The itching, the whining, the weird odor. If your dog has ever had an ear infection, you’re probably familiar with all these symptoms. Ear infections are downright annoying for your dog, and as an owner, you hate seeing your furry friend in pain. This is where a good home remedy for dog ear infections can come in handy.
Why do ear infections happen? And what can you do to get rid of them? In this article, we’ll review DIY treatments you can whip up at home, along with more facts you should know about these pesky conditions.
What is a Dog Ear Infection?
An ear infection occurs when bacteria, yeast, or another irritant runs amok in your dog’s delicate ears. These infections cause inflammation in the outer, middle, or inner ear. You may also encounter discharge or an unusual odor.
Your dog will be peeved if they have an ear infection. The scratching, head shaking, and whining tells you just how irritating this condition is for your dog!
Some dog breeds are more at risk of developing an ear infection than others. For example, Basset Hounds and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to ear infections because of their large, floppy ears. Their ear structures create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and yeast—dark, warm, and moist.
Dogs with droopy ears are especially at risk if they swim. Since water can easily get trapped in the ears, the residual moisture can lead to an infection.
Types of Ear Infections in Dogs
Not every infection is created equal. Treatment depends on what’s contaminating your dog’s ears and how deep the irritant has traveled. Here are the most common types of ear infections:
- Yeast infections – This is one of the most prevalent types of ear infections in dogs. Yeast is a fungus that usually lives in the ear. When the yeast population overgrows, inflammation and unpleasantness occur. As if the discomfort and itchiness aren’t enough, the smell of a yeast infection is often foul. Luckily, this ailment is treatable at home.
- Bacterial infections – Germs are another common irritant that can drive your dog nuts. Similar to yeast, bacteria love dark, moist places. Staphylococcus, Escherichia coli, and Klebsiella spp, and pseudomonas can overtake the ear and cause an infection.
- Mite infestations – This issue occurs when Otodectes cynotis, a parasitic mite, set up shop in your dog’s ears. These pesky creatures feed on the wax and oil in the ear. Although these mites don’t bite, they cause extreme itchiness. This irritation can cause your dog to scratch excessively, exacerbating the issue.
Location of Dog Ear Infections
When your dog gets an ear infection, it’s critical to consider how deep the irritation runs. Your dog can experience infections on the outer part of the ear (otitis external), in the middle of the ear (otitis media), and deep inside the ear (otitis interna).
Middle and inner ear infections are generally more serious than external ear infections because they can be very painful and even disrupt your dog’s hearing and balance.
In severe cases, middle or inner ear infections can result in deafness.
External Ear Infection
Perhaps the most common ear disorder in dogs, external ear infections occur when the cells lining the ear canal become inflamed.
An external ear infection is serious enough to require a visit to the veterinarian. In some cases, your dog could have a middle ear infection as well, so it is always best to get a vet’s opinion.
Middle Ear Infection
A middle ear infection is arguably the most painful because fluids and inflammation build up in a confined space. These infections can become very serious if left untreated.
Since the facial and sympathetic nerves travel through the middle ear, an infection in this location can cause facial paralysis and eyelid drooping.
Internal Ear Infection
A deep inner ear infection may have some of the same symptoms as a middle ear infection, plus a loss of balance.
The internal ear is part of the vestibular system, which is responsible for controlling balance. An infection in the inner ear can disruptions the vestibular system and cause dizziness and vertigo.
Causes of Ear Infections in Dogs
As we mentioned, several different irritants can cause your dog’s ears to act up. Your fur baby can get an ear infection from yeast or bacteria growing in the ears. Allergies, wax buildup, and ear mites can also trigger these pesky infections. Common causes of these situations include:
- Not properly drying the ear after bathing or swimming
- Improper or excessive grooming
- Skin allergens and irritants
- Endocrine (hormonal) disorders
- Autoimmune disorders
What Contributes to an Ear Infection?
There is a reason some dogs are more prone to ear infections than others. Being aware of these traits helps you take appropriate care and prevent infections.
Dogs have a slightly different ear structure compared to humans. Their ear canals are vertical and L-shaped, making it easy for fluid to accumulate and become trapped. Dogs with droopy ears are even more prone to contracting ear infections.
Bacteria and yeast thrive in humid conditions. Fluids and oil that fester in the ear canal create a moist environment perfect for bacterial and fungal growth.
If your dog lives in a humid climate, or you don’t dry their ears well after swimming or bathing, the excess moisture can lead to a bacteria or yeast overgrowth.
Another contributor to ear infections in dogs is wax buildup. It is essential to regularly clean your dog’s ears to lower the risk of infection.
