Dog Ear Yeast Infections: Causes and Solutions

Dog Ear Yeast Infection

If your dog’s shaking his head or scratching his ears constantly, it could be a dog ear yeast infection. One or both of his ears might have a yeasty smell, or black-brown gunk caking the insides. When your dog’s ears are crusty, smelly and inflamed, it’s a warning sign of a bigger health issue … 

Here’s how to look beyond your dog’s ears to find the problem … and the solution. 

What is a Dog Ear Yeast Infection?

This type of yeast infection affects the visible part of your dog’s ear. Inflammation in the outer flap of your dog’s ear is called otitis externa

A dog ear yeast infection may be mistaken for allergies. But it’s often caused by yeast.  It could be candida, the most common type of yeast … but it might also be malassezia, a different fungus. Yeast can smell musty … a bit like an old shoe. Your dog’s itching will be intense, and there may be a brown or black discharge (wipe the inside of the ear with a cotton ball or pad to see if it comes out brown and greasy). 

RELATED: How to tell if your dog’s ear yeast is malassezia … and how to get rid of it

Signs Of A Dog Ear Yeast Infection

Here are some common signs of a yeast infection in your dog’s ears:

  • Swelling, sometimes with redness, inside the ears
  • Large amounts of dark brown waxy discharge
  • Very itchy, with constant scratching   
  • Drooping ears
  • Strong smell from the ears
  • Sometimes painful and inflamed
  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Scabs and thinning fur around ears (from scratching)

You might also see signs of malassezia or other yeasts on other moist parts of the body, like the groin or armpits …

  • Small red bumps
  • Flaky grey crustiness
  • Orange-peel or darkened, thickened skin
  • Redness between the toes
  • Brown crud on top of the toenail

Causes Of Dog Ear Infections

What causes dog ear infections?

Ear infections aren’t just superficial. Your dog’s yeasty ears stem from yeast overgrowth in your dog’s body. Yeast is present in healthy ears, but there are a few factors that can cause it to grow out of control.

Any processed kibble diet worsens yeast because carbohydrates create sugars that feed yeast. And that’s especially true of candida yeast. 

Oily Or Moist Skin
Malassezia yeast is a bit different. It’s lipophilic, meaning it likes fats (lipids). That means dogs with oily skins or coats are more prone to malassezia. Dogs who love to swim can also be more susceptible because they’re often damp in places like their ears, groins and armpits. 

Antibiotics and anti-allergy drugs are another big concern. Antibiotics destroy both bad and good bacteria, which allows yeast to grow out of control. And if your dog gets allergy medications like Apoquel when his ear infections are mistaken for allergies, these immune-suppressing drugs make him more susceptible to yeast overgrowth. 

Heavy metals and environmental toxins can also harm the beneficial bacteria in your dog’s gut, allowing yeast to grow. Heavy metals and other toxins get into your dog’s body through vaccines, flea and tick preventatives, cleaning products, food and water.  

Your dog’s ear yeast infection is usually a sign of a deeper problem in his body …  

RELATED: You can manage yeast infections in dogs with these 4 simple steps …

What Foods Cause A Dog Ear Yeast Infection?

Food can be a major factor in triggering your dog’s yeast ear infection. Food containing carbohydrates like grains, legumes and starches can trigger food sensitivities that upset your dog’s microbiome. When the gut flora is unbalanced, your dog’s good bacteria is overrun by pathogenic bacteria that encourage the yeast to grow. 

High carbohydrate diets like kibble feed yeast when they’re digested and broken down into sugar molecules. That leads to yeast growing larger colonies in the gut … and causes chronic inflammation that can trigger ear infections.

Artificial ingredients like preservatives, flavorings and synthetic vitamins and minerals also 

RELATED: How to start your dog on a raw diet … 

How to Soothe Your Dog’s Itchy Ears

The most aggravating part of a dog ear yeast infection, for both you and your dog, is the itching. Here are some things to bring relief.

  1. Calendula lotion. Calendula can relieve pain and reduce inflammation. Its antimicrobial properties help prevent infection. Get herbal calendula in tincture form. Add 5 to 10 drops of calendula tincture to 1 cup of lukewarm filtered water. Use a dropper or sponge it into the ears.
  1. Apple cider vinegar. Dilute apple cider vinegar 50/50 with water, then use it on a cotton ball to gently wipe your dog’s ears to relieve itching. 
  1. Mullein oil. Herbalist and holistic veterinarian Randy Kidd DVM PhD recommends a mullein mix for ear infections. You can make your own or buy mullein oil at health stores. Apply a few drops of warmed oil into the ear canal daily.

RELATED: Use these natural remedies for dog ear infections … 

Can You Put Peroxide In A Dog’s Ear?

No. It’s never a good idea to use hydrogen peroxide (or alcohol) to clean your dog’s ears. They will dry out and irritate his ears. They could irritate open wounds, cause inflammation in the ear canal and worsen infections. And they destroy good bacteria that’s needed for healing. 

Get Your Dog’s Ear Yeast Infection Under Control 

Here are several things you can do to begin to get your dog’s yeasty ears under control.

Remove Processed Foods

You should start by removing processed food from your dog’s diet … carbs and sugar are what yeast thrives on. Feeding a high carbohydrate kibble diet often leads to food allergies or intolerances that make your dog more susceptible to yeast. 

Feed A Whole Food Diet

A whole food, raw meat-based diet is the best medicine for a dog with yeast issues. Just stay away from carbs and starchy vegetables that feed yeast.

Add Foods And Supplements That Fight Yeast

Include these foods and herbs in your dog’s diet to fight yeast:

  • Garlic: research shows it can break down yeast colonies. 
  • MCT oil: it contains caprylic acid that kills yeast. 
  • Pau d’arco: contains lapachol, which can destroy yeast. 
  • Probiotics: rebuild the healthy bacteria in your dog’s gut.
  • Saccharomyces boulardii:  a type of yeast that helps stop other yeasts from spreading in your dog. 
  • Essential fatty acids: to lower overall inflammation.
  • Digestive enzymes: break down biofilms and fiber that form a protective shell around the yeast. 
  • Dried olive leaf: an antifungal herb that kills yeast.

RELATED: Which probiotics for dogs work best? 

Stop Vaccines And Pollutants

Steer clear of vaccines, pharmaceutical drugs. pesticides, herbicides and poor quality food and water. Heavy metals and other toxins build up in your dog, disrupting his gut health and allowing yeast to flourish. 

RELATED: Which vaccines does your dog really need? 

Heal Your Dog’s Gut 

The gut needs a lot of attention because imbalances can cause food intolerances. And those same imbalances can lead to dog ear yeast infections. 

When your dog has an ear yeast infection, it means his immune system needs help. About 90% of your dog’s immune system lives in his gut … so a healthy gut leads to overall health.

You also want to be sure it’s not leaky gut causing the yeast problem. Many chronic health issues stem from leaky gut. Everything that causes dog ear yeast infection can also cause leaky gut.  … like poor diet, drugs, toxins, and over-vaccination. Do you see a familiar pattern emerging? So if you address leaky gut, you’ll also tackle the yeast.

Toxins and bad bacteria overwhelm the body and harm the cells that line your dog’s gut. Food particles, bacteria and toxins get into the bloodstream … leading to many chronic health problems.

Leaky gut takes time to heal … but once you begin addressing it and making changes, it makes a huge difference in your dog’s health.  

RELATED: How to heal your dog’s leaky gut

When you look beyond the ears, you can bring relief to your dog’s itchy yeasty ears. It takes time but the result is long-term health for your dog … as well as yeast-free ears!

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