Swimmer’s Ear & Your Dog

4 min read
Jan 10, 2022

Commonly referred to as Swimmer’s Ear, many humans can relate to the pain, burning, and itching in the ears after a day of swimming. For some, it can be unpleasant, but for others, downright painful!

Typically, drying ear drops and a little ibuprofen solve the problem for our species, but if not, it’s lounging poolside until the ear canal dries out and inflammation dies down. In severe cases, though, a doctor’s visit may be necessary.

Though common for pet parents to experience, did you know that your dog can also suffer from Swimmer’s Ear too? 

What is Swimmer’s Ear?

Like with many things, our pets just can’t tell us how uncomfortable they are when hurt or ill. Pets also do not understand what causes pain and may be eager to go dive right back into the source of their discomfort.

If your canine pal has Swimmer's Ear, they will commonly display clinical signs that you should recognize:

  • Pawing at ears or rubbing ears against your leg, the ground, or other objects
  • Head shaking
  • Whining
  • Restlessness

Ear infections can be common in dogs, and may often be the result of water from both bathing and swimming.

Now not all dogs that go swimming, or who get water in their ears during a sudsy bath, end up with swimmer’s ear, and not every ear infection is swimmer’s ear.

Often, dogs that do develop ear infections after swimming have any underlying allergy to food or something environmental – grass, trees, pollen. Additionally, dogs that have a bout with parasites, have a systemic immune-suppressive, or endocrine disorder or a tumor in the ear canal can be more prone to an infection. The allergies or conditions can cause underlying inflammation and an abundance of bacteria so that when water enters the ear canal during a bath or swimming, moisture increases which can result in the creation of infection.3

To help distinguish Swimmer’s Ear from another form of ear infection is to get to know your pet from snout-to-tail. Perform regular at-home checks, looking closely at the ears, and monitor your dog for patterns: Does your dog get infections year ‘round, or just during swimming season? Does your dog get bacterial skin infections on other parts of the body? Discuss any patterns or health concerns directly with your vet. 

Preventing Swimmer’s Ear

Dog’s with swimmer’s ear may have an underlying problem, such as an undiagnosed ear infection, a ruptured eardrum, or foreign body migration (like a foxtail) into the ear canal.

Being aware of your dog's symptoms and behavior is important so that you can avoid letting your furry friend swim if he or she has any health issues. Dogs that do swim, should have their ears flushed with a veterinary-approved ear wash after each swim to prevent infection. 

Thinking of trying a home remedy? There are home remedies, such as vinegar or oils, that can cause harm rather than being helpful for your pup.

Be sure to talk to your veterinarian to find out what is recommended for your unique pooch to prevent this pesky problem from ruining his or her summertime fun!    

Consider Investing in Dog Insurance  

Looking for more ways to keep your pup happy and healthy? Consider investing in a dog insurance policy with MetLife Pet Insurance.1  Get your free quote today. 

Protect your Dog

Enroll in 3 Easy Steps

Nothing in this article should be construed as financial, legal or veterinary advice. Please consult your own advisors for questions relating to your and your pet’s specific circumstances.

1 Swimmer’s Ear, Mayo Clinic
2 Author-conducted interview with Julie Reck, DVM, Co-Founder of Aspire, and Owner/Founder, Veterinary Medical Center of Ft. Mill, South Carolina, April 29, 2020
3 Underlying causes, VetzInsight, June 25, 2018,
4 Author-conducted interview with Liz Koskenmaki, DVM, April 23, 2020