Ear infections can be a serious concern for dogs, but there might be times when you can’t get professional help and need to know how to treat dog ear infection without vet assistance.
Ear infections in dogs can be caused by a wide range of factors, including bacteria, viruses, mites, and underlying medical conditions. If your dog’s ears don’t clear up by themselves, then you’ll need to provide them with a remedy!
Luckily, there are many home treatments that work effectively to combat a dog’s ear infections. In this article, we’ll discuss those treatments, but we also stress that if you’re in any doubt as to the severity of your dog’s ear infections, please visit your vet.
Dog Ear Infection Symptoms
Infections can affect any dog’s ears, and there are a wide range of possible causes, including mites or bacteria. Some dogs are more susceptible than others, however; if you have a dog with large or floppy ears (such as a Golden Retriever or a Basset Hound), then your pet will be more likely to contract infections than breeds with smaller ears.
Regardless, all pet owners need to look out for the signs and symptoms of an ear infection in dogs. Your dog might make it obvious, but only if they are experiencing extensive or prolonged discomfort. A dog inner ear infection can often go unnoticed, purely because it’s hidden from sight (and because your dog can’t talk to you).
The first symptom of an ear infection you might notice is your dog itching or scratching at their ears. This isn’t helpful, so it’s important to treat them quickly before they cause damage to their ears or worsen the infection. If their ears are smelly or starting to become gunky, then you’ll also need to start clearing up the infection quickly.
We recommend checking your dog’s ears regularly to catch signs and symptoms of infection early on - before they start to cause more visible, painful symptoms. If you regularly clean your dog’s ears, you can avoid the onset of infections, too.
If you do notice the following symptoms of ear infections, then it’s time to get the home remedies out:
- Shaking their head
- Tilting their head to one side
- Scratching their ears
- Rubbing their ears against the ground or furniture
- Ears that are hot to the touch
- Pungent, smelly ears
- Gunky, waxy ears
- Discharge from the ears
- Red or obviously irritated ears
- Bleeding, scabs, or other signs of infection
- Visible pain or soreness
If you’re unsure if your dog has infected ears, then it’s wise to seek veterinary assistance before applying any dog home remedies for ear infection yourself.
Different Types of Dog Ear Infections
There are several different types of ear infections that dog owners need to be aware of if they are attempting to treat their pets at home.
There are 3 major infections to consider:
- Otitis externa - an external ear infection, which affects the outside of the ear. This is the most common ear infection and can be treated at home if caught early enough. It is characterized by redness, soreness, and pain on the outside of the ear.
- Otitis interna - an internal infection of the ear that can be more difficult to spot. If it continues, despite attempted treatment, you must seek veterinary advice.
- Otitis media - an infection of the middle section of the ear (not the outside or the inside!).
Infections may start on the outside or middle section of the ear and, if left untreated, can eventually spread into the inner ear. For this reason, it’s always important to tackle an ear infection as soon as it’s spotted.
Causes of Dog Ear Infections
There are several different causes and it’s important to try and identify what has caused your dog’s ear infection. This not only helps you to apply an effective treatment to beat the infection, but it can help you to make lifestyle changes that will avoid further ear infections later in life.
Major causes of an ear infection include the following:
- Excess yeast — yeast infections often appear as dark growths on the inside or outside of the ear. They are particularly smelly (yeasty!).
- Bacterial infection — often produces a green, smelly discharge. Lots of soreness and pain.
- Foreign items — can damage the ear and lead to infections. You need to visually inspect the inside and outside of the ear for any foreign items that may have lodged themselves in the ear.
- Ear mites or other parasites — ear mites can cause redness inside and outside the ear. Mites might be visible, although they are very small.
Dogs can contract infections if they scratch their ears consistently or if they have an accident that causes a wound that then becomes infected. They are also susceptible to build-ups of yeