Does your dog have itchy, gunky, smelly or even painful ears that don’t seem to get better? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Dog ear infections aren’t fun for you or your dog.
Not to worry! Let’s review why your dog is battling these ear infections. Plus I’ll share natural solutions you can use that work.
Most dog owners get frustrated by how hard it can be to get rid of chronic ear issues.
In fact, ear problems are a top reason why dogs visit the vet. Finding a resolution can be challenging …
… but not impossible.
If your dog has an ear infection right now, you can jump to How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ear Infection Naturally?
But come back and read more about ear infections when you get time. It’s important to understand what causes them.
Types Of Dog Ear Infections?
Ear infections can appear in various parts of the ear. Let’s break that down.
- Otitis externa: This means inflammation or infection of the external part of your dog’s ear – the parts you can see
- Otitis media: This is inflammation or infection of the middle ear structures. 16% of dogs with otitis externa will have otitis media. And it’s also a problem in more than 50% of dogs who have chronic otitis externa.
- Otitis interna: This is inflammation or infection of the inner ear. Unresolved otitis media can spread and become otitis interna.
You can easily manage otitis externa at home.
For deeper ear issues, some of the home remedies below can help …
… or you might need to work with your holistic vet. If you’re not sure, ask your holistic vet to help you figure out what kind of ear trouble your dog has.
Symptoms Of Dog Ear Infections
Your dog will be pretty clear about letting you know something is wrong with her ears.
Ear infections are painful. Think about how uncomfortable water in your ear can be. Then add to that the pain from inflammation…
… so it’s no wonder your dog tells you she’s hurting. You’ll see some of these signals:
- Head tilting towards the side with the infection
- Head shaking
- Scratching or pawing at ears
- Rubbing ears
- Hot ears
- Smelly ears
- Waxy discharge
- Crusty, scabby or red, irritated skin inside the ear flap
Extreme cases may cause …
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
- Walking in circles
Consult your holistic vet if you see these symptoms.
A Holistic View Of Ear Issues
The first step in treating your dog’s ear issues is to identify the possible sources of the problem.
An ear infection is rarely just an ear infection. Like other skin conditions, ear problems are often a symptom of an underlying disease. This means you’ll need to look a lot deeper than the ears to help your dog overcome her problems.
We live in a toxic world. Exposure to drugs, pesticides, vaccines, and other chemicals stress your dog’s immune system.
Your dog’s body tries to get rid of these environmental stressors as best it can. Her bowels, urinary tract, skin, and ears are all ways that toxins can leave the body.
Seeing discharge and inflammation in the ears is a sign that the body’s trying to remove toxins.
From a holistic perspective, this is a good thing! Your dog’s body is working to heal itself by getting rid of toxins.
Holistic treatment supports this natural detoxification process. But conventional medicine takes a completely different approach.
Why Conventional Treatments Are Like Bandages
Your conventional vet will often offer antibiotics and medicated topical treatments.
These medicines may help the ears clear up at first … but the problem often returns later.
The drugs only treat the symptoms you can see. But they don’t address the underlying condition that’s causing the symptoms.
Using antibiotics is a tough decision. Antibiotics will disrupt the bacterial balance in your dog’s gut. And that’s just the start. Yeast can often overgrow as well … and that kills more good bacteria.
Sometimes your vet may even prescribe steroids to manage ear problems. Steroids work by suppressing the immune system. They can cause many harmful side effects. So avoid them if you can.
When you suppress symptoms without correcting the underlying disease, that’s a problem. And with ear infections, it’s especially bad.
Remember how I said toxins can exit the body through the ears?
Well, if you close off that exit route by using suppressive drugs, it can drive the disease deeper. It’ll come back somewhere else. And that means your dog will get sicker … maybe with a more serious disease.
So, finding the cause of your dog’s ear problems is the key to ridding her of them once and for all.
Why Does My Dog Get Ear Infections?
Remember, ear infections are an alert that the body is unwell. The following are some reasons for ear infections in dogs.
Diet is a huge factor, especially if your dog eats a processed diet. Kibble is high in refined carbohydrates, preservatives, and processed ingredients.
Dry diets feed the natural yeast in your dog’s body. This causes the yeast to grow larger colonies in the gut … leading to inflammation.
That’s why you’ll often see signs of food allergies or intolerances if you feed kibble.
