If your dog is currently suffering from an ear infection, don’t get discouraged – it’s actually a more common problem than you might think. In fact, 20% of all dogs get an ear infection at least one time in their life.
Now it’s one thing for me to say these things to hopefully bring you some comfort, but it’s another thing entirely when you’re the one having to figure out how to treat this bothersome condition. If you’ve had images in your mind of your dog going through excruciating physical discomfort, or skyrocketing veterinarian bills, or any other extreme scenario, I can say that you typically don’t have to worry about things getting that far out of hand.
But – and it’s a BIG but – you do need to take care of an ear infection as soon as you detect it, because it can produce further complications that can potentially lead to major health issues for your dog down the road (more on that later).
I know about ear infections in dogs first hand, because my dog Juno (an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix) had to get treated for an ear infection not too long ago. It was a rough situation, but fortunately I was able to catch this condition before it snowballed out of hand, and now Juno has a clean bill of health. While it was no fun to deal with at the time, I did learn a lot about what causes ear infections, as well as how to treat them using medicines and home remedies. So with promoting health in the doggysphere in mind, I now offer to you these tips, tricks and home remedies you can use to treat your dog for an ear infection.
First Things First: What Is An Ear Infection In Dogs?
We know what an ear infection is for human beings, but what about for dogs? How do they get ear infections, and what does it look like? Glad you asked! The most common type of canine ear infection is known as “Otitis Externa“, which is basically an inflammation of the area in or near your dog’s outer ear canal. There are also middle ear and inner ear infections, but inflammation of the outer ear canal is by far the most common type of ear condition that dogs deal with.
As I said earlier, these infections are nothing unusual, but if you don’t catch it and treat it in a timely manner, it could develop into something more serious. This is not because the bacteria or yeast are life-threatening or anything, but rather it’s because your dog could risk permanently damaging its ear or eardrum through excessive scratching.
Symptoms Of Ear Infections In Dogs
Now that you know more about what canine ear infections are, what are some of the symptoms your dog might display when they’re dealing with this issue? Here are some of the most common things to look for:
- Dark, crumb-like material inside your dog’s ears
- Swelling, redness or inflammation of your dog’s outer ear flap
- Various types of discharge from your dog’s ears
- Foul odor coming from your dog’s ears
- Excessive scratching or rubbing of the ears and head
- Frequent shaking of the head or tilting of the head to one side
- Sensitivity to the touch (e.g., your dog might “yelp” when you touch or squeeze its ear)
- Changes in behavior (e.g., loss of appetite, irritability, aggression, depression, etc.)
Best 4 Home Remedies For Ear Infections In Dogs
I’m sure by now you’ve pinpointed whether or not your dog has an ear infection. If so (and I’m truly sorry to hear it), you can use the following home remedies to help you knock that cumbersome infection out with little to no side effects. Let’s get started!
Preliminary Tip: Choose a Good Location
I learned this one the hard way. Make sure that you choose a location such as a bathroom, mud room or other area where messes will be fairly easy to clean up before setting up shop. If you don’t, you could have quite a mess on your hands when it’s all said and done. Not every dog likes getting their ears cleaned, and even the ones that do will often shake their heads – sometimes when their ears are full of cleaning solution – which means that you’ll be wiping cleaning solution (and possibly some very unsavory debris) off nearby walls, counters or floors.
In addition, keep in mind that gentleness is the key. Talk to your pup in a calm, reassuring manner, and encourage them with treats if need be. A little TLC will go a long way towards making your dog feel more comfortable with the whole ordeal. Okay, now on to the actual home remedies.
1. How To Treat A Dog Ear Infection Using Apple Cider Vinegar
For those who don’t know, apple cider vinegar is legendary in the realm of home remedies due to its amazing bevy of healing and cleansing properties. Some of the most prominent health benefits of apple cider vinegar include:
- Improves digestive system function
- Relieves and/or prevents arthritis
- Clears up urinary tract infections
- Prevents the formation of kidney stones or gallstones
- Improves the condition of your dog’s haircoat and skin
- Reduces flaking and dander on skin
- Cleanses the skin of fungal and bacterial infections
- Powerful antiseptic
- Restores equilibrium to inner ear
- Prevents food poisoning
- Inhibits the growth and development of bacterial and/or viral diseases
- Relieves itching
- Makes your dog less susceptible to flea bites and tick bites
- And, perhaps most important to this discussion, clears up and prevents ear infections
One of the reasons why apple cider vinegar is an elixir of choice for getting rid of ear infections is because dogs are naturally more alkaline (almost to a fault), so the apple cider vinegar actually helps to balance this out. In addition, it’s a natural substance, so you won’t have to worry near as much about giving your dog something that could potentially produce undesirable side effects. So how exactly do you use apple cider vinegar to clear up your dog’s ear infection?
