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. This why I want to review ear infections in dogs and natural solutions that work with you.
Most dog owners get frustrated by how hard it can be to get rid of chronic ear issues.
Ear problems are a top reason why dogs visit the vet …and finding a resolution is challenging …
… but not impossible.
Let’s break down the areas in which your dog can have ear issues:
- Otitis externa: is inflammation and or infection of the external part of your dog’s ear- the parts you can see
- Otitis media: is inflammation and or infection of the middle ear structures. 16% of dogs with otitis externa will have otitis media and is found in more than >50% of dogs with chronic otitis externa.
- Otitis interna: is inflammation or infection of the inner ear. This results when otitis media is not resolved.
Work with your holistic vet to determine what kind of ear trouble your dog is experiencing. Together you will determine the best course of treatment and which home remedy below is best.
Symptoms Of Dog Ear Infections
Your dog will be pretty good at alerting you to the fact something is wrong with their ears.
Ear infections are painful. Think of how much water in your ear bothers you … now add in inflammation…
… it then makes sense why they alert us with the following 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 your dog to have hearing loss, loss of balance or to walk in circles. Consult your holistic vet if you see these symptoms.
A Holistic View Of Ear Issues
The first step in treatment for 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 pretty toxic world these days.
Exposure to drugs, pesticides, vaccines, and other chemicals stress his immune system further.
The body tries to get rid of these environmental stressors as best as it can. Toxins are released through the bowels, the urinary tract and through the skin and the ears.
Discharge and inflammation in the ears are often 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 toxic substances.
The goal of holistic treatment is to support this natural detoxification process.
Often conventional medicine takes a completely different approach.
Why Conventional Treatments Are Like Bandages
Topical treatments and antibiotics are often what your conventional vet will use.
These treatments may help the ears clear up at first, but the problem often comes back again later.
These drugs will treat the symptoms you see. But they are not addressing the underlying condition that’s causing the symptoms.
Using antibiotics is tough as it can lead to other issues as we disrupt the bacterial balance. Often yeast will overgrow after will kill all the bacteria.
Your vet may even prescribe steroids to address inflammation. These drugs suppress symptoms but have many harmful side effects.
Holistic medicine warns that by suppressing these symptoms and not digging deeper … you can make your dog sicker over time.
Getting to the bottom of your dog’s ear problems is the key to getting rid of the problem once and for all.
Causes Of Ear Infections In Dogs
Diet is a huge factor, especially if your dog eats a processed diet. Kibble is high in refined carbohydrates.
Yeast thrives on these diets and leads to inflammation in the gut. We then see signs of food allergies or intolerances followed by inflammation in the skin and in the ears.
Dogs with long ear flaps (like Cocker Spaniels) are more prone because they can trap more in the ear. They don’t have the same airflow as a dog who’s ears stand up.
These dogs tend to have a tendency for waxy buildup and discharge. The 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 these ear infections.
Set your dog up for success with the following lifestyle choices to reduce stressors:
- Feed your dog a whole foods , raw diet
- Don’t over-vaccinate. Talk to your vet about titers
- 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 do look a little waxy avoid over-cleaning them. A little wax in the ears is normal.
If your dog isn’t showing any signs of discomfort it’s often best to leave the ears alone. Overcleaning can lead to skin irritation and inflammation.
If you do need to clean your dog’s ears, use a little organic witch hazel on a cotton ball or pad to wipe them out.
5. Weakened Immune System
If your dog has food or environmental intolerances, their immune health is down. This brings us back to needing to find the root cause.
Often we see these symptoms due to an imbalance in the gut. Your dog’s gut it the key to their immune strength.
In this case, you’ll need to get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies to resolve your dog’s ear issues.[Related:Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?]
6. Other Chronic Disease
Chronic conditions like hypothyroidism or auto-immune disease can also result in ear infections. These cause strain on his immune system.
He will then be less able to tolerate stressors and toxins from his environment. You’ll want to 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?
First, 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 in your dog.
Bacteria Or Yeast
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 usually, are not painful.
Bacterial infections can also occur. In these cases, you may notice a bad-smelling yellow or greenish discharge.
Ear mites, known as Otodectes cynotis, is a common parasite infection and a type of mange.