It’s always important to feed your dog a fresh, raw and organic diet if you can.[Related: Raw Feeding Dogs: 10 Simple Rules To Get Started]
If your dog has long ear flaps, like a Cocker Spaniel, she’ll be more prone to ear infections. The long ears trap more debris and moisture. There’s less airflow than in a dog with pricked ears.
She may also have a tendency for waxy buildup and discharge. Her ear canal is a dark moist environment that can encourage the excess growth of yeast and bacteria.
Dogs who live a more natural lifestyle are less likely to develop ear infections.
Make some lifestyle choices that reduce stressors:
- Feed your dog a whole food, raw diet
- Don’t over-vaccinate. Talk to your vet about titers and avoid unnecessary vaccines
- Use caution with pharmaceutical drugs and avoid them when possible
- Avoid exposure to pesticides and chemicals in your dog’s environment
4. Excessive Ear Cleaning
Healthy ears shouldn’t need cleaning. If your dog’s ears look a little waxy, try to leave them alone. A little wax in the ears is normal.
If your dog isn’t uncomfortable, don’t clean the ears. Overcleaning can lead to skin irritation and inflammation.
If you do need to clean your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a little organic witch hazel on a cotton ball or pad.
5. Weakened Immune System
If your dog has food or environmental intolerances, her immune system is weak. Like an ear infection, you need to find the root cause of food intolerances.
Often they’re due to an imbalance in the gut. About 80% of your dog’s immune system lives in her gut … so gut health leads to overall health.
So you’ll need to get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies to resolve her ear issues.[Related: Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?]
6. Other Chronic Disease
Chronic conditions like hypothyroidism or autoimmune disease can also result in ear infections. Again, these conditions stress her immune system.
So she won’t be able to tolerate stressors and toxins from her environment.
Work with your holistic vet to identify the underlying reason for the problem.
So … if your dog does get itchy, gunky ears, what can you do?
Next, let’s talk about some different types of ear infections.
Types Of Ear Infections In Dogs
These are some of the most common types of ear issues for dogs.
Bacteria Or Yeast Overgrowth
Bacteria and yeast both exist naturally in healthy ears, but they can get out of balance.
If your dog swims a lot, moisture in the ears can contribute to either of these conditions.
If your dog’s ears are yeasty-smelling with a dark brown discharge, it’s often yeast overgrowth. Yeasty ears may be itchy but are usually not painful.
Bacterial infections can also appear. You may notice a bad-smelling yellow or greenish discharge.
Ear mites, known as otodectes cynotis, are a parasite infection and a type of mange.
Dogs with ear mites will often shake their heads and scratch at their ears.
Young dogs often get mites and they’re quite contagious, so you’ll want to treat them fast.
You also need to avoid other pets in the house catching them. Cats can get them too!
You can usually identify mites by the “coffee-ground” discharge they leave in the ear. The outer ear may also have reddish crustiness.
Sometimes ear discomfort comes from foreign bodies getting into your dog’s ear. Your dog can pick up grass seeds or foxtails, a bug, water from swimming, or even dirt.
Your dog will usually shake her head to get rid of the debris. If she’s unsuccessful, she may develop irritation and bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
If your dog shakes her head or scratches it too hard, she can cause an aural hematoma. This is a type of bruise that forms a pool of blood between the skin and the ear flap cartilage.
Most vets will recommend surgery for this condition. Don’t rush into it! There are some gentler treatment options you can try first.
So now you know a little more about ear infections in dogs! Let’s move on to natural solutions for prevention and treatment … that work!
How Do I Prevent Ear Infections In My Dog?
If your dog doesn’t have any history of ear troubles … just leave them be. You don’t want to fix something that isn’t broken.
Otherwise, you can help maintain good ear health with a mild herbal ear remedy once a month or so. You may only need to do this seasonally … maybe if she’s swimming more, or has seasonal allergies.
But for dogs who do get ear infections, these remedies can help prevent trouble.
Chamomile (Matricaria recutita)
Chamomile has relaxing, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, sedative, and antiseptic qualities. This is perfect for soothing sore ears if your dog’s been scratching or rubbing.
Dosing Chamomile For Dogs:
You can make tea and let it cool, then add a few drops to your dog’s ears.
Internally, it has a powerful ability to calm your pet and help her sleep through the pain. To give orally you can buy a glycerin tincture from your health food store and give 0.25-0.5 ml per 20 lbs, morning and night.
