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How Much Does It Cost to Treat a Dog Ear Infection at the Vet: 2024 Price Guide

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By Nicole Cosgrove

owner cleaning his dog ears

Taking your dog to the veterinarian is usually not a pleasant experience for the animal, but it’s vital to maintaining your pet’s health. Ear infections are, unfortunately, common issues with dogs, and early treatment can prevent the condition from worsening. Dogs have a longer ear canal than humans and more surface area for moisture, dirt, and debris to collect. Canines with smaller ear canals, like Bulldogs and Chow Chows, and breeds with floppy ears, like Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds, are more vulnerable to ear infections than other pups. If you want to know, how costly is treatment of this condition at the vet, the average cost of treatment, not including the examination cost, in the United States is $150, but it varies significantly between states.

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The Importance of Treating an Ear Infection

Ear infections are often painful to dogs and will not go away until the problem is adequately treated. DIY treatments from online articles and over-the-counter medications can be ineffective and even harmful to your pet. A magical liquid that cures every type of infection does not exist, and only a professional can diagnose the cause and offer treatment. Some dogs may require two types of medications, such as anti-fungal and antibiotics, to stop the infection, while other pups may only need an ear mite medication.

Otitis externa, the most common type seen in dogs, is an outer ear infection. Dogs can also have otitis media in the middle ear or otitis interna in the inner ear. If an outer ear infection is neglected and not treated promptly, the infection can spread to the middle or inner ear. Treating an outer ear issue is typically less expensive than treating otitis interna and may involve a visual inspection, an otoscope examination of the ear canal, ear swabbing for samples, analysis of ear cultures, and antibiotic or anti-fungal medication. Taking your pup to the doctor as soon as you notice signs is critical to resolving the animal’s suffering and preventing the infection from escalating.

pitbull dog check by vet
Image Credit: Andy Gin, Shutterstock

How Much Does Treating a Dog’s Ear Infection Cost?

The cost of an ear infection treatment depends on the severity of the condition, the overall health of the animal, and the geographical location of the vet’s office. The average cost of treatment, not including the examination cost, in the United States is $150, but it varies significantly between states. Although west coast residents typically pay more than Midwest or Eastern pet parents, the cost of living also plays a prominent role in the price. For instance, if you look at the two East Coast cities in the table below, you’ll see that the customer in Naples, Florida paid more for their dog’s treatment than the dog owner in Rocky Mount, North Carolina.

Naples has a population of around 21,812, and Rocky Mount’s population is 54,982. Bigger cities usually charge higher rates than small towns, but small towns with more wealth and higher living costs will charge more than larger towns like Rocky Mount, with a rural population and low cost of living. The dog owner from Racine, Washington, did not state the exact diagnosis but mentioned the dog received ear drops to treat the infection. That suggests that the treatment was not severe, but it’s difficult to determine if the dog had a similar problem as the patients in the East and Midwest.

Regardless of where you live, quality veterinary pet care can be pretty costly. A balanced pet insurance plan from a company like Lemonade to help you keep those costs under control.

Cost of Ear Infection Treatments in Different States

Location Diagnosis Cost
Rocky Mount, North Carolina Yeast Ear Infection $160.00
Naples, Florida Yeast Ear Infection $370.00
Springfield, Illinois Middle Ear Infection $308.00
Racine, Washington Ear Infection $390.00

Additional Costs to Anticipate

Depending on the type of ear infection, your dog may not recover fully for several days or weeks. After the dog’s initial treatment from the vet, the doctor will request another visit in a week to see how the treatment is working. You’ll have to pay for another checkup and possibly other costs if the vet has to perform additional tests such as X-rays or biopsies for severe conditions.

The costs, of course, will vary with each vet. In Los Angeles, California, you can expect to pay up to $250 for an X-ray and $269 for a biopsy. If your pet needs additional medication to treat an infection, the average cost of antibiotics is $30, and the average price of anti-fungal medication is $40.

If your dog has a chronic condition requiring total ear canal ablation with lateral bulla osteotomy (TECA), you’ll spend a few thousand dollars on the surgery. The procedure removes a section of the ear canal to stop the infection. A veterinary hospital in Walton Beach, Florida charges $3,300 for unilateral surgery and $4,200 for bilateral. The cost includes the physical exam, bloodwork, EKG, fluids, catheter, anesthesia, CT scan, and several other services.

vet treating dog ear infection
Image Credit: Yavdat, Shutterstock

How Long Does Recovering From an Ear Infection Take?

Recovering from a minor infection can take 1 to 2 weeks, but a chronic issue may not improve for several months. The duration of the recovery also depends on how well the doctor’s instructions are followed. Antibiotics must be administered according to the doctor’s prescription, or the infection can spread when the bacteria or fungus reproduces faster and travels farther into the ear canal. If your dog displays these signs after or during treatment, you’ll have to visit the veterinarian for another evaluation.

  • Frequent scratching
  • Foul ear odor
  • Scabs in the ears
  • Swelling and redness in the ear canal
  • Dark-colored discharge
  • Pain

Your pet may be uncomfortable and unhappy until the medications start to work, but you can make the recovery less stressful by providing a quiet, clean environment. Loud music or equipment can irritate a dog recovering from a painful ear, and it’s best to keep family activities away from the animal until it feels better.

Does Pet Insurance Cover Ear Infections?

Minor ear infections are common problems that most insurance companies will cover as long as the problem is not a pre-existing condition. Pet insurance is helpful when you have a breed vulnerable to ear infections and other medical conditions, but you have to research insurers to understand the limitations and fees involved. Pet insurance typically does not function like a health insurance policy for humans.

Most firms do not cover the cost of a procedure or medication until the dog has recovered. That means you’ll have to pay upfront and wait for the reimbursement. The dog’s age, weight, and health will affect the cost of the coverage, and some agencies will not cover senior dogs with medical issues.

Others may provide coverage but will charge astonishing fees for insuring older pups. Suppose your dog engages in outdoor activities that make it more susceptible to infections, such as swimming and playing with other dogs. In that case, pet insurance can be a valuable service that saves you money.

hands holding dog's ear
Image By: Yekatseryna Netuk, Shutterstock

What to Do for Your Dog at Home

You can prevent your pet from getting another ear infection by closely monitoring the animal’s outdoor activity, inspecting the ears every day, and cleaning the ears at least once a week with a clean towel. You can also use doggy ear wipes to clean the canal and prevent infections. The vet can give you advice on the proper cleaning techniques, but you should never use Q-tips to clean the dog’s ears because tiny pieces of cotton can fall into the ear canal.

Some dogs love the water, but moist ears are the perfect environment for bacteria and fungus to grow. When you have a breed vulnerable to infections, it’s best to prohibit swimming in pools and natural bodies of water. Pet parents may have trouble keeping their dogs out of water when it’s hot outside, but they can clean the canines’ ears after swimming to reduce the chances of an infection.

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An ear infection can be a frightening experience for dogs, and it’s critical to treat the illness before other sections of the ear canal become infected. Treating a minor infection is not cheap, but it’s more affordable than treating severe injuries or diseases. Veterinarians have considerable experience with ear infections, but your canine’s recovery depends on how closely you follow the doctor’s instructions.

Featured Image Credit: Yavdat, Shutterstock

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