Well, all you need to do is dilute about 2 tablespoons of water into 1 cup of apple cider vinegar to make a potent cleaning solution for cleaning your dog’s ears. Just use this solution along with some thin, square-shaped gauze pads to actually wipe your dog’s ears with. I don’t recommend using cotton balls or tissue, because those things can shred while you’re wiping with them, which can leave unwanted debris in your dog’s ears. In addition, if the infection is further down into your dog’s ear canal, don’t use a Q-tip! Sticking a Q-tip down into your dog’s ear canal can cause significant damage, especially if you haven’t been professionally trained to know how to maneuver objects down inside that tight space.
Anyway, make sure that you pour an adequate amount of your apple cider vinegar and water mixture onto the gauze pad, and then start wiping the inside of your dog’s ear flap, applying enough pressure to dislodge any caked-on crud or stubborn debris that may be present. As you can imagine, this can be easier or more difficult based on the size and shape of your pup’s ears.
Since Juno is an Alaskan Husky and Collie mix, she has rather small, perky ears that make them pretty easy to clean. If you’re working with a floppy-eared dog such as a Basset Hound or Dachshund, you’re going to have your work cut out for you. Either way it goes, be as thorough as possible when cleaning, and keep wiping out the inside of the ear flap until you don’t see any more dirt or debris on the gauze pad after you wipe. This may take you two or three tries before everything is adequately clean, so keep changing out gauze pads and keep working at it until you get there.
One thing that I wanted to say before I go any further is if your dog has been scratching its ears to the point of them being raw or red from trauma to the skin, don’t use apple cider vinegar! It will burn your dog’s ravaged ears and cause them quite a bit of pain, so in those cases, you’ll have to use another solution to get the job done (I’ve got some more below). The great thing about this solution is that not only is it a fantastic ear cleaner, but you can also give this to your dog to drink! The antiseptic and cleansing properties of apple cider vinegar can do wonders for your dog’s immune system, which will in turn make your pup a less viable candidate for developing ear infections.
When to go to the Vet
If you’re dealing with an infection that has taken hold a little deeper into your dog’s ear, it would be better for you to leave that job up to the veterinarian. They have special tools and instruments (plus years of training) to clean up infections in the recesses of your dog’s ear canal without doing any harm.
2. How To Treat A Dog Ear Infection Using Hydrogen Peroxide
Hydrogen peroxide is one of the most valued antiseptics and germicidal agents on the market. The cool thing about hydrogen peroxide is that it is literally a combination of two of the most basic elements on Planet Earth – hydrogen and oxygen!
It derives its germ-killing power from the process of oxidation, which stops all kinds of infection-causing organisms in their tracks. If you want to use hydrogen peroxide to clean or treat your dog’s ear infection, it’s pretty simple: Just combine 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 1 part water in the amount that you see fit, as long as the ratio stays the same. Make sure that the hydrogen peroxide you’re using is the standard 3 percent kind.
Using a bulb ear syringe, flush out your dog’s ear with this solution, wiping the interior of the ear flap with thin gauze pads in order to get rid of any excess buildup, wax, debris, or other yucky, cruddy stuff that may have accumulated in your dog’s ears. The hydrogen peroxide will go to work on those tiny microorganisms causing the infection, knocking them out for good.
3. How To Treat A Dog Ear Infection Using Essential Oils
Essential oils are amazing natural compounds that have powerful cleansing and healing properties. Some examples of essential oils include tea tree oil (melaleuca), lavender oil, rosemary oil, oregano oil, clover oil, eucalyptus oil, and many more.
These natural substances can alter your pup’s ear environment, making it difficult for bacteria, yeast and other undesirable microorganisms to live there. One thing I wanted to mention right off the bat is that essential oils are highly concentrated, so you will definitely need to exercise caution when using them on your dog! Not only can they be harsh on the skin in their undiluted form (tea tree oil, for example, can burn sensitive skin on contact), but they also carry potent aromas that may be completely overwhelming to your dog’s highly sensitive olfactory system.
Keep in mind that your pup’s sense of smell is anywhere between 10,000 to 100,000 times more powerful than yours (yes, you read that right!), which means that they can easily be put off by a strong, undiluted essential oil aroma. So the moral of the story is simple: Dilute those oils before you use them!
Okay, here is the best essential oil recipe to use for treating your dog’s ear infection and/or for preventing recurring ear infections.
- 8 drops Lavender oil
- 8 drops Geranium oil
- 8 drops Frankincense oil
- 4 drops Clover oil
- 4 drops Oregano oil
Keeping in the spirit of what I said earlier, you will need to pick a carrier oil to use as a diluting agent for your essential oil mixture; olive oil or fractionated coconut oil are both great for this purpose.
Add the above-mentioned essential oils to a 30ml (1 fl. oz.) dark glass bottle and fill the remainder with the fractioned coconut oil or olive oil. Use a dropper and squeeze a few drops of the blend into your dog’s ear canal, and massage it by gently “milking” the outside of your dog’s ear (at the base) using your thumb and index finger.