Garlic (Allium sativum)
You can often find garlic added to herbal ear mixtures for its antibiotic properties. You can also feed it daily to your dog to help fight mild infections from the inside out. Don’t worry, it’s safe!
Read more details on dosing and the wonders of garlic.
Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana)
Witch hazel is an excellent astringent. It helps decrease any swelling in the ear canal and can ease pain. This one is a good one to dry out your dog’s ears if she swims a lot.
You can find witch hazel at your health food store. Just a few drops will help dry your dog’s ears … but if she has any cuts or sores, don’t use it. The alcohol will burn and hurt any sore spots.
How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ear Infection Naturally?
Ear infections can be very uncomfortable for your dog. So let’s look at natural soothing solutions you can start with.
These will get her comfortable while you get to the root cause.
Soothing Solutions For Dog Ear Infections
Dr Michael Dym recommends the following soothing solutions for your dog:
- Boil 8 oz of water and add two green tea bags.
- Let the tea steep for a few minutes and cool to lukewarm temperature.
- Sponge or syringe some of the solution into the ear canal.
- Buy herbal calendula in tincture form.
- Add 5 to 10 drops of calendula tincture to ½ to 1 cup of lukewarm filtered water.
- Sponge or place with a dropper into the ears.
- Buy plain, unsweetened yogurt
- Place yogurt in the ear canal with a syringe to help repopulate the ear with “good” bacteria.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is a powerful natural antioxidant. It is also antibacterial, antiviral and anti-fungal.
To use it topically, mix 10 drops of GSE with ½ oz of pure aloe vera juice and use it to clean the ears.
To use it internally, add 3 to 5 drops of GSE to your dog’s food.
Oil Of Oregano
Oil of oregano is a natural antibiotic.
Add one drop to ½ oz of warm pure aloe vera juice. You can use this mixture topically in the ear … or add a few drops to your dog’s food.
These soothing solutions will help ease the pain and itching.
But remember … these soothing remedies won’t make your dog’s ear problems go away.
Herbal Remedies For Mild Dog Ear Infections
Herbalist and holistic veterinarian Randy Kidd DVM PhD recommends this solution. Use it for mild ear infections:
Vinegar And Water
Mix of 1:1 vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is a good choice) and filtered or spring water. Apply it once daily for a few weeks, then once a week or so for several more months.
Make sure you get the liquid into the ear canal by holding your dog’s ear still. You can pour or squirt the liquid (at least one dropper full each time) into the ear canal. Then massage gently below the ear.
Dr Kidd also recommends a mullein mix that’ll work on most ear infections. You can make your own or buy one at health food stores (one brand, HerbPharm, offers a good mullein-garlic oil).
To make your own:
- Pack mullein leaves and flowers in a glass jar and cover with olive oil. For increased antibiotic effectiveness, you can add a clove or two of garlic per pint of oil.
- Let the mixture sit for 2 to 3 weeks.
- Strain and apply several drops of the warmed oil into the ear canal daily
Homeopathic Remedies For Dog Ear Infections
Reach for homeopathic remedies for acute or minor ear flare-ups.
Note: If this is a chronic, recurrent ear problem … check out Homeopathy For Chronic Ear Issues
Choose the remedy below that best matches your dog’s symptoms. Use a 30C potency.
Use Belladonna when the ears are very hot and inflamed. Your dog may be impatient and irritable.
This remedy is helpful for acute flare-ups. Often with sensitivity and redness, along with a yellowish discharge. Pulsatilla animals like to sit near open windows, hate getting their paws wet and won’t go out in the rain. They also tend to have a very sweet (and often needy) disposition.
Hepar sulph is useful for irritable animals who don’t like to have their inflamed ears touched.
Follow the information below for help with dosing.
Homeopathic Dosing Guide
- You can tip 2 or 3 pellets straight into your dog’s mouth. Try not to touch the pellets with your hands as it can interfere with the remedy.
- Or … put the pellets into a small glass of filtered or spring water. Stir vigorously for about 30 seconds. Then use a dropper or teaspoon to place some of the liquid on your dog’s gums
- Give the remedy every half hour for 3 doses, then wait to see if your dog feels better.
- If her condition improves, do nothing. The remedy is working!
- If you see an improvement followed by a decline, give her another dose.
- If nothing changes, try a different remedy.
