Ear infections in dogs (medically known as “otitis externa”) can occur in any breed. However, they are particularly common among breeds with large, hairy, and floppy ears, such as miniature poodles, basset hounds, English sheepdogs, and cocker spaniels.
Fortunately for pet parents, ear problems don’t always require a trip to the vet. There are ways to deal with a dog ear infection naturally.
But what are the signs that your dog’s ears might have an infection? Symptoms can include excessive head shaking, itching, and a noticeable foul odor coming from their inner ear. Sometimes you can visibly see coffee ground-like guck around the inside of the ear as well as redness and inflammation.
If your dog displays these behaviors mentioned above — coupled with a stinky smell coming from their ears — he could have an ear infection. Let’s dive into how you can treat your dog’s ear infection at home using natural remedies, as well as how to determine when it’s time to seek the help of a professional.
Types of Ear Infections: Externa, Media, and Interna
There are three kinds of canine ear infections that affect different parts of the ear: otitis externa, otitis media, and otitis interna. According to DVM Elizabeth Racine of the American Kennel Club, otitis externa is the most common type of ear infection targeted at the layer of cells lining the outside of the ear canal. Otitis media and interna are ear infections in the middle and inner ear canal, respectively.
Media and interna typically happen after otitis externa infection has spread. With externa as the source, you must treat your pooch’s ear infection early on before it spreads.
Media and interna infections can escalate into chronic ear infections that result in severe conditions such as facial paralysis and deafness. As such, don’t wait to treat your dog’s ear infection, no matter how minor it may seem.
Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs
Ear infections happen when there is either too much build-up of yeast or bacteria trapped in the ear canal, sometimes both. Allergies, ear mites, foreign bodies, and ear wax build-up can also cause infection.
Experts at Central Texas Veterinary Hospital state that allergy-related ear infections could be caused by something in the environment like pollen or a food allergy to chicken or soy, for example. If you suspect your dog’s ear infection is from an allergy, work with your vet to identify the allergen.
Yeast infections and bacterial ear infections happen because of the environment they thrive in. Yeast and bacteria love to grow in dark, warm, and moist areas of the body. Floppy dog ears are one such ideal breeding ground, which is why these bacterial infections typically develop there.
Allergy supplements that contain fatty acids, antioxidants, and probiotics are an excellent way to alleviate your dog’s allergies and support skin health. A good multivitamin for dogs will have enough active ingredients to help your dog absorb nutrients and essential vitamins for better overall health.
How to Treat Dog Ear Infection Naturally With Home Remedies
Ear infections are painful for your pooch, but externa ear infections usually can be treated at home without a trip to the vet. In fact, a natural solution can often be found right in your pantry.
Using either a store-bought natural solution formulated for infected ears or items from your kitchen cabinet like coconut oil, olive oil, or apple cider vinegar (ACV), you can conduct a do-it-yourself ear infection treatment.
If you use coconut or olive oil as ear drops, veterinarian Erika Halle, DVM, recommends cleaning the ear by placing just a couple drops of oil into the canal to soften ear wax and move it out of the ear. You can follow up by wiping the ear with a tissue or cotton ball.
To use apple cider vinegar, mix a solution of equal parts ACV and water. Using a cotton ball dampened with the solution, gently wipe the inside of the ear flap. Apple cider vinegar is excellent for ear care because its antibacterial and antifungal qualities help control bacterial growth and prevent future infection.
Ear Cleaning Using OTIC Ear Cleaner
Along with coconut oil, olive oil, or apple cider vinegar, you might want to consider an otic ear cleanser for your pooch. At PetHonesty, we made a gentle, veterinarian-strength ear cleanser ideal for sensitive skin that will help prevent future ear health issues like infection, odor, and itching.
Salicylic acid and benzoic acid in the cleanser flush out pathogens that lead to irritation, redness, clogged ears, and smells. The added aloe soothes your dog’s ears while nourishing and moisturizing them.
To use it, squirt the solution into your dog’s ear canal and gently massage the base of the ear for 30-60 seconds. Let your pet shake her head to move the now-loosened ear guck out of the ear. After the head shaking is done, wipe any remaining solution and residue with a tissue or soft cloth. You can use it up to three times a week, depending on the severity of infection, discharge, or odor.
What Not to Do
Never use a Q-tip cotton swab to clean your dog’s ears. Q-tip swabs are risky because they can push debris deeper into the ear canal or worse: rupture the eardrum. A ruptured eardrum can result in sharp pain and hearing loss.
Furthermore, do not use a cleaner that contains hydrogen peroxide or alcohol as these chemicals can irritate the ear canal. Consult your veterinarian to help you decide what kind of ear cleaning solution is best for your dog.
You may want to start the ear cleaning process with a few motivating treats on hand for your pup. Also, if your dog is squirmy and nervous about being handled during this process, consider giving them a calming hemp chew to help alleviate the stress of the situation.
Final Words on Natural Ear Infection Options
It’s up to you to determine whether or not your dog’s ear infection is severe enough to warrant a trip to the vet. If it’s your first time dealing with an ear infection, however, you might be more comfortable talking to your vet to get a rundown of how to deal with it at home and learn how to avoid future visits.
That said, don’t wait to take care of a suspected externa ear infection. Delaying treatment is not worth the risk of it spreading and turning into a media or interna ear infection.
For dog parent veterans, it’s essential to have a vet take a look at your dog’s ear problem if it’s persistent. For minor ear issues, you can start with natural remedies at home. Find a natural ear solution that works for your pup, and if you aren’t sure what to get, ask your vet for a recommendation.