Ear problems are one of the top routine reasons why dogs visit the veterinarian, and many dogs suffer with painful and unpleasant ear conditions for years on end before a true long-standing cure is found. A holistic approach to the problem considers the environment in which the dog lives, what he eats and his lifestyle.
Ear problems often go hand in hand with allergies and sensitivities, and dogs who are prone to itchy skin and hot spots frequently suffer with ear issues as well. As with most skin conditions, a problem with the ears is often indicative of some other internal issues going on deep within the body.
Certain types of bacteria and yeast are naturally present throughout the body, including the ears. They are part of the balance of life, but when the balance is disrupted, either one can grow out of control and an ‘ ear infection’ results.
A conventional veterinary approach to ear problems often involves the prescribing of antibiotics as well as steroids and other medications, which can provide some immediate relief. The problem is that these products work by suppressing the symptoms and the immune system, so this tends to be only a temporary fix and doesn’t actually offer a true, long-term cure. Because ear and skin issues are often caused by autoimmune disorders, drugs that suppress the immune system will appear to work as the inflammation and redness will disappear. But the logic of suppressing the immune system may not be the best approach because this leaves the dog susceptible to bacteria, viruses and more sinister illnesses.
Achieving And Maintaining Ear Health
Most dogs’ ears do not require regular cleaning and can mostly be left alone. In fact, it’s better to leave normal, healthy ears alone and not attempt to clean them for the sake of it, because this in itself can disrupt the delicate pH balance and natural environment there. Some dogs with chronic issues require occasional cleaning to remove debris, or a specially designed drying product to help eliminate excess moisture from the ears after swimming.
Minor amounts of debris can be removed with a clean, dry cotton pad alone, which is the best solution for maintaining ears that don’t have a deep-seated problem of any kind. Never try to clean beyond the areas of the ears that you can actually see.
A grain-free diet is almost always helpful in combating chronic yeast infections. Grains contain natural sugars upon which yeasts can feed and multiply. In most mild cases, eliminating grains and cleaning the ears of any built up debris will set your dog on a path to long term ear health.
A raw or natural, minimally processed diet can be very helpful in combating ear problems, because it provides the natural, whole-food nutrition that the dog’s immune system needs in order to function optimally. Removing toxic chemical preservatives and excessive gluten, by-products and fillers can have a marvelous effect on most of the body, including the condition of the ears.
A number of good, natural commercial products are also available from pet-supply and health food stores. Altering the pH of the ear is a primary step in combating yeast and bacterial infections. A basic ear cleaner can be prepared at home, and work double duty to correct the pH and kill any contaminants residing there. Make up a solution with 1 cup of luke-warm water and 2 tablespoons of one or more of the following: hydrogen peroxide, apple cider (or white) vinegar or plantain tincture. This mixture can be used to wipe out excess debris from visible areas of the ear.
Topical treatments can be used routinely, or on an as-needed basis, to clean the ears – usually by applying the product onto a piece of cotton wool and very gently wiping out excess wax and buildup. It’s essential not to push anything into the ear canal beyond the visible outer folds of the ear, because doing so can cause extreme and very painful damage to the delicate internal workings of the ear. Never poke Q Tips or anything else right inside the ear canal and don’t squirt or pour large volumes of these topical applications into the ears; a small amount on a cotton ball is usually sufficient.
Calendula Lotion is nice product for topical use because it has wonderful healing properties, as does comfrey, which can also be applied to the ears. Products containing Tea Tree Oil are helpful, as are those containing Tea Tree’s slightly less intense cousin, Niaouli. Gentian Violet is a purple dye that’s used as a stain for microscopy – and medically as a bactericide, fungicide, and anthelmintic. Gentian is superb for cleaning the ears. Mullein Oil is also an excellent ear product that’s recommended by some holistic veterinarians for basic ear infections. Colloidal Silver is also another option worth considering: a few drops can be applied into the ears daily for about seven to ten days, until some relief is seen.
Pulsatilla is helpful for acute flare-ups 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 slightly needy) disposition.
Hepar Sulph is useful for irritable animals who don’t like to have their inflamed ears touched.
Sulphur is often recommended for long term, stubborn skin conditions and also has some success in ear infection treatment. Excessive scratching or pawing at the ears may be an indicator for Sulphur.
Silica is worth considering to help ‘push out’ a foxtail or other foreign object form the ears.
Phosphorus is a good option for those dogs who suffer with cuts or hematomas to the pinna; it’s an excellent remedy for many types of bleeding.
For animals that have a severe, malodorous discharge that causes hair loss around and under the ears, Tellurium is helpful. The ears are extremely sensitive in the Tellurium patient, and the discharge may have a fish-like smell.
Treating ear problems (especially those that are stubborn and persistent) can be a very frustrating exercise. Deep seated infections can take a very long time to truly and permanently resolve. Natural remedies and a truly holistic approach that also considers diet and lifestyle can be pivotal in achieving a lasting cure.