Homeopathy For Chronic Dog Ear Infections
If your dog has chronic, recurring ear issues, it’s best to get help from your homeopathic vet.
A professional homeopath will do a complete analysis of your dog’s symptoms … then prescribe a constitutional remedy. This approach will address your dog’s whole symptom picture. It’ll help get to the underlying cause of your dog’s ear problems.
Be aware that with homeopathy, symptoms sometimes look worse before they get better.
Healing comes from the inside out, so ear issues are often the last to go away after the deeper issues improve.
Getting Rid Of Ear Mites Naturally
Mites are a parasitic infection. They’re not that common in dogs. But when do they do happen they can be hard to deal with.
Mites are very contagious so check your other pets – including cats.
This treatment is from the Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine. It’s by Drs Susan Wynne and Steve Marsden.
First, clean the ears with mineral oil or olive oil to remove as much debris as possible. The oil can help asphyxiate the mites.
Do this treatment every 3 days for 2 weeks. That schedule is important because ear mite eggs hatch every 4 days.
You can add one or two drops of essential oil to the ear cleaning oil to help with mite control and itching:
- Peppermint oil has a topical anesthetic effect
- Catnip oil may help control or repel the mites
- Hypericum oil relieves ear pain
- Calendula oil helps heal the ear surfaces
Or, another option:
Herbalists Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff recommend applying garlic oil twice daily. Mites don’t like sulfur and garlic has a lot of it! Garlic also helps reduce bacterial infections.
Mullein is also anti-parasitic. Applying garlic-mullein oil (HerbPharm makes a good one) can be a good anti-mite remedy.
Natural Aural Hematoma Support
Hematomas can be quite serious so it’s a good idea to consult your holistic vet. Many vets will recommend surgery but there are other options worth trying first.
Drs Wynne and Marsden recommend the Chinese herbal formula Yunnan Bai Yao. This mixture is for internal use.
Dosing Yunnan Bai Yao:
Use 1 capsule or tablet, or 250 mg of powder per 20 lbs of body weight once or twice daily.
The homeopathic remedies Arnica montana 30C or Hamamelis 30C can help.
They are best for simple hematomas that don’t have a lot of ear inflammation. Drs Wynne and Marsden recommend giving one of these remedies up to twice daily for 1 week, then once a day for 4 to 5 days.
You can also use topical Arnica or Hamamelis three times daily. Both should be available at health stores. If the hematoma continues to expand, stop treatment and consult your vet.
Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff recommend yarrow as another herbal option. Yarrow oil applied topically helps strengthen the exterior capillary walls.
Witch hazel can also be effective. Its strong astringent properties help constrict weak or inflamed blood vessels.
Removing Foreign Objects In The Ear
If you can see the foreign object in the ear, you may be able to remove it with your fingers or tweezers (be careful).
Otherwise, use homeopathic Silica (also spelled Silicea) in a 6C or 30C potency to help eject it.
Use the Homeopathic Dosing Guide above.
Why Does My Dog Have Chronic Ear Infections?
If your dog often gets ear infections, it’s a sign that something else is wrong. The ear infection is his body’s way of alerting you that his immune system is under stress.
There can be many causes … and you may need your holistic vet to help you figure it out.
One problem you’ll want to rule out is leaky gut.
Many dogs with chronic health issues have some form of leaky gut. Toxins and bad bacteria in the body can harm the gut lining. This allows food or toxin particles into the bloodstream that shouldn’t be there. These can cause many chronic health problems.
Here are the major causes of leaky gut:
1. Poor Diet
2. Drugs And Other Toxins
Leaky gut can take time to heal … but treating it can make a huge difference in your dog’s health.[Related:Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?]
Be Patient With Chronic Conditions
You’ll need to be patient with the healing process when you’re dealing with chronic ear issues in your dog.
As your dog releases toxins through his ears, remember that this is an important part of healing.
The ears are one way your dog’s own healing power gets rid of toxins. You don’t want to suppress that process.
Any drug or herb that can stop symptoms fast is likely to suppress them. This drives them deeper into the body where they can cause more serious issues later.
Be patient, and use the soothing solutions I mentioned above for comfort in the meantime. And work with your homeopathic or holistic vet to discover the root cause.
It’s A Journey
So by now, I hope you feel more confident using natural remedies at home for your dog’s ear infections. It’s the first step on your journey to finding your dog’s perfect body balance … and saying good-bye to ear infections for good.