How to Treat Dog Ear Infection at Home
Many pet owners have learned to recognize the telltale signs of ear infection in their dogs: head tilting, scratching, head shaking, and whining, are typically the first symptoms of this issue.
Ear infections are among the most common health conditions in dogs, especially those with floppy ears such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds. Most dogs are also more prone to ear infections than humans due to the structure of their ear canals.
According to American Kennel Club, approximately 20% of canines have some form of ear disease and may affect one or both ears. The most frustrating bit is that these infections can come back again and again. But this depends on the form of treatment applied.
So, what should you do to get to the bottom of this problem? Is there a way you can handle your pet’s ear infections without a vet? Let’s find out.
- How to Treat Dog Ear Infection at Home
- What do Dog Ear Infections Look Like?
- What are the Causes of Dog Ear Infections?
- Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections, Without Prescriptions
- How are Ear Infections in Dogs Properly Diagnosed?
- What If Your Dog Has Chronic Ear Infections?
- How to Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs?
What do Dog Ear Infections Look Like?
Healthy ears in dogs are usually dry and clean. It is normal for small amounts of yeast and microscopic bacteria to live in the outer ear canal, but when the normal, healthy ear canal is compromised, or a buildup of debris occurs, that yeast and bacteria can grow and create an infection.
The first sign of a dog's ear infections is head shaking and tilting. Look inside the dog's ears to spot the following common signs of ear infection:
- Odor (often sweet-smelling)
- Reddish or brown discharge
You might also notice him rubbing his ear against a wall or frequently scratching at the affected ear. If he is also walking in circles, showing unusual eye movement, painful ears, hearing loss, or is having balance problems, check with your vet – he could be having a deeper infection.
What are the Causes of Dog Ear Infections?
Many dogs are prone to ear infections–particularly those with long, floppy ears. Many dog owners are already familiar with the symptoms of dog infections.
Dogs have a much more vertical ear canal than human ears. The L-shape makes it more susceptible to holding fluid and disruption from yeast, bacteria, or ear mites which are the causes of dog ear infections. According to Web MD, there are three types of ear infections in dogs, formally known as otitis externa, media, and interna:
- Otitis externa, the most common ear disease in dogs that often causes inflammation that affects the layers of cells lining of the external ear canal or outer part of the ear
- Otitis media, in which inflammation affects the middle ear canal and typically a secondary development of chronic otitis externa cases for up to 50%
- Otitis interna, the most severe dog ear infection that touches the inner ear canal since it can damage the brain leading to neurological problems.
Middle and inner ear canal complications require medical attention from a vet. This is because otitis media and interna can be very serious and may result in facial paralysis, deafness, and vestibular signs.
It means that should you suspect your dog is dealing with severe or chronic ear infections; consult your vet first before administering home remedies. It's crucial to seek early treatment when problems arise.
An ear infection is usually a sign of an underlying condition. Allergies to ingredients in the pet’s food, or environmental triggers, like molds, pollen, and dust mites, are most common, but masses, anatomical abnormalities, chronically damp ears, foreign material within the ear, and hormonal disorders are also possible.
Some of the most common types and culprits behind ear infections in dogs include yeast, ear mites, hormonal imbalances, canine ear structure, foreign bodies, environmental allergies, and bacteria.
Bacteria exist in all parts of the body, including the ears without causing problems. Under some circumstances, they could begin to reproduce quickly, causing inflammation.
Your dog has beneficial bacteria in his ears, responsible for keeping pathogenic bacteria in check. Sometimes, this balance may be hampered.
When this happens, bacteria from a contaminated water body, for instance, could get into your dog's ear and begin to colonize the insufficient beneficial bacteria. If your dog has low immunity, staphylococcus and other bacteria that reside in the ears may overgrow. In these cases, oral medications are necessary (anti-yeast, antibiotics, etc.).
You may also notice a foul-smelling greenish or yellowish discharge if your dog has a bacterial infection. This can be the case if the infections recur.
Fungal or Yeast Infection
The other common yet normal ear inhabitants are fungi. These live in harmony together with bacteria in colonies referred to as the microbiome.
Yeast may overgrow if your dog has a leaky gut or when the immunity is suppressed. Many times, ear infections result when there is a dysfunction in the immune system.
Hormonal imbalances, hypothyroidism, or allergies may be to blame. If your pet is prone to chronic or recurrent ear infections, determining and managing any underlying causes of your dog's ear infection can help ward off new infections from taking place.
However, if these infections occur just once, there is no cause for worry. Simply employ the below natural remedies to control them or simply consider buying dog food for yeast problems.
If your dog shakes his head or scratches it roughly, he can cause an aural hematoma. This is a type of bruise that develops a pool of blood between the ear flap cartilage and the skin.
Most veterinarians will advise surgery for this condition. Never rush into it. There are a few cautions and gentler treatment options for this case.
These are a type of mange and a parasite infection. If your dog has ear mites, he will often scratch his ears and shake his head. Young dogs typically get ear mites and they are very contagious, so fast treatment is important.
Ear mites can be easily identified with the “coffee-ground” discharge they leave in the canine ear. The external portion of the ear may also have red crustiness.
As mentioned previously, ear infections are common conditions in pets and dogs with long ear flaps like Cocker Spaniels are prone to dog ear infections. Long ears trap more debris and moisture and there is less airflow than dog breeds with pricked ears.
They may also have a tendency for discharge and waxy buildup. Their ear canal is a dark moist environment that can promote the excess growth of bacteria and yeast.
Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections, Without Prescriptions
Several natural remedies can be employed to control ear infections. Most of them are inexpensive and readily available. Here is a list of some of the most common:
This is a natural plant rich in antibacterial properties. It is known to reduce inflammation and work well against most ear infections. Here is a simple recipe:
- Pack the leaves or flowers in a jar and cover it with olive oil. You could add a garlic clove to it to increase the antibiotic effects.
