Does your dog have itchy, gunky, smelly or even painful ears that don’t seem to get better? You’re not alone. Dog ear infections are one of the main reasons people take their dogs to the vet.
But you can usually manage your dog’s ear infections at home, So here’s some information on how to treat dog ear infection without vet visits.
What Are The Signs Of Ear infections In Dogs?
Ear infections can be painful or itchy, so here are some common signs you’ll know something is wrong with your dog’s ears.
- 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
In severe cases your dog may experience …
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
- Walking in circles
- Dry eye, nystagmus (quick side to side eye movements)
- Drooping of eyelids or mouth, drooling
- Dropping food, difficulty eating or drinking
If you see any of these serious symptoms, you need to see your vet.
But you can manage less severe ear infections at home. To get to the point, here’s what to do if your dog has an ear infection now. But you’ll want to read the rest of the post later so you understand more about types and causes of ear infections and how to prevent them in the first place.
How To Tell What Type Of Ear Infection Your Dog Has
First, you need to know about the different types of ear infections. They can be in 3 different parts of your dogs’ ear.
Otitis externa: 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 parts. In about a sixth of dogs with otitis external, the infection can spread into otitis media. This is a problem in more than half of dogs who have chronic otitis externa. It can also mean a foreign object (like a foxtail) has penetrated the ear drum.
Otitis interna: This is inflammation or infection of the inner ear. Unresolved otitis media can spread to become otitis interna. It can lead to loss of balance and deafness.
Can You Manage Ear Infections At Home?
That depends on the type of infection. You can easily manage otitis externa at home. For deeper ear issues (otitis media and interna), some of the home remedies we’ll recommend can help. But you may need to ask your holistic vet if you’re not sure which type of infection your dog has.
What Happens If Ear Infections In Dogs Are Untreated?
Otitis externa can progress to otitis media, and in some cases, that could develop into otitis interna. So it’s important to deal with ear infections promptly before they become more serious. In severe cases, your dog could develop facial paralysis, deafness, or symptoms of vestibular disease.
How Are Dog Ear Infections Treated?
You can manage most dog ear infections at home, so it’s best to avoid veterinary treatments for ear infections. Here’s why.
Avoid Antibiotics And Steroids For Your Dog’s Ear Infections
Vets will often prescribe antibiotics, steroids, and topical medication. These medicines may help clear up your dog’s ears at first … but the problem often returns later. That’s because drugs only treat the symptoms you can see. They don’t address the underlying condition that’s causing the symptoms. And they can have negative side effects.
Antibiotics used for bacterial ear infections disrupt the bacterial balance in your dog’s gut, which can lead to more health issues due to bacteria or yeast that grow out of control.
Steroids work by suppressing the immune system and can cause harmful side effects. So avoid them if you can.
Discharge and inflammation in the ears is a sign the body’s trying to remove toxins absorbed through food, medications and her environment. That’s a good thing! Your dog’s body is working to heal itself by getting rid of harmful substances. When 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 … often 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. Fortunately, there are ways you can do this at home.
How To Treat Dog Ear Infection Without Vet Help
First, a word about topical treatments. As you’ll see later, over-cleaning your dog’s ears can lead to ear infections. So it’s best not to put anything in your dog’s ears … even if she has an ear infection. If that happens, you know it’s a sign of deeper issues so getting to the root of the problem is key.
But sometimes ear infections are just too uncomfortable for your dog and you need get her comfortable while you work on the root cause.
These are some soothing remedies you can use to provide relief. They’ll soothe the itching and discomfort. Then there are other steps to follow if you want to control your dog’s ear infections long-term.
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.
Calendula can help relieve pain and reduce inflammation. It also has antimicrobial properties to help prevent infection. To use calendula, buy herbal calendula in tincture form.Add 5 to 10 drops of calendula tincture to 1 cup of lukewarm filtered water. Then use a dropper or sponge to place some into the ears.
Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) is a powerful natural antioxidant. It’s also antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal. To use it topically, mix 10 drops of GSE with ½ oz of pure aloe vera juice. 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. To use if for your dog’s ear infections, add one drop to ½ oz of warm pure aloe vera juice. Clean the visible parts of the ear with a cotton ball soaked in the mixture.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar can help reduce the itch and discomfort of an ear infection. Mix 1 part vinegar and 1 part filtered or spring water. Clean the visible parts of the ear with a cotton ball soaked in the mixture. 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.
Herbalist and holistic veterinarian Randy Kidd DVM PhD recommends a mullein mix that works for most ear infections. You can make your own or buy one at health food stores. HerbPharm offers a good mullein-garlic oil.
To make your own:
Loosely fill a glass jar with mullein leaves and flowers 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
You can use homeopathic remedies for acute or minor ear flare-ups. Choose the remedy below that best matches your dog’s symptoms. Use a 30C potency.
Belladonna – Use Belladonna when the ears are very hot and inflamed. Your dog may be impatient and irritable.
Pulsatilla – 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 Sulphuris – Hepar sulph is useful for irritable animals who don’t like to have their inflamed ears touched.
