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Does Pet Insurance Cover Ear Infections?

Ear infections are amongst the most common pet illnesses. Find out when an ear infection will be covered by pet insurance, and when it may not. Learn about the best type of pet insurance cover for ear infections, and find out the cost of a typical pet insurance claim for an ear infection.

Are Ear Infections Covered by Pet Insurance?

Ear infections can be covered by pet insurance, but it will depend on the type of pet insurance plan you have, as well as other factors like your dog's history.

When Ear Infections Might Not be Covered by Pet Insurance:

  • Pre-existing ear infection: If your dog suffered from ear infections before you got pet insurance, then they won't be covered. Some pre-existing conditions can be covered if you buy special pet insurance for pre-existing conditions (e.g. ManyPets pre-existing pet insurance).
  • Chronic ear infections: If you have a time limited or max benefit plan, you may run out of cover for recurring ear infections, in terms of time or monetary amount claimed, respectively.
  • Type of plan: Accident Only pet insurance won't cover most ear infections (unless the infection is a direct result of an injury).

Pre-Existing Ear Infections

Most pet insurance plans will not cover any pre-existing medical conditions—that is, any health issue your pet showed symptoms of or had treated before your pet insurance policy started. Unfortunately ear infections are treated as a bilateral condition, which means a previous ear infection in one ear could mean both ears are excluded from cover on a new policy.

If you're looking for a new insurance policy but your pet has suffered from an ear infection in the past, consider one of the handful of plans with cover for pre-existing conditions. These plans either offer cover for conditions that were last present 2 years ago or as recently as 3 months ago.

Time Limited vs. Max Benefit vs. Lifetime

While an ear infection could potentially be covered by any accident & illness plan, the extent of coverage will vary by type of plan: time limited, max benefit vs. lifetime. While lifetime plans give you a new pot of money to use each policy year, time limited and max benefit cover runs out once the time or claim limits have been reached for an ear infection. This can catch pet owners unaware, especially as ear infections are treated as bilateral conditions—this means that an infection in one ear would start the clock ticking (in the case of a time limited plan) or start using up the cover (in the case of a max benefit plan) for both ears.

Accident & Illness vs. Accident Only

Most ear infections won't be covered on an Accident Only pet insurance policy, as this type of pet insurance doesn't cover any illnesses. Ear infections resulting from an injury are possible, but are far less common than "illness" ear infections. If you want broad cover for ear infections then you'll need a policy that covers both accidents and illnesses.

Average Cost to Treat a Dog Ear Infection

Ear infections in dogs can linger or recur, requiring multiple trips to the vet and a trial of different treatments until you find one that works for your pet. As a result, costs to treat an ear infection can be higher than one might expect, and can range from around £50 for an easy-to-treat ear infection up to thousands of pounds over the years for a chronic problem.

According to research by Argos pet insurance, the average outer ear infection (e.g., otitis externa) claim paid out by insurers was £364 in 2016. As a pet owner would also pay an excess for an ear infection, the treatment cost would be even greater. For example, a £100 excess would bring the total treatment cost to over £450 for a dog ear infection on average.

In real life, the bills to treat a recurrent or stubborn ear infection can be even more significant as treatment costs mount up over time. Here are actual, real-life costs to treat a chronic, recurring ear infection over the past two years for one of our readers' dogs. Notice the £120 excess was paid three times, once in each policy year that the condition was claimed for, as is common for lifetime policies (the policy year ran from September to September in this case). Nonetheless, pet insurance paid nearly £1,200 in claims, covering 77% of the treatment costs.

DateVet BillsExcessPaid by Insurance
February 2017£170.21£120£50.21
March 2017£335.17£0£335.17
March 2017£146.14£0£146.14
April 2017£353.36£0£353.36
April 2017£70.44£0£70.44
August 2018£175.33£120£55.33
August 2018£150.62£0£150.62
October 2018£74.16£74.16£0
November 2018£80.51£45.84£34.67

For this dog, a 2-year-old cockapoo, the cost of pet insurance was largely offset by reimbursement for these ear infections. Notice that a 12-month, time limited pet insurance policy would not have reimbursed for any amounts after January 2018—12 months after the first signs of ear infection. Luckily this dog had a lifetime policy with a vet cover limit that reset each year.

Treating an Ear Infection

If you suspect an ear infection, it's best to visit the vet as soon as possible. Treatment is important to save your pet from discomfort (an ear infection can be very painful) but also to prevent the infection spreading into the middle or inner ear. A vet has the correct tools to diagnose and then appropriately treat the infection.

Your vet might prescribe an ear cleaner (a liquid you squirt into the ear and rub gently, which the dog later shakes out) as well as some form of steroid, antibiotic and/or anti-fungal drops or spray—the course of treatment will depend on the cause and severity of the ear infection. For more information see advise from the American Kennel Club or PDSA.

Does my dog have an ear infection? Here are some common signs and symptoms of an ear infection in your dog:

  • Scratching the ears (often while emitting a groan!)
  • Rubbing ears along the floor
  • Shaking head
  • Smelly ears (take a whiff)
  • Lots of wax/discharge in the ear
  • Redness in the ear

The inside of a dog's ear should look quite clean and pink, and some pale yellow wax is fine. If you suspect an ear infection, take a peek inside using a light to look for redness or dark brown/black discharge—sure signs you need to head to the vet. The vet has the correct tools for looking deep inside the ear, and will be able to diagnose and suggest a treatment plan.

Also regularly sniff your dog's ears so you know what they should smell like—they should smell nice and warm. While our noses are not nearly as sensitive as our four-legged friends, we can still often detect the yeasty or bad smell that signals a yeast or bacterial infection.

If your dog keeps getting ear infections, it could be a sign of allergies. The majority of dogs with a food allergy also suffer from ear infections. In this case, your vet will be able to advise you regarding the best course of action to help identify your dog's allergies and hopefully cure your dog's recurrent ear infections.

It's best to check with your own vet before trying any natural or at-home treatments for an ear infection. To help prevent ear infections in dogs our vet advised using a mix of cider vinegar and olive oil every few weeks (you pour it in, then gently rub for a few minutes, then let the dog shake it out). However this could be harmful and painful if your dog already has an infection. Or read more ideas here.

Dog ear infections are usually caused by yeast or bacteria and need treatment of some sort to go away—they do not usually go away on their own. And waiting to see if it will go away is risky as an infection can lead to ear and hearing damage if untreated—plus they're painful for your dog.

Yeast infections in dogs' ears can occur because the environment is ideal for yeast growth—dark, damp, airless. If your dog swims gets their ears wet from bathing, or if your dog is sensitive to allergens like pollens, mold, dust, feathers, cigarette smoke, cleaning products and even some foods, then his ears will be more prone to yeast infections also.


The guidance on this site is based on our own analysis and is meant to help you identify options and narrow down your choices. We do not advise or tell you which product to buy; undertake your own due diligence before entering into any agreement. Read our full disclosure here.