Can I Use Natural Home Remedies To Treat My Dog’s Ear Infection? (What Every Dog Owner Should Know First.)

Is your dog scratching or pawing at their ears? 

Perhaps they’re shaking their head… tilting it to one side… or have smelly discharge coming from their ears. If so, your dog may be dealing with an ear infection.

Ear infections are one of the most common medical conditions diagnosed in dogs… and they’re also painful. In the worst cases, they can even lead to loss of balance or hearing loss.

But what causes these infections… and should dog owners treat them at home?

Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding A Dog’s Ear Anatomy

In order to understand why a dog’s ears can become infected, it’s important to be aware of the anatomy of a dog’s ear.

The outer part is known as the pinna and it’s the part we humans see (and often like to pet!)

The pinnae are mobile (think about a dog’s ears going up) and they can move independently of one another.

Its purpose is to take sound waves and funnel them into the ear canal (which is also considered part of the outer ear.)

The middle ear is made up of the eardrum and various muscles.

The inner ear includes the cochlea and the vestibular system.

Now… most ear infections occur in the outer ear, an infection known as otitis externa.

The middle ear and inner ear can also become infected, known as otitis media and otitis interna. However, these infections are fairly uncommon.

So, What Causes Ear Infections In Dogs?

Trapped Yeast/Bacteria

When yeast and bacteria are trapped in a moist environment they tend to multiply, resulting in an infection.

Allergies

Food and environmental allergies can both cause swelling and skin irritation.

It’s common to see dogs develop both atopic dermatitis and chronic ear infections due to an underlying allergy.

Foreign Body

Dogs love to sniff around and to stick their noses where they don’t belong!

A downside to this behavior is foreign bodies might find their way into their ears. For example, a plant seed could get lodged in the ear canal.

Inflammation will result due to irritation and infection can soon follow.

Water In The Ear

Many dogs love to swim!

But while swimming is a great form of exercise, dogs that swim are much more likely to get water in their ears.

When water enters the ear canal and stays there, it creates the “perfect” moist environment for yeast and bacteria.

Due to the shape/size of the pinnae, dogs with long, droopy ears have a higher risk of developing an ear infection.

Can I Use Natural Home Remedies To Treat My Dog's Ear Infection? (What Every Dog Owner Should Know First.) 2

Dog Breeds That Commonly Develop Ear Infections

Any dog can develop an ear infection. But certain dogs are more likely to get them than others.

Dogs breeds frequently diagnosed with ear infections include:

  • Basset Hounds
  • Bloodhounds
  • Great Danes
  • Springer Spaniel
  • Golden Retriever
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Newfoundland
  • Mastiff
  • Coon Hound
  • Irish Setter
  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Bichon Frise
  • Maltese

But remember: With the right (or wrong) conditions, any dog can develop an ear infection.

Signs That Your Dog Might Have An Ear Infection

How can you tell if your dog has an ear infection?

For peace of mind, it’s wise to get your dog checked out by a vet.

But common symptoms of an ear infection typically include:

  • Head-Shaking
  • Odor
  • Redness
  • Brown/Yellow Discharge
  • Excess Earwax
  • Scabbing
  • Pawing At The Ears
  • Hearing Loss

If the inner ear becomes infected and the vestibular system is impacted, dogs can develop a condition known as vestibular syndrome.

Dogs with vestibular syndrome may have difficulty with their balance, could develop a head tilt, and might have nystagmus.

Are There Effective Home Remedies For Treating A Dog’s Ear Infection?

It’s always tempting to try and treat your pet at home, especially when chronic conditions occur.

And the following remedies are often shared on the internet:

1. Cleaning the ear with a mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.

2. Apply a warm compress to the ear several times a day.

3. Applying coconut oil to the ear using a cotton swab.

4. Flushing green tea to the dog’s ear.

5. Applying yogurt to the dog’s ear.

But here’s the reality: There are no studies to show the effectiveness of these so-called natural home remedies. Furthermore, if the eardrum has burst or other factors complicate the issue, it could make things worse.

In order to properly diagnosed an ear infection, your veterinarian will need to swab the ear and perform an ear cytology.

Then, depending on the results, an antifungal or antibiotic needs to be prescribed.

For dogs with recurring infections, additional testing, such as allergy testing, can determine if there’s an underlying cause.

Can I Use Natural Home Remedies To Treat My Dog's Ear Infection? (What Every Dog Owner Should Know First.) 3

You Shouldn’t Use Natural Treatments On Your Dog’s Ear Infection – But You Can Take Steps To Prevent Them!

Natural treatments are controversial (and could be risky), so it’s best to take your dog to a vet for a proper diagnosis.

But there are steps you can take at home to help prevent recurrent ear infections.

Clean Your Dog’s Ears Weekly

Cleaning a dog’s ears is easy!

Using an appropriate ear cleaner, flush the ear.

Before allowing your dog to shake their head, massage the base of the ear to encourage wax and debris to break loose.

You’ll typically hear a “squish squish squish” sound.

Let your dog shake their head several times. It’s this shaking motion that wicks the debris out of the lower part of the ear canal and pushes it up and out of the ear.

Once your dog has settled a bit, take a cotton ball, and clean the pinnae.

Cleaning can be done weekly unless your veterinarian recommends a different schedule.

Always Dry Your Dog’s Ears After Swimming

If your dog is a swimmer be sure to dry their ears after swimming. Use a cotton ball to gently swab out the ear.

Consider Allergy Medications

If cost is a concern but your veterinarian suspects that allergies are an underlying cause of your dog’s ear infections, consider trying allergy medications. Most allergy medications are inexpensive and can help a wide variety of allergies.

Your veterinarian can recommend an allergy medication and the correct dosage.

Change Your Pet’s Diet

If it’s been determined that your dog has a food allergy, you’ll want to change their diet. This can really help your dog live a more comfortable life, too.

To Pluck Or Not To Pluck

Dogs do have hair in their ear canals. There’s some debate over whether plucking this hair can be beneficial.

Ear hair can prevent foreign bodies from entering the ear. However, if there’s too much hair, moisture might be kept in the ear.

Plucking must be done carefully or it can cause additional issues. Have a qualified groomer or your veterinarian pluck the hair if you decide to give it a try.

Use The Best Ear Cleaner Products

There are a few popular dog ear cleaning products that can help.

Here are a few of the best ones:

Last update on 2020-09-01 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Virbac Epi-Otic has been available for decades and dog owners love it.

The formula helps to prevent microbes from sticking to the inside of the ear. The liquid also helps to dry the ear.

Last update on 2020-09-01 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

This non-irritating cleaner has a pleasant scent. And you’ll rest easy knowing the enzyme system will help maintain a balanced environment inside of the ear.

Last update on 2020-09-20 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

3. MalAcetic Ear Cleaner: This cleaner has been specifically formulated to balance the skin PH.

Last update on 2020-09-20 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

The Vetoquinol Ear Cleaning Solution will clean, deodorize, and dry the ear.

It’s gentle enough to use regularly while bathing your dog,

Last update on 2020-09-20 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Skout’s Honor: Probiotic Ear Cleaner contains aloe vera to help soothe dry and itchy ears.

Last update on 2020-09-01 / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Some dogs simply don’t handle a liquid being poured in their ear. These ear cleaning wipes can help an owner clean without an absolute meltdown taking place.

Your veterinarian might recommend a specific cleaner depending upon the results of the ear cytology.

Ultimately, every dog is different and what will work well for one won’t work for another. Figuring out the right combination of preventative measures and treatments will take time and patience.