- Allow the mixture to sit for about 2-3 weeks
- Apply several drops of the mixture in the affected area using an appropriate-sized cotton ball
If you would wish to avoid the recipe, you could buy a ready-made infused oil.
Apple Cider Vinegar
Apple cider vinegar contains acetic acid, which is great at removing dirt from your dog’s ears. It can also destroy bacteria and yeast.
If you notice soreness or redness in the ears, skip this vinegar because it can be too painful. Put the vinegar in a glass in equal amounts with distilled water.
Fill the mixture in a syringe or a cotton ball soaked with the mixture and begin to clean the ears. Hold your dog's ear still to ensure that the liquid get's into his ear canal.
You can squirt or pour a small amount of the mixture at least one dropper full each time into the ear canal opening, as long as your dog tolerates it. Then gently massage the base of your dog's ear.
The cotton ball serves several functions. It absorbs the excess solution, holds onto debris as it comes up, and acts as a lid to enable the fluid to go back and forth in the canal, letting you know what is down in the ear canal.
This is a highly effective natural antibiotic. Before using it in or on the ear of your dog, be sure to dilute it since it can cause irritation on its own.
Add a drop of oregano oil to a ½ OZ of Aloe Vera gel and clean the ears with it using a cotton swab.
This is an anti-fungal and antibacterial natural oil. It is also an antifungal ingredient that can be highly effective in infected ears.
Under low heat, mix 2 tbsp. of the coconut oil with fresh garlic cloves. A combination of the two is known to have high antibacterial power.
Use the mixture to clean your dog’s ears.
How are Ear Infections in Dogs Properly Diagnosed?
Take note that soothing remedies will not make your dog's ear infection go away. There are more procedures to follow if you want to manage your dog's ear infections long term.
If your pet is displaying any of the common signs of ear infections, it's vital to visit your vet right away. Rapid treatment is not only necessary for your dog's comfort as these can be painful, but also to prevent the infection from spreading to the middle and inner ear.
For this case, do not attempt to treat your dog ear infections at home. But be prepared to provide your veterinarian with a detailed history of your dog's ear problems to determine its underlying cause. This is especially important if you are seeing a new vet or for first-time infections.
After obtaining the history of your dog as well as it's underlying cause, your vet will perform a physical examination. In severe cases, your vet will evaluate both of your dog's ears, and run some tests which may include:
- Visual evaluation to look for common symptoms such as swelling, redness, and discharge inside the ear
- Examination with an otoscope, which enables assessment of the eardrum and ear canal
- Microscopic examination of samples obtained by swabbing the pet's ear
- Gentle palpation of the ears to evaluate the level of pain
- Culture of samples from the ear
- X-rays, CT scan, or biopsies in severe or chronic cases
What If Your Dog Has Chronic Ear Infections?
If your dog is constantly dealing with ear infections, it could be potentially an immune system problem. Ear problems are typically a symptom of an underlying disease.
Once the causes have been determined, appropriate medication is prescribed. In this case, you will want your vet to rule out a leaky gut.
A leaky gut may be caused by drugs and other toxins, poor diet, or over-vaccination. Symptoms of leaky gut include blood in the dog’s urine.
In severe cases, vets often prescribe oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medications. Once appropriate treatment begins, most uncomplicated ear infections resolve within one to two weeks. Your vet may prescribe a topical medication and an ear cleanser for you to use at home.
Chronic infections, on the other hand, will require consistent medication for 6 to 8 weeks. So if your dog has a chronic dog ear infection, you need to work closely with your vet to treat the infection.
In cases of severe chronic disease with failed treatments, however, the vet may recommend surgery such as a Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA). This type of surgery removes the dog's ear canal, therefore, eliminating the diseased tissue and preventing the recurrence of infection.
Pet owners should make sure to complete the session. Your vet will schedule rechecks to make sure the medication is working. Failure to finish the full course of treatment may lead to additional problems.
How to Prevent Ear Infections in Dogs?
Ear cleaning, regular grooming, and ear maintenance are vital parts of dog care. The common cause of ear infections is excess moisture, so make sure to keep your dog's ears clean and dry, especially if he often swims.
If your pet is prone to chronic or recurrent ear infections, detecting and managing any underlying causes like allergies can help prevent new infections from occurring. Ear cleaning is an important part of your dog's hygiene. When cleaning your dog's ears, experts advise the following steps:
- An effective way to clean the dog's ear is to fill the canal with a prescribed dog ear cleaning solution or a gentle cleanser, and massage the ear from the outside. Avoid using rubbing alcohol or other solutions that are irritating to the inflamed skin, though. (Think of the skin inside the dog's ear with an ear infection as a rash).
- Wipe out the ear canal using absorbent gauze and do it several times until the gauze comes out fairly clean. In this case, do not use cotton balls or paper towels because they may leave fibers behind, and those, especially the cotton ball, could cause irritation.
- Cotton swabs or Q-tip swabs are also useful for cleaning the pinnae (the external ear flaps) of your dog but avoid using Q-tips in the ear canal, which may accidentally push debris deeper into the canal.
- After your dog's ear canal has been cleaned, allow it to dry for about 10 minutes.
- Instill the medication (s) your vet has prescribed (drops or a medicated ointment). The length of treatment depends on the dog and the severity of the infection.
Almost every pet will suffer from an ear infection at some point in its life. It's imperative to prevent infection and seek treatment as soon as the symptoms arise in your pet.
Because dogs are the most vulnerable to the condition, ear infections are among the top 3 reasons for vet visits today. They can be uncomfortable, especially if allowed to fester. Fortunately, whatever the cause, there is always a simple natural solution.