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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.

dog ear infections irritate the ear canal, shown in picutreDog Ear Infections Related to Food Sensitivity

Ahh hear Conor goes beating the food sensitivity drum again! But bear with me! 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 treating the symptoms over and over and over.

Take for example a wheat gluten sensitivity. In an allergy-induing 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.

a picture of ears of wheat on a white backgroundWhen 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. Skipping the science at this point what results is inflammation. This inflammation can materialise in the gut (IBS type symptoms / diarrhoea / anal gland issues), on the skin (recurring skin rash / atopic dermatitis / nibbly toes), in the eyes (weepy) or in the ears. For more on food allergy in dogs follow the link!

If 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. Dark brown wax (gunk coming out of the body) will build.

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. The cure is cutting out the majority if not all the food stuffs mentioned. It does not (yet) require antibiotics.

Dog Ear Infections Related to Bacteria

Any dog can get a bacterial infection of their ear. We have a lot of breeds around with unusual fluffy ears. Others have hanging down ear flaps (dog ears are supposed to be up and well ventilated) which keeps all the wet in there after a nice swim in a river. Now all you need is a bit of heat from a nice hot head and baddies can move in.
picutre showing a dog ear infection

I’m sure there are many causes of a bad bacterial bloom in a dogs ear but I think it’s important to remember though that the average, fresh fed dog is as likely to get a bacterial infection in their ear as you are. It’s certainly not in the top 10 reasons for humans visiting the doctor, is it?! As with 9/10 dogs developing gum disease by three years of age, nature didn’t drop the ball, we’re all pretty robust coming off the assembly line.

Environmental factors are at play, and you don’t see too many bacterial infection in fresh fed dogs consuming a diet void of the issues above (wheat, dairy, poor quality cooked meats, food chemicals, chemical flea and worm control, boosters). The reason is thought to be that the vigorous head shaking and rubbing resulting from a food sensitivity can damage swollen capillaries in the ears. Now bacteria have easier access to the blood. Infection can ensue. If your pet develops a raging bacterial infection, diagnosed by your vet, then perhaps you will need antibiotics. The trick is to prevent the baddies getting in.

Ideally, as soon as the head shaking starts, you would tackle any potential antigens (things that inflame the immune system) including diet issues (and it’s not just wheat, it’s dairy also, poor quality cooked meat, nasty food chemicals) as well as flea or worm treatments, even annual boosters). I would couple this approach with a twice daily ear clean with garlic oil to prevent bacteria potentially causing any problem down the road. Don’t wait for it to happen.

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 moments innocent wetting, and yeast will bloom. You’ll know it’s there because you’ll smell it. It’s horrible.

bottle of braggs apple cider vinegarAs 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 (who’s third ingredient is sugar) but also fruit, potatoes, rice and the sweeter veg like carrots.

If your dog is suffering a yeast infection of the ear the best ear cleaner is apple cider vinegar. Whip up a 50/50 mix of apple cider vinegar (the one with the “mother” in it, i.e. the bits, that’s the good stuff) and warm olive oil (you don’t used water as it feeds the yeast when not properly wiped out).

They can get yeast infections in other damp spots too, eg fat folds on a bull dog and paws are a common one. You can use the above mix on them too.

Lastly yeast hates garlic. Include a little fresh garlic in their food. Half a clove (chopped fine or pulped) per 20kg of dog is a good dose. Also keeps the flea and worms away! Great stuff garlic.

Dog Ear Infections Related to Mites

This can happen, albeit this too can be linked to a lower immunity. The things is dust mites and those that might “infect” your dogs ears are all over the place. Dust mites are on us all the time. They eat are 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?

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 of your dog that these guys took hold?”. A good immune system is like a force field. When it’s lowered baddies thrive.

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 almond or sesame oil though I prefer garlic oil. It is THE bug killer, zapping bacteria at the same time! Also don’t forget that DEFlea kills dog ear mites that might be in or around the ear (and beds etc!).

How to Clean Your Dog’s Ears

Step 1. Give the ears a first wipe 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. Soak half it in your mixture, 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 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.