Homeopathy For Chronic Ear Infections
If your dog has chronic, recurring ear issues, it’s best to get help from a professional homeopath. They’ll do a complete analysis of your dog, then prescribe the appropriate remedy for all her symptoms. This approach will help get to the underlying cause of your dog’s ear problems.
You can find a homeopathic vet at theavh.org. Most will do phone consults so they don’t have to be local.
Now that you know how to handle an acute ear infection in your dog, it’s a good idea to keep reading, so you can prevent your dog from getting ear infections in future.
What Causes Ear Infections In Dogs
These are some of the most common types of ear issues for dogs.
Yeast Overgrowth – Yeast exists naturally in healthy ears, but can get out of balance causing a yeast infection. 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 Infection – Your dog can also get bacterial infections in her ear. You may notice a bad-smelling yellow or greenish discharge.
Foreign Bodies – Your dog can pick up grass seeds or foxtails, a bug, water from swimming, or even dirt in her ears. You may see her shaking her head … but debris in the ears can cause irritation, bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
Aural Hematoma – If your dog shakes her head or scratches it too hard, she can cause an aural hematoma. It’s when a pool of blood forms between the skin and the ear flap cartilage. Most vets will recommend surgery … but don’t rush into it! There are gentler treatment options.
Ear Mites – Ear mites are a parasite infection that’s a type of mange Dogs with ear mites will often shake their heads and scratch their ears. They’re common in young dogs and very contagious, so you’ll want to treat them fast. You can usually identify mites by the “coffee-ground” discharge they leave in the ear. The outer ear may also have reddish crustiness.
But an ear infection is rarely just an ear infection. Like other skin conditions, ear infections are often a symptom of an deeper problem.
Can You Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs?
These are some things you can change to help prevent your dog’s ear infections. These are very important changes to make if your dog gets recurring or chronic ear infections.
Diet is a huge factor, especially if your dog eats kibble, which is high in carbohydrates and synthetic ingredients. Starchy foods feed the natural yeast in your dog’s body so it grows out of balance. It’s always important to feed your dog a fresh, raw and organic diet if you can.
If you give your dog supplements, choose natural food-based products without fillers or additives. The most important supplement you can give to help support your dog’s overall health is pre and probiotics.
Minimize Pharmaceuticals And Other Chemicals
Dogs who live a more natural lifestyle are less likely to develop ear infections. Try to minimize exposure to chemicals in your dog’s environment, indoors and outside.
Vaccines, antibiotics and other medications, and chemical pest preventives all harm your dog’s gut health and disrupt her immune system. Make sure you only give the vaccines your dog really needs to protect her. Use natural alternatives to antibiotics and other medications when you can, and use natural pest prevention to keep the bugs off your dog.
You can also reduce toxins by minimizing chemicals at home and in your yard. Choose natural shampoos to bathe your dog, avoid toxic cleaning products in your home, including your own body cosmetics and other products with artificial fragrances.
RELATED: Which vaccines does your dog need?
If your dog has chronic ear infections, a food allergy or intolerance, or environmental allergies, her immune system needs support. You’ll need to get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies to resolve her ear issues. There are many ways to help manage your dog’s allergies but, like ear infections, you need to find the root cause. Gut health is the foundation of immune health.
Manage Gut Health
Ears are a window to your dog’s digestive health. When something is wrong with your dog’s ears, it means her immune system needs help. About 90% of your dog’s immune system lives in her gut … so gut health leads to overall health.
One problem you’ll want to rule out is leaky gut. Many dogs with frequent ear infections have leaky gut. Toxins and bad bacteria in the body harm the cells that line your dog’s gut. This lets unwanted food particles, bacteria and toxins into the bloodstream, which can lead to many chronic health problems.
Excessive Ear Cleaning
Healthy ears shouldn’t need cleaning. A little wax in the ears is normal so it’s better to leave them alone unless your dog is uncomfortable. Over-cleaning disrupts the delicate balance of bacteria in the ear and can lead to skin irritation and inflammation. It’s especially important to avoid using a medicated or veterinary cleaning solution.
If you do need to clean your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a little organic witch hazel on a cotton ball. Never use anything smaller than your finger inside your dog’s ear (don’t use a cotton swab or you’ll risk damaging the ear canal).
Other Chronic Disease
A chronic medical condition like hypothyroidism or autoimmune disease can also contribute to ear infections. You’ll want to work with your holistic vet to manage these problems.
Are Some Dog Breeds More Susceptible To Ear Infections?
Any dog can get ear infections, but they’re more common in floppy eared dogs. These dogs’ ears create a cozy environment for bacteria. Some dogs like Poodles get them because dense hair traps moisture in the ear canal. Cocker Spaniels have more secretory glands than other dogs. And ear conformation in breeds like Shar-peis is also a factor.
Long-Term Approach To Ear Infections In Dogs
If your dog has frequent ear infections, follow the prevention steps above and make food and lifestyle changes that’ll help you get rid of the problem. You may want to work with your holistic vet to find the best approach for your dog.
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 her 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.
The recommendations above will give you some natural tools to manage both acute and chronic ear infections in your dog.