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How to Treat Your Dog’s Ear Infection Naturally at Home

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Today’s world bombards owners with a lot of mixed messages. Diet trends rise and fall. Recalls set your heart racing. You start to question whether ANY medication is safe. So when your dog shows signs of an ear problem, you wonder whether you can treat the condition naturally. You should always consult with your veterinarian for complete treatment. However, there ARE ways to ease the pain of your dog’s ear infection naturally.

Understanding Ear Infections

Dog ear infections are complicated. While we tend to think of an “infection” as being bacterial, dogs can have problems with bacteria, yeast, or even mites. Your dog can develop an infection in any part of their ear, and each has a specific medical term.

  • Otitis Externa: This refers to the outer portion of your dog’s ear – the pinna or ear flap you can see.
  • Otitis Media: The infection has now moved into the middle structures of the ear. You need to be concerned at this point, as this involves the eardrum. It’s time to seek veterinary care.
  • Otitis Interna: When infections reach the inner ear, there’s a risk of severe damage. Your dog may even lose their hearing.

Here’s the kicker: an infection can move deeper into the ear the longer it persists. This is why it’s essential to let your vet treat your dog. Inner ear infections are dangerous. Untreated, your dog may develop problems with balance, resulting in a condition known as vestibular disease. This resembles seizure-like activity. (Frightening for you and not exactly fun for your dog)

Recognizing an Ear Infection

If your dog has had an ear infection in the past, odds are you know what to look for. However, if you’ve never seen ear problems, you might wonder what an ear infection looks like. Depending on where the infection’s rooted, symptoms may vary. If you’re using an ear cleaner regularly, you should see a red flag in the early stages.

  • A head tilt toward the affected side (assuming one is worse than the other)
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching or rubbing of the ears
  • Ears that are hot to the touch (if your dog lets you touch their ears)
  • Painful ears
  • A foul smell (yeasty ears smell like rising bread dough)
  • Excessive wax
  • Dark-colored discharge
  • Red, irritated skin
  • Crusting skin

Diagnosing an Ear Infection

The temptation to treat your dog’s ear infection naturally is high. After all, they’re in pain and uncomfortable. Plenty of internet sites claim it’s possible. Unhappily, you need a proper diagnosis to treat an infection.

The smell of yeast doesn’t mean bacteria aren’t present. A gross discharge doesn’t exclude the presence of yeast. Are the bacteria rods or cocci? (These are different shapes of bacteria) Coffee ground-like crusts suggest mite activity. However, you could still have yeast, bacteria, or both. All of these conditions require different therapies.

This is why it’s so important to seek veterinary care. Vet staff will perform a swab and examine the smear under the microscope to determine precisely what’s living in your dog’s ears.

Easing Dog Ear Infection Pain Naturally

That said, extenuating circumstances DO occur. You know something’s wrong in your dog’s ear. But you have blizzard conditions outside. Or maybe a Class 4 hurricane just rolled into town. An ear infection is NOT an emergency. Please don’t risk your life or your dog’s life. Nasty weather will pass (eventually), and then you can get to the vet.

In the meantime, there ARE ways to ease the pain of your dog’s ear infection naturally. (Please note, we’re reducing PAIN, not treating the infection) While many internet sources claim these remedies treat the infection, the claims aren’t valid.

Natural Remedies

Herbal remedies have been around for centuries. Shamans used plants to treat ailments before the first pharmacies existed. The natural remedies people reference come from that knowledge. The logic they apply comes from HUMAN experience, not animal knowledge. As such, you need to take everything with a grain of salt.

I am not opposed to natural remedies. I use them myself (which is why I know their origins). However, I also know the cautions. If you opt for these herbs, PLEASE be careful with your sources. I STRONGLY encourage you to grow your herbs or find organic sources. Pesticides are the LAST thing you want to introduce into your dog’s ears. You can find pre-made versions, but if you make the preparations yourself, you know every ingredient. (Just my two-cents worth)

Natural Toxins

A quick internet search brings up plenty of recipes. It also brings up recipes that include TOXIC ingredients. Please avoid the following:

  • Belladonna: My own herbal contains the following warning: “This herb is poisonous. Belladonna can cause paralysis of the central nervous system if an overdose occurs. Do not use without medical supervision.” Belladonna causes the same problem in dogs.
  • Garlic: You may be aiming for your dog’s ears, but what if you miss? Garlic causes renal failure. It’s not worth the risk.

Recipes to Ease the Pain of Your Dog’s Ear Infection

Dog's ear infection naturally? You can find some pain-easing remedies

If you’re nervous, the easiest way to ease the pain of your dog’s ear infection naturally is to apply a warm compress. No chemicals, no herbs, just a good old compress several times a day. It’ll work wonders.

However, if you want to give some other options a try, these are safe recipes. Just remember: these WON’T treat the underlying infection. You’ll need a vet’s care for that.

Apple Cider Vinegar

If you believe the internet, Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) cures everything. However, vinegar itself DOES have anti-inflammatory properties. You need to use unpasteurized ACV and try to find an organic brand. Dilute a mixture 1:1 with distilled water. DON’T skip this step; ACV is acidic and can cause skin burns! Drip it down into your dog’s ears, then wipe it out. Ensure there are NOT open cuts in the ear, as the vinegar will burn and make your dog scream.

Chamomile

Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) soothes sore ears. The herb’s famous for its calming properties. (You probably drink it yourself)

  1. Brew 2 tablespoons per cup for 20 minutes.
  2. Once the mixture’s cool, strain it.
  3. You can then drip the liquid into your dog’s ears.

You’ll need to make a fresh brew each time as it won’t hold potency.

Marigold

Marigold (Calendula officinalis) works beautifully for excessive pain. Again, you can buy pre-made tinctures, but it’s just as simple to make your preparation.

  1. Fill a glass jar with flowers and cover them with olive oil.
  2. Leave the jar to sit for four days.
  3. Strain out the flowers.
  4. Drip the oil into your dog’s ears and let it sit for 45 seconds.
  5. Wipe the oil out.

Mullein

Mullein (Verbascum thapsus) is another excellent herb for easing painful ears. Most internet recipes call for adding garlic, and most purchased preparations contain that vile lily. Here’s a much safer version:

  1. Cover the mullein flowers in olive oil and place them in a closed container.
  2. Put the container in full sunlight for 21 days.
  3. Strain the flowers.
  4. You can then drip the oil into the ear.
  5. Let it sit for at least 45 seconds before wiping the oil out.

Yes, you need to have this on-hand ahead of time, but it keeps nicely.

Witch Hazel

Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) rings a bell with a lot of people. The astringent liquid cuts down swelling and eases pain. You can find witch hazel just about anywhere. Gently swipe it through your dog’s ears. However, make sure there are NO open wounds anywhere in your dog’s ears! The burn of the alcohol base will make them scream, and you’ll never get near them again!

Nature to the Rescue!

There’s nothing wrong with wanting to ease the pain of your dog’s ear infection naturally. When you can’t get to your vet, reaching for an herbal remedy is better than watching them suffer. Just remember that the underlying infection is still there and requires medical intervention.

Mother Nature offers fantastic pain therapy. And while these plants have some antibacterial activities, they’re not a cure-all. Make sure you’re getting the best care possible for your dog.

After all, they deserve nothing but the best.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn't a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals. After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study. Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania's small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum's vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn's vet students. With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make. New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn't disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions. And a few memories stood out and remained to this day: • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining "real life" experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital. However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered - staff, clients, and patients alike - left a lasting impression. Additional standout moments included: • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge) Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician - first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT). Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient's stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape. With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations. Cardiology Veterinary Technician With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted. She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern. And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

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