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French Bulldog Ear Infections: Frequency and Signs to Look For


Mar 3, 2023
vet checking french bulldog ears


vet checking french bulldog ears

Are your French Bulldog’s ears always dirty and smelly? Does your dog scratch their ears often? If this sounds familiar, chances are that your four-legged friend is suffering from an ear infection.

Dogs with ear infections tend to shake their heads and scratch their ears excessively. You might also see your dog rubbing their face against the floor or furniture or keeping their head down. If you look into your dog’s ears, you will usually see redness and inflammation. In some cases, the ears will have brown, foul-smelling deposits. When touched, your dog’s ears will be warmer than usual and sometimes painful (your dog will not allow you to handle their ears).

The causes of ear infections are varied, so a consultation with the vet is vital. Postponing the treatment can lead to complications, such as othematoma (ear hematoma), balance problems, and even hearing impairment and neurological issues.


What Is an Ear Infection?

The ear is part of the system of analyzers and organs of perception, being responsible for one of the most important senses, hearing. It has three large anatomical portions delimited by two membranes. The three segments of the ear are external, middle, and internal ear.

Otitis (ear infection) is an inflammation located at the auricular level that usually affects the external portion of the ear and, less often, the middle or internal portion. Ear infections can be acute or chronic and affect one ear (unilateral) or both ears (bilateral).

The French bulldog is a brachycephalic breed, which means they have nearly equal longitudinal and transverse skull diameters. These breeds show anatomical changes in the external auditory canal, which make it narrower than in most other breeds. For this reason, otoscopic examination is usually difficult or even impossible.

Brachycephalic breeds are also more prone to otitis externa and media1. Otitis is one of the most frequent disorders recorded in French bulldogs. Studies also show2 that French bulldogs have a higher chance of otitis externa than crossbreeds.

In other words, ear infections in French bulldogs are common and mostly due to the narrowing of the ear canal. The movement of the epithelial cells of the ear and wax should be a normal upward movement (that brings them to the surface). The normal external auditory canal has a natural self-cleaning mechanism. In French bulldogs, this movement is downward, and the cellular debris and wax reach deep into the ear, leading to ear infections.

woman cleaning french bulldog ears
Image Credit: ADVTP, Shutterstock

What Are the Signs of Ear Infections?

Dogs with otitis are typically easy to spot. They will present specific clinical signs that include:

  • Excessive wax in the ear
  • Pain to the touch
  • Redness of the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Black or brown discharge, sometimes pus
  • Bad smell
  • Inclined position of the head
  • Yelping
  • Refusal to eat
  • Occasionally, vomiting

Dogs with otitis will shake their heads repeatedly and scratch the affected ear. If the pain is severe, your dog will not let you touch their ear and may even become aggressive. Sometimes your dog will sneeze, have a runny nose, and tilt their head to one side. In other cases, your pet may exhibit repetitive movements of the eyes, from right to left. They may even appear disoriented.

Otitis can lead to severe complications if it is left untreated.

black and white french bulldog lying on the floor
Image Credit: Patryk Kosmider, Shutterstock

Ear Infections Complications

Repeated and/or chronic ear infections can damage the blood vessels of the earlobe as the dog scratches and shakes the affected ear. As a result, the ear swells and an othematoma can occur, which is an accumulation of blood between the skin and cartilage layers of the ear. It usually occurs in breeds with floppy ears.

In some cases, untreated ear infections can cause the ear canal to thicken and even become blocked. If the condition is left untreated, the external infection can lead to otitis media or interna and later, to neurological problems.

In rare cases, the infection can reach the area of the brain responsible for breathing and heart rate. An untreated ear infection can also permanently affect balance and lead to deafness.

What Are the Causes of Ear Infections?

The anatomical conformation of dogs’ ears favors the development of otitis, as the auditory canal is long and “L” shaped. The causes of ear infections are multiple and include the following.

  • Breed predisposition: French Bulldogs are more prone to ear infections because they have a narrow ear canal. Infections can occur as early as a few weeks old.
  • Parasites: Ear mites can lead to infections and high wax production. They are more common in puppies than adult dogs.
  • Foreign bodies: They can cause intense pain and increase the likelihood of infection.
  • Allergies: These occur when your dog’s immune system overreacts to the presence of a certain substance. Allergies to mites, molds, pollen, and animal proteins from dog food are common and can lead to allergic otitis. In addition, the existence of an allergy increases the risk of bacterial or fungal infection.
  • Excessive hair growth inside the ear canal: The moisture maintained by the hair can create a favorable environment for the development of bacteria and the appearance of infections.
  • Inadequate cleaning of your dog’s ears: Overcleaning can cause irritation, but poor cleaning can lead to excessive buildup; both lead to bacteria growth.
  • Fungi and bacteria: Since dogs sweat excessively in the ear area, pathogenic microorganisms can develop and cause an infection.
  • Tumor: A tumor in the ear canal can narrow it and favor the development of microorganisms.
a blue fawn french bulldog
Image Credit: Firn, Shutterstock

How Do I Care for a French Bulldog With an Ear Infection?

You are probably wondering what medicines you can give your dog when they have an ear infection. Without knowing the specific type of infection present, however, it is not possible to know which medicine to use. Several types of bacteria and at least one type of fungus can cause ear infections. Sometimes, the problem is a foreign body, a polyp, or a tumor, and in these situations, the treatment is more complex than ear drops containing antibiotics.

It is crucial for your dog to be examined by a vet to ensure that their eardrum is intact (infections can perforate the eardrum). Certain medications can lead to hearing loss if the eardrum is perforated. The vet will collect a sample from the auricular secretion to determine the pathogen causing the infection.

Your dog’s evaluation will include identifying the underlying disease if applicable. Many dogs with certain diseases (e.g., allergies or hypothyroidism) also have chronic or recurrent ear infections. If the vet suspects an underlying disease, they must diagnose and treat it. Otherwise, your pet will continue to have chronic ear problems.

In extreme cases, chronic ear infections in French Bulldogs must be treated with surgery. This procedure changes the shape of the ear to reduce the risk of recurrent infections. However, this method is not popular, and vets generally treat ear infections with medication. The treatment includes cleaning the ears and applying ear drops (antibiotics, antiparasitics, or antifungals). In cases where the infection is generalized, the vet may prescribe general antibiotics, recommend that you bathe your dog with special shampoo, etc.

french bulldog lying down on the floor
Image Credit: Mylene2401, Pixabay

How to Apply Ear Drops

Applying drops in your dog’s ears is not complicated. Here’s what you have to do:

  • Lift your dog’s ears slightly.
  • Apply a small amount of medicine to the infected ear canal (two to three drops/ear).
  • Hold up their ear for a few seconds.
  • Gently massage the base of the ear between your thumb and forefinger for the solution to lubricate the ear canal.
  • After a minute, wipe off the excess on the outer ear with a cotton ball.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How Do I Know If My Dog’s Ear Infection Is Serious?

Ear infections become serious when they start to cause discomfort for your dog. When the ear infection is advanced, you will notice the following clinical signs: excessive scratching, shaking of the head, and yelping, along with a bad smell and dark discharge. Take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice one or more of these signs because ear infections can lead to severe complications.

close up of french bulldog dog being held by veterinarian doctor at vet clinic
Image Credit: Hryshchyshen Serhii, Shutterstock

Why Does My French Bulldog Keep Getting Ear Infections?

French Bulldogs can develop ear infections as early as a few weeks old. This happens due to their head anatomy and narrow ear canals. This breed is also more prone to allergies and endocrine disorders (hypothyroidism or Cushing’s disease), which can cause secondary ear infections. Take your dog to a specialist if they frequently develop ear infections.



Ear infections in French Bulldogs are common. Due to the anatomical shape of their head and narrow auditory canals, this breed can develop otitis from an early age. Besides breed predisposition, other causes of ear infections include parasites, foreign bodies, allergies, or tumors. The clinical signs are specific, and you should take your dog to the vet as soon as you notice them to avoid complications.

Featured Image Credit:135pixels, Shutterstock

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