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 you 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.
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)
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 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
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. Make sure there are NOT open cuts in the ear, as the vinegar will burn and make your dog scream.
Chamomile (Matricaria chamomilla) soothes sore ears. The herb’s famous for its calming properties. (You probably drink it yourself)
- Brew 2 tablespoons per cup for 20 minutes.
- Once the mixture’s cool, strain it.
- 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 (Calendula officinalis) works beautifully for excessive pain. Again, you can buy pre-made tinctures, but it’s just as simple to make your preparation.
- Fill a glass jar with flowers and cover them with olive oil.
- Leave the jar to sit for four days.
- Strain out the flowers.
- Drip the oil into your dog’s ears and let it sit for 45 seconds.
- Wipe the oil out.
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:
- Cover the mullein flowers in olive oil and place them in a closed container.
- Put the container in full sunlight for 21 days.
- Strain the flowers.
- You can then drip the oil into the ear.
- 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 (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.