Dog Ear Infections, The Simple And Natural Solution

Ear infections in dogs is one of the top 3 reasons for visiting a vet today. They can be pretty uncomfortable, particularly if you allow them to fester. You’ll know he has one as he will be vigorously shaking or rubbing at his ears, often whining when he does as everyone knows ear infections can hurt. Dog ear infections, notably the yeast based ones, can be accompanied by a bad, cheesy smell.

Thankfully whatever the cause of your dog’s ear infection, there is always a simple, natural cure available with bits you have around the home. Just as you would with your own kids you should certainly give them a go before things get too bad and you need the vet with their meds.

I’m a canine nutritionist that specialises in canine food sensitivity. In the article below I will tell you everything I know. If he’s not too bad, try these tips first before thinking about spending more money on some specialised help. 

[If some products are recommended I will link out to them and track that link. If you buy it I will get tiny bit of that sale. For the most part, articles like this get folk on to my site. The worst cases book me for a consultation].

dog ear infections irritate the ear canal, shown in picutreDog Ear Infections Are Often Related To Food Sensitivity…

Ahh here Conor goes beating the food sensitivity drum again, but bear with me here! Recurring ear, skin and gut conditions have an underlying cause. It’s called the aetiology of the disease, the study of the cause of this recurring problem. If you don’t address that then you will be left treating the symptoms over and over and over.

Take, for example, a wheat gluten sensitivity. In an allergy-inducing nutshell, we started fiddling with wheat 2000 years ago, selecting those plants with more and more gluten. While it made our dough tougher allowing us to better spread peanut butter on it, unfortunately, made it extremely hard to digest at the same time. The longer you have been eating wheat gluten the better you are at digesting it. Hence 30% of Europeans are gluten intolerant. 40% of Africans (they have gluten-free cereals in Africa like sorghum and millet), 50-60% of Aboriginals (only started eating it in the last 150 years). And we’re omnivores. Dogs are carnivores, completely lacking the machinery, enzymes and microbiota for plant material, particularly wheat gluten protein. Worse still wheat now makes up more than 50% of most of their diets and they’ve only been eating it for 50 years.

When dogs eat wheat they don’t break it down properly. Bits of it hang around the gut causing all sorts of problems, most notably arousing the immune system and this results in inflammation. This inflammation can materialise in the gut as you might expect (IBS type symptoms / diarrhoea / anal gland issues) but from here it can travel to the skin (recurring skin rash / atopic dermatitis / nibbly toes / terrible itch), eyes (weepy) or the ears.

When this inflammation pops up in the ear the ear flap and canal will swell a little, turning red and heating up, as blood and immune debris rush to the area. This irritates the dog, resulting in head shaking, rubbing, whining while he delicately puts his toe nail in there. Dark brown wax (gunk coming out of the body) will build but it won’t stink per se, not like a yeast infection.

This sort of ear “infection” is far and away the most popular ear issue in (dry fed) dogs today. Wheat is in their dry food, their treats, dental sticks, milk bones, the crust of bread in the morning, all that stuff. Nor is it just wheat. Ultra processed food contains all the top canine food allergens including soy, meat meal, countless horrible chemicals and dust mites. Some pretend to be “hypoallergenic” but it is nothing of the sort.

The cure to this type of ear infection is cutting out the majority if not all the foodstuffs mentioned. It does not (yet) require antibiotics. If you suspect this might be happening in your dog then please read the most popular article on our site – Food Allergies in Dogs. It will explain the cause of and dietary solution to your dog’s woes. 

Top 10 tips for itchy dogs

Dog Ear Infections Related to Bacteria

Any dog can get a bacterial infection of their ear for various reasons. They can be simply unlucky, for sure, but that is surely rare. As with 9/10 dogs developing gum disease by three years of age, nature didn’t drop the ball here, we’re all pretty robust coming off the assembly line. Something is causing all these ear infections and the fact remains fresh fed dogs seem far less prone to this issue. 

More often than not, a bacterial ear infection in your dog is actually a secondary issue to the food sensitivity above. The dog itches his irritated ears so much he cuts one and now pathogenic bacteria can get in. While your vet may tackle the infection, the way to avoid this is the future is to reduce that inflammation in the ear….by getting the diet right.

inflamed ear infection in dog

Food aside, some dogs have ears that are perfect breeding grounds for infections – some breeds have fluffy ears, others have hanging down ear flaps. Both hold the moisture in (normally, a wild canid’s ears are supposed to be up and well ventilated). One swim in a river, home to the heat, add a little scratch for good measure and bingo, he gets an infection.

Again, a bacterial infection won’t stink. If you suspect a bacterial infection, the most potent antibacterial available to you would be garlic oil. Clean the ears twice daily. Use cotton swabs. One wipe, throwaway. One wipe. Throw away. Never use the same swab in each ear.

You can make your own garlic oil by soaking crushed cloves of garlic in olive oil and then straining. Some recommended a gentle cooking of this mixture to kill any bacteria present.

If you want to pick up a product to save you time I recommend this mullein garlic oil on Amazon. It’s been turbo charged with all sorts of anti-inflammatories include Mullein and Calendula. Folk have had a lot of success with it as you can see by the reviews in Amazon. Only $12 or so. Bargain.

garlic oil for ear infections in dogs

[The glorious thing about garlic oil is that it’s great for yeast too, so you might kill two birds with one stone trying this…]

Dog Ear Infections Related to Yeast

Dog ears are nice, warm places. All you need is a little moistness, say from licked paws or simply a moment’s innocent wetting, and yeast will bloom. You’ll know it’s there because you’ll smell it. It’s horrible.