Dogs with ear mites will often shake their heads and scratch at their ears.
Mites are often seen in young dogs and are quite contagious, so you’ll want to treat them fast. You also need to avoid other pets in the house getting them too- including any cats.
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. Things like grass seeds or foxtails, a bug, water from swimming or dirt.
Your dog will usually shake his head to rid the debris. If they are unsuccessful it can lead to irritation and bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
If your dog shakes his head or scratches it too hard, he can cause an aural hematoma. This is a type of bruise – a pool of blood between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap.
Most vets will recommend surgery for this condition. There are also some gentler treatment options you can try first.
So now you know a little more about ear infections in dogs so let’s move on to natural solutions that work!
Natural Solutions For Ear Infections
Ear infections can be very uncomfortable for your dog. So let’s look at natural soothing solutions you can start with.
Because these will provide them with some relief while you get to the bottom of the root cause.
Dr. Michael Dym recommends the following soothing solutions:
- 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.
- Get plain 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 antifungal.
To use it topically-Mix 10 drops of GSE with ½ oz of pure aloe vera juice and use it to clean ears when needed.
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 as well as adding a few drops to your dog’s food.
These are soothing solutions that work to keep your dog comfortable. But remember these soothing remedies won’t make your dog’s ear problems go away.
Remedies For Ear Infections
Below are herbal and homeopathic remedies you can use at home to treat your dog’s ear infections.
Herbalist and holistic veterinarian Randy Kidd recommends this solution for mild ear infections:
Use a mix of 1:1 vinegar (organic apple cider vinegar is a good choice) and water. Apply it once daily for a few weeks, and as the condition resolves, use it 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 two to three weeks.
- Strain and apply several drops of the warmed oil into the ear canal daily
For acute flare-ups (not chronic issues), here are some helpful homeopathic remedies.
Use the one that most closely matches your dog’s symptoms, in 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 slightly needy) disposition.
Hepar sulph is useful for irritable animals who don’t like to have their inflamed ears touched.
See Homeopathic Dosing information below.
Chronic Ear Conditions
If your dog has chronic, recurring ear issues, it’s best to get help from your homeopathic vet. They can do a complete analysis of your dog’s overall symptoms.
They can then prescribe a constitutional remedy to address the underlying cause of your dog’s ear problems.
Be aware that symptoms often appear worse befor they are better with homeopathy. Healing comes from the inside out, so ear issues are often the last to go away after the deeper issues improve.
Dr.’s Susan Wynne and Steve Marsden share this recommendation in the Manual of Natural Veterinary Medicine:
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 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
Herbalists Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff recommend applying garlic oil twice daily. Mites don’t like sulfur and garlic contain a lot of it. Garlic also helps minimalize bacterial infections.
Mullein is also anti-parasitic. Using a garlic-mullein oil as described above can be a good anti-mite remedy.
And don’t forget to check other pets in your household (including your cats) as mites are very contagious.
Hematomas can be quite serious so it’s a good idea to consult your holistic vet. Many vets recommend surgery.
“Drs Wynne and Marsden recommend the Chinese herbal formula called Yunnan Bai Yao to be given internally. Use 1 capsule or tablet, or you can also use 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 enlarge, 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. It’s strong astringent properties help constrict weak or inflamed blood vessels.
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 in a 6C or 30C potency to help eject it. Follow the dosing instructions below.
Homeopathic Dosing Guides
- You can Tip 2 or 3 pellets straight into your dog’s mouth. Our stir the pellets into a little filtered water and then use a dropper to place some of the liquid on your dog’s gums.
- Give the remedy once then wait to see if there are any changes.
- If the condition improves, do nothing.
- Are you seeing an improvement followed by a decline? If yes, give another dose.
- Consider trying another remedy if you see no changes.
Patience Is Needed 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 is releasing toxins through his ears, remember that this is an important part of healing.
Because this is how your dog’s life force “lets off steam” and you don’t want to suppress that process.
Any drug or herb that can remove symptoms fast is likely to suppress them. Driving them deeper into the body where they can cause more serious issues later.
So, be patient, and keep your dog comfortable with soothing solutions. Your homeopathic vet will further guide you to addresses the root cause.