Home Remedies for Ear Infections in Dogs

Ear infections are a common and persistent canine problem, and the majority of dogs will suffer from the unpleasant condition at some point or another. Any dog could potentially experience ear trouble, but long-haired breeds with excessive hair and upright outer ears are especially susceptible to canine ear infections. Unlike in humans, the ear canal in most dogs is typically vertical. This allows for a buildup of moisture and debris to become lodged in the ear, which can cause an infection. Depending on how extreme the ear infection is, signs cans range anywhere from non-existent to severe on the symptom scale. Ear problems are one of the biggest reasons dogs frequent the vet’s office. Though there are many pharmaceutical and home remedies for ear infections in dogs, the problem can recur often and be difficult to clear up.

What is an Ear Infection?

Ear infections can be extremely uncomfortable. They generally occur in dogs when either a viral or bacterial infection affects the area around and/or inside the ear. Dogs are susceptible to three types of ear infections:

  • otitis media– an inflammation in the area located directly behind the eardrum, more commonly referred to as the “middle ear”
  • otitis interna- swelling/inflammation of the inner ear
  • otitis externa– infected outer ear

The inflammation and build-up of fluids associated with ear infections can cause various levels of pain and discomfort in dogs. Irreparable damage to the middle and/or inner ear can occur in more severe cases where the infections have become chronic or incessant.

Dog ear anatomy

What are the Symptoms?

Symptoms of an ear infection can manifest both physically and behaviorally, and they should always be checked by a veterinarian. Physical signs of ear infections in dogs are:

  • Odor and/or discharge of ear- often yellow, brown, or even bloody in color
  • Redness/swelling
  • Scabbing/hair loss inside and around the outer ear
  • Impaired hearing/deafness

Behavioral signs of ear infections in dogs include:

  • Excessive scratching/rubbing affected on surrounding areas
  • Resisting to chew – they may stop playing with their chew toys
  • Head shaking/tilt
  • Loss of balance/altered sense of equilibrium
  • Uncharacteristic eye and body movements

What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

Bacteria

Bacteria is the leading cause of ear inflammation and infection in dogs. The dark, wet environment of the ear canal creates an ideal atmosphere for growing bacteria, which eventually increases to an elevated number where infection occurs.

Yeast

Yeast is another primary cause of ear infections in dogs and can increase the chances of a bacterial infection. It easily grows in the moist conditions of the ear canal, and even certain dog foods (such as those containing a lot of refined carbohydrates) contribute to high levels of yeast production that can cause inflamed ears.

Allergies

Dogs that struggle with environmental or food allergies will most likely suffer from ear infections. Allergies cause inflammation in the skin and can lead to the overproduction of yeast and bacteria: two very common triggers for ear infections in dogs.

Wax Buildup

Because the canine ear canal sits upright and has an “L”-shaped kink to it, wax and other potentially dangerous fluids can become trapped inside. This makes dogs naturally susceptible to ear infections. In particular, dogs with longer ears and excessive ear hair have an even greater tendency for waxy buildup, discharge, and infection.

Collar/Harness

Dogs who are active unknowingly pick up a ton of foreign objects just from adventuring outdoors. These foreign bodies, which include dirt and plant matter, often attach themselves to a dog’s collar or harness and eventually make their way to the ear, causing irritation and subsequent infection.

Ear mites

Ear mites are external parasites. They are more common in puppies as opposed to older dogs. Ear mites often cause hypersensitivity, which can result in intense itching and eventual irritation of the skin surrounding the ear canal.

Ear mite

Hormones

Certain hormones, such as those produced by the thyroid and adrenal glands, influence the overall health of skin and ears. Therefore either deficiencies or excesses of these particular hormones can result in ear problems, including infections, for dogs

Swimmer’s Ear

Swimming allows moisture to enter the ear. This moisture, along with the vertical shape of the canine ear canal, promotes the growth of inflammation-causing microorganisms inside the ears of many dogs who love to swim.

Dog swimming

How are Ear Infections Normally Treated?

Most commonly, ear infections in dogs require a thorough cleaning and/or a number of medications and can usually be treated with:

  • Ear-flushing– As the affected area is sensitive, cleaning an infected ear should be done using only the gentlest of cleansers and sterile cotton balls. Flush the ear as many times as the dog will allow comfortably, until the canal appears clean upon examination. Stay away from products like generic cotton swabs and rubbing alcohol, which can further irritate the present infection. Allow 10 minutes of drying time after ear-flushing.
  • Antibiotics– Either topical (ear drops/ointment) or oral (anti-inflammatory/pain relief medication). Be sure to complete the full course of antibiotics prescribed by the vet.
  • Steroids– Prescribed by the veterinarian to help ease inflammation and swelling.

Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment with Hydrocortisone

Zymox Otic with 1% Hydrocortisone is an ear drop that is highly regarded and a popular product choice among the many home remedies for ear infections in dogs. In addition to a 1% Hydrocortisone content, which aids in calming pesky itching and inflammation, the product contains three hardworking enzymes that are antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral. It has been tried, tested and reviewed by thousands of dog owners on Amazon and has a 4.8/5 star rating.


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Pros

  • works as both cleanser and treatment
  • effective relief
  • affordable

Cons

  • not guaranteed to treat yeast and ear mites
  • may cause allergic reaction

Zymox Otic boasts a high average customer rating based on overall results, with very few reviewers labeling the product ineffective.

Natural Remedies for Dog Ear Infections

Apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a powerful disinfectant and bacteria cleaner. It can be used to cleanse and cure the canine ear canal of any symptoms of ear problems and even keep an existing infection from spreading. Apple cider vinegar can be used undiluted or mixed with either water or hydrogen peroxide and is safe enough to use daily.

Macerated garlic

Garlic has many antibacterial properties, including allicin—the major component that fights off infections. Macerated garlic can be purchased in capsule form, or made fresh from organic garlic and virgin olive oil and left to mature for at least two weeks before use. It works best if used daily until the infection disappears

Oregano oil

When diluted and placed directly onto the affected area, oregano oil helps kill parasites and infections. It also contains beneficial antifungal properties.

Warm Compress

Soaking a towel in hot water,wringing it out, and applying it to the infected ear can help ease some physical discomforts such as redness, swelling, and pain. A warm compress can be used on all types of ear infections and should be repeated several times a day for optimal results.

Mullein

Mullein extract is taken from the twigs and leaves of the greater mullein plant, and it can be used to cure ear infections in dogs. It aides in calming nerves and soothing any inflammation in the infected ear. Mullein works best when combined with garlic oil.

Calendula

Calendula is an herbal remedy that generally can be found in any participating health food store. It is highly regarded for its anti-fungal properties. When mixed with sea salt and distilled water, Calendula ear drops can help heal wounds inside the ear canal and cure infection.

Coconut oil

Used in the form of ear drops, coconut oil may be used to help treat infections. It is a safe and natural way to get rid of several types of bacteria, fungi, and parasites.

Coconut oil

Almond oil

Warm almond oil is another effective natural remedy for ear infections in dogs. It helps to reduce the risk of infection by loosening any dirt or wax buildup that may be disturbing the ear canal.

Vitamin E or Cod liver oil

Vitamin E oil is great for treating inner and outer ear infections. It may also be purchased in the form of cod liver oil.

Margosa oil

Margosa oil is a common cure for mild ear infections in dogs, as it contains antimicrobial properties. It works best when combined with other oils into a remedy that relieves inflammation.

Aloe vera gel

Warm aloe vera gel is potent enough to help cure the redness, swelling, and irritation caused by ear infections.

Probiotic yogurt

Active strains of probiotic bacteria found in certain yogurt fights the production of yeast and wards off infection.

Pau d’arco

Pau d’arco, an herbal remedy native to the South American rainforest, works as an antibiotic to kill bacteria-causing infections of the ear.

White vinegar

By mixing 1 part water with 3 parts vinegar, anyone can make an at-home remedy that is sure to kill any bacteria hiding in the canine ear canal. White vinegar has powerful antibacterial and antifungal properties, which can help relieve symptoms and treat mild ear infections in dogs.

Causes of Repeated Ear Infections

Chronic ear infections can lead to irreversible damage to a dog’s middle and/or inner and are often caused by:

  • Poor diet/allergies: Certain foods produce a lot of yeast, which is the most common cause of ear infections in dogs. Dogs with allergies and food aversions can develop inflammation, and healthy diets should be established early on.
  • Toxins: Discharge and inflammation are two signs of excess toxins. Regular vet checkups should be scheduled in order to monitor health.
  • Over-vaccination: Many ear infections are caused by immune system problems from vaccines. Do not over-vaccinate, and be aware of any unusual reactions.
  • Drugs: Medications can make the problem worse, and many dogs eventually develop a resistance. There are many other natural and home remedies for ear infections in dogs as alternative means of treatment.

Conclusion

Canine ear infections are very common, and they are most frequently caused by either bacteria or yeast. They generally call for a combination of a thorough cleaning and appropriate medications as means to a cure. It is very important to take each necessary form of treatment seriously, as ear infections in dogs are very common and can easily resurface at any time. More advanced cases such as these can be very serious. Of course, it is very important to prevent and seek early treatment for ear problems to ensure a happy and healthy life for your dog.

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