training guide.

Dry Ears After Swimming or Baths

If your retriever loves to swim (and let’s face it, most of them do!), be sure to dry their ears thoroughly afterward. The same goes for baths. Moisture trapped in the ear canal can create a perfect environment for infections to thrive. It’s like leaving a damp towel in a gym bag – things can get pretty funky pretty fast!

So, what’s the best way to dry your dog’s ears? Gently pat them dry with a soft towel, absorbing as much water as possible. If your dog will tolerate it, you can also use a hair dryer on the lowest and coolest setting to dry the inside of the ears gently. It’s like giving your dog a mini spa treatment!

Regular Vet Visits

Regular vet visits are also key. Your vet can spot any early signs of an infection and give advice on preventative care. During these check-ups, your vet will likely take a peek into your dog’s ears to check for any signs of inflammation, redness, or discharge. It’s kind of like having a top-notch detective on your team, spotting clues you might miss. If there are early signs of an infection, they can catch them before they escalate into a bigger problem.

Your vet can also provide tailored advice on ear care based on your curly-coated retriever’s specific needs. For example, they might recommend a particular type of ear cleaner or give you tips on how often to clean your dog’s ears. It’s like getting a personalized care plan for your furry friend’s ears!

Plus, if your dog has had ear infections before, regular vet visits can help monitor their condition and prevent recurrence. It’s all about staying one step ahead of the game.

Address Underlying Health Conditions

Finally, if your curly-coated retriever has any underlying health conditions like allergies or hormonal imbalances that could increase their risk of ear infections, work with your vet to manage these. It’s all about tackling the root cause rather than just treating the symptoms.

So there you have it – by taking these preventative steps, we can help ensure our curly-coated retrievers’ ears stay as healthy and infection-free as possible. It’s all part of being a super responsible and caring dog parent!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Can I treat my dog’s ear infection myself?

A: While some ear infections can be treated at home, it’s best to consult a veterinarian before attempting any treatments. The vet will be able to determine the root cause of the infection and provide you with tailored advice on how to treat it. For serious or recurrent infections, they may also recommend antibiotics or other medications.

Q: What causes rod bacteria in dogs’ ears?

A: Rod bacteria, or rod-shaped bacterial cells, are one of the most common causes of ear infections in dogs. These bacteria can enter the ear canal through excessive moisture (such as after swimming or bathing) or from foreign objects like grass awns that become lodged in the ears. Allergies and underlying health conditions can also increase your dog’s risk of developing an infection.

Q: Is the other retriever breed, like the Chesapeake Bay retriever, also prone to ear infections?

A: Unfortunately, ear infections are common among canines, and the Chesapeake Bay Retriever is no exception. But what about other retriever breeds? Are they also prone to this pesky problem? Well, it’s important to note that each breed of dog is unique, with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. While the Chesapeake may be prone to ear infections, other retriever breeds may not be affected similarly. That being said, it’s always a good idea to look for any signs of ear trouble and seek veterinary assistance if necessary. After all, ensuring your dog’s health and happiness is worth any amount of effort.

Q: Why are my golden retriever puppy’s ears so flappy?

A: Golden Retrievers are known for their floppy ears, partly due to the shape of their head and ear canal. The long, pendulous ears help keep dirt and debris out of the delicate inner ear and can even act as a cooling system on hot days. As your puppy grows older, his ears will likely become even floppier as the cartilage inside them develops. While it may look a bit funny, there’s no cause for concern – this is just your pup’s way of being cute and cuddly!

Q: What types of dog ear infections are most common?

A: The most common types of ear infections in dogs include otitis externa (inflammation of the outer ear canal), otitis media (middle-ear infection), and deafness caused by chronic middle-ear infections. Otitis externa is often caused by bacterial or fungal organisms, while a bacterial or viral infection usually causes otitis media. In both cases, prompt and proper veterinary care is the key to successful treatment.

Final Words

It’s clear that ear infections are no joke when it comes to our furry friends. As owners of curly-coated retrievers, it’s important to stay vigilant and proactive in preventing these pesky infections. Regular cleaning, proper grooming, and swift action when we notice any symptoms can make all the difference in our furry friend’s health and happiness.

However, if your pup does happen to experience an ear infection, don’t panic! With the right treatment and care, they can be managed and even prevented in the future. Remember to always consult with your vet and give your pup all the love and attention they deserve – they’ll thank you with endless tail wags and slobbery kisses.

About Tom Thorpe

Tom Thorpe has overtime interacted with different species of dogs mostly through breeding and training; according to him, man’s best friend is yet to find solace in the company of man, as they are continuously mistreated. He, therefore, runs a rescue center that provides shelter to stray dogs, and has been advocating for the rights of animals; the Golden Retriever dogs are among his favorites, the reason he came up with the extensive excerpts to help educate the society on the right treatment and care of the respective breed. Tom spends most of his time running his dog shelter; he is a husband and proud father of two boys and loves to go fishing during his free time.

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