As with bacterial infections above yeast infections are often related to diet, in that you see so few of them in dogs fed biologically appropriate food.

The thing is yeast LOVES carbs. Carbs are sugar to the body and that’s what yeast eats. Carbs / sugar in your dogs diet would be cereal for sure, dental sticks (whose third ingredient is sugar) but also fruit, potatoes, rice and the sweeter veg like carrots.

bottle of braggs apple cider vinegar
By far the most popular ACV with mother is Braggs. Amazon has it here

 

If your dog is suffering a yeast infection of the ear the best ear cleaner is vinega. While any will do, apple cider vinegar is the best. You want the stuff with the mother in it (the cloudy stuff with the bits in the bottom) but you don’t want the bits in the mix you put in the ears! Pour through some cloth and use it neat. Incredibly effective for yeast but also bacteria and really anything living.

Before using vinegar make sure there are no cuts in his ear. Don’t worry, it won’t kill him. If there was a little cut in there you missed, he’ll let you know.

They can get yeast infections in other damp spots too, eg fat folds on a bulldog and paws are a common one. You can use vinegar there too as long as his skin is not cracked.

Lastly, yeast hates garlic. Include a little fresh garlic in their food. Yes, garlic is safe for dogs. Half a clove (chopped fine or pulped) per 15kg of dog is a good dose. Also keeps the flea and worms away! 

Dog Ear Infections Related to Mites

Dog ear infections from a mite infection can happen, albeit this too is suspected to be a secondary resulting from an impaired immunity. The things is, dust mites are all over the place. They’re on us all the time. They eat our dead skin (and we make lots of that, it’s pretty much all the dust in your house). We’ve evolved to live with them for the most part. A robust immune system and body chemistry keeps them in check for the most part, so why do they suddenly get a hold and cause issues?

Oculus Prime for the control of weepy eyes in dogs

Well, as with a flea or mage outbreak, a natural vet would not be as consumed with the critters as your conventional vet. They are more consumed with the question “what has happened under the hood that enabled these guys took hold?”. 

There are many things that will negatively affect your dog’s immune system. One thing is obviously an underlying sickness. Another is age, very old and very young dogs have decreased and undeveloped immune systems respectively. Another would be if the dog had a food sensitivity and you continually fed him let’s say wheat based dry food. Another is stress (dogs in kennels are far more likely to get mange, not simply as there are other dogs about, after all there is always mites and other dogs about!).

dog ear mites
A dog with ear mites

 

Whatever the cause a good wipe with apple cider vinegar on a cotton swab sorts those ear mites out good and proper! Another one is garlic oil. It is THE bug killer.

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Step 1. Give the ears a wipe first with cotton swabs to remove and major dirt from inside the ear, giving us better access to the ear canal later.

Step 2: Use a cotton ball. Dip a cotton ball in very warm mixture of olive and garlic oil. We don’t use water in ears, it helps the bacteria / yeast / mites). We heat it to help soften the wax. Place that in the ear and massage the ear over it, paying particular attention to the base of the ear (where the canal is). The cotton ball will absorb excess solution and it will grab onto the debris as it comes up! You can change the ball a few times each treatment.

Step 3: Use cotton swabs again to wipe the ear clean and dry. Wipe once, dump, repeat. Remember don’t use the same swab for the same ear.

Step 4: A final wipe with a solution of choice is now recommended. If you suspect yeast then a final wipe of ACV will dry out the area, sucking water from the yeast, killing it instantly. A final swab with garlic oil or any other natural anti-bacterial mix will make things very unpleasant for bacteria.

Notes: Use lots of meaty treats during the process. They make everything easier. Do not use cotton ball cue tips. They can hurt and force the bad stuff the wrong way.

Also please note that if you do find yourself at the vet with a potential ear infection and they prescribe antibiotics know that less than a quarter of ear infections are bacteria related. Most are something else, meaning the antibiotics are absolutely useless. It is the cleaning of the ear that does the trick, not the tablets. We need to tackle the over-use of antibiotics in dogs together.

***

 

I have spent a lot of time building up my knowledge. From a doctorate in animal behaviour and nutrition to years in guide dogs and the last seven year inside and out of the pet food industry, I have always provided all my information free to the public, articles that I spend a lot of time putting together. While it’s clearly a passion of mine the fact remains, I can’t do this and a steady job at the same time. Without a salary or fancy sponsorship, I am left trying to monetise my site as much as I can without pushing on you horrible adverts for car loans and crap pet products. One way I do this is by tracking some of the links to products I recommend (as an Amazon Associate I then earn from qualifying those purchases). Another way is promoting a few supplements that I co-formulated. Now I’m going to put a donation button at the bottom of my longer articles. So, if this helped you in any way and you feel you’d like to give me the price of a cup of coffee (€3), please free to do exactly that. If you’re strapped and can’t afford it, I can totally sympathise, you’re free to read on, no questions asked. We’re glad to have you on board spreading the word regardless.

Many thanks and continued good health to you and your pets.

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A photo of Dr. Conor Brady of Dogs First