This action is called milking because it’s very similar to how you would milk a cow, using an up-and-down motion while applying light squeezing pressure. This will help to dislodge built-up wax and debris, and it will work the oils into your dog’s ear canal where they can really start attacking the source of the infection. Viruses and bacteria stand no chance when they come into contact with essential oils; this is why they’re a great choice for getting rid of a canine ear infection.
4. How To Treat A Dog Ear Infection With Monistat
Yeast is one of the most common causes of ear infections in your dog, and yeast overgrowth can affect your dog’s ears on a superficial or internal level. Yeast love to hang out anywhere where it’s dark, warm and moist, and that basically describes the ear canal of the average dog. While there are several other potential causes of ear infections (e.g., bacteria, hereditary conditions, environmental debris, etc.), an infection caused by yeast in particular needs to be dealt with using some type of product that can get rid of yeast.
Monistat vaginal cream definitely falls into this category, because it is commonly used to cure vaginal yeast infections. Here’s what you’ll need to create a homemade ear infection solution using Monistat vaginal cream:
- Gauze pads
- White vinegar
- Monistat vaginal cream
- Medicine dropper
Okay, your first step will be to “prep” the area using a vinegar and water solution. Mix one part water with three parts of the white vinegar, and then put the mixture into a medicine dropper.
Squeeze several drops into your dog’s ear, and then wipe it with a gauze pad to dry. The vinegar in this solution will help to control the yeast by way of its acidic properties. Once you have dried your dog’s ear, now put a little bit of Monistat cream onto a Q-tip and apply it to your dog’s ear. Remember what I said earlier about not sticking that Q-tip down into the ear canal! In fact, you should only go as far as you can see into the ear, just to be on the safe side.
Perform this cleaning routine three days in a row, and then scale it down to once every other day for about a week. After that, scale back even further by only performing the routine once per week, or until the infection is all gone.
One of the things you can do to keep that nasty yeast from coming back is to make sure that you thoroughly dry your pup’s ears after it comes into contact with water. For example, if your dog goes swimming, make sure to thoroughly towel dry its ears, so that moisture won’t accumulate inside of those little nooks and crannies in your dog’s ears. In addition, make sure to inspect your dog’s ears on a regular basis, looking for any signs of irritation, inflammation or unpleasant odors.
Types Of Dog Ear Infection Medications And Their Side Effects
There are also plenty of over-the-counter medications that can really help with getting rid of a canine ear infection. Here are some of the most popular ones, along with their side effects:
1. Zymox Otic Enzmatic Solution
This medicine is specially formulated to treat the ear for external inflammation (acute and chronic) caused by fungal, bacterial and yeast infections. You can buy Zymox Otic with or without hydrocortisone, which is an additional agent that helps to stave off inflammation.
The good news about this product is that it is very safe to use on your dog, since there have been no reported side effects. Just apply a liberal amount of the solution directly into your dog’s ear canal, massaging or milking it as I explained earlier. If you’re dealing with an acute infection, treat your dog for 7 days (once per day); if it’s a chronic infection, treat it once per day for 14 days.
2. Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleanser
This cleanser features anti-adhesive properties that can prevent the buildup of yeast and bacteria. Apply the solution liberally in your dog’s ear canal, massage it in, and then wipe the interior of your dog’s ear flap with a soft, moist cloth. Apply the treatment two to three times a week. There are no reported side effects for this product either.
3. Nolvasan Otic Cleansing Solution
This product contains an important ingredient known as isopropanol, which is a cleansing agent that can remove debris and dead tissue from your dog’s ears. Apply the solution liberally into your dog’s ear canal and massage well. Remove any excess fluid with a soft cloth. Apply this treatment one to three times per day. No side effects for this one either!
How To Use Antibiotics For A Dog’s Ear Infection
There are times when your dog’s ear infection can get a little out of hand, at which time you need some “heavy artillery” to combat that nasty bacteria, fungus or yeast. This can come in the form of antibiotics, which must be prescribed by your dog’s veterinarian.
Antibiotic medications such as Tresaderm, Otomax and Mometamax Otic Suspension are popular choices for veterinarians, as they are easy to apply, and highly effective as well. Each of these three antibiotic medications must be administered by squeezing droplets into your dog’s ear canal, so it’s nothing out of the ordinary, but please be sure to use the medicines exactly according to your veterinarian’s instructions!
Don’t guesstimate or eyeball it when giving your dog any dosages; be sure to follow your vet’s instructions to the letter. This will prevent any complications, and will ensure that the medicine will do what it was intended to do. Bear in mind that antibiotic medicines do carry some potential side effects, so be sure to thoroughly discuss this with your vet to ensure that the medicine will be a good fit for the age, size and overall health condition of your dog.
Okay, you have officially been furnished with everything you need to know to treat your dog’s ear infection. Be sure to use the tips and ideas outlined above, and may the wind be always at your back! You can also refer to FAQ about dog ear infection.