If your dog has long hair in or around its ears, like a Maltese, you must keep it trimmed to prevent mats and reduce wax. Groomed ear hair improves air circulation and reduces the likelihood of moisture and bacteria accumulating.
Though it may sound contradictory, too much cleaning is actually bad for your dog’s ears. Much like our own ears, ear wax traps harmful microorganisms and prevents them from harming infecting the ear.
Without ear wax, the ear canal would be very dry, making it easy for bacteria and yeast to cause an infection.
Symptoms of Ear Infection in Dogs
Sometimes, it’s hard to tell what your dog is going through. However, an ear infection will be pretty obvious. These signs often point towards an ear infection:
- Shaking of the head
- Pawing at the ears
- Bizarre eye movements
- Dragging their face along the carpet
- Discharge from the ears (can be brown, yellow, or bloody)
- Redness outside or inside the ear canal
- Loss of balance
Prevention of Dog Ear Infections
Seeing your dog in pain can be an unsettling experience. So, it’s always good to know how you can prevent your dog from getting an ear infection.
Here are some steps you can take to ensure your canine companion doesn’t contract one of these annoying disorders in the first place:
- Keep up with grooming – One likely possibility is that your dog’s ears are not being cleaned regularly. Bacteria and fungi can harbor inside the ear canal and feed on dirt and wax. If not properly cleaned, these microbes can grow and cause infection.
- Dry the ears – A useful technique for preventing your dog’s ears from infection is to dry their ears with cotton balls after bathing or swimming. This will prevent moisture from lingering in their ears and causing an infection.
- Remove debris – Another tip is to clean out any foreign objects you see in the outer ear. Any debris left in the ear can end up down in the ear canal and potentially cause infection.
- Avoid harsh cleansers – When bathing your dog, be sure to use a mild shampoo that won’t strip their skin of the oils meant to protect it. Although shampoo is NOT supposed to get into their ears, there is always a chance it can. Harsh shampoos can dry out the ears and make them prone to infection.
- Provide supplements – Omega-3 fatty acids are especially helpful in enhancing the immune system and keeping the skin healthy, which go a long way in combatting ear infections. Hemp seed, salmon, and flaxseed oil are excellent sources of Omega-3 acids for dogs.
Home Remedies for Dog Ear Infections
If you notice that your dog has an ear infection, you shouldn’t feel helpless! Below are some home remedies that can treat ear infections in dogs. Before you apply any of these solutions, make sure the ear is clean and free of debris. And always consult a vet if you are unsure of your dog’s condition!
Apple Cider Vinegar
Spray a mixture of equal parts apple cider vinegar and distilled water into the ear. The vinegar can fight bacterial and fungal invaders and soothe swelling. The acid may ease any pain that your dog is experiencing. An alternative to vinegar is witch hazel, which itself has anti-inflammatory properties.
Mix equal parts pau d’arco and mineral oil and apply to the ear a couple of times a day. Pau d’arco is a natural antibiotic and will kill the bacteria that are causing the infection.
Olive oil can soothe irritation, suffocate ear mites, and help float debris out of your dog’s ear. Warm-up some olive oil to about the same temperature as your dog’s skin (can be any kind of olive oil) and apply a few drops to your pup’s ear. Massage for a minute and repeat with the other ear.
Apply a warm compress to the ear several times a day to help reduce inflammation and alleviate pain. The heat will also increase blood circulation to the ear and help your dog’s body fight off the infection.
You can pluck or trim the extra hairs growing in the ear canal. These hairs can block airflow in the ear and dry out the ear canal, making it more susceptible to infection. If your dog won’t sit still to let you do this, bring them to a professional groomer.
Supplement your dog’s diet with Vitamin C and Omega fatty acids. Both of these nutrients are beneficial for your dog’s immune system. Vitamin C stimulates adrenal gland secretions that help to fight ear infections.
Pro Tip! Try CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD), a natural cannabinoid in hemp, can soothe some of the discomfort and irritation of an ear infection. CBD promotes balance inside and outside the body. It also provides a non-intoxicating dose of serenity to help your dog forget about their irritating infection.
Try putting some CBD oil for dogs in their food. Besides the comforting CBD our product also contains omega fatty acids. Since the formula contains moisturizing hemp seed oil, you could also apply it to their sore ears to calm irritation. However, if the skin is very raw, it is best to consult a vet first.
Final Thoughts – Home Remedy for Dog Ear Infections
If your pet is suffering from an ear infection, there are many home remedies you can try to help fight it off.
As you try some of these home remedies for your dog’s ear infection, keep in mind that healing is a gradual process. Nothing gets cured overnight!
Before going straight for the home remedies, however, you may want to get the problem diagnosed by your vet. That way, you will know what treatment is best for your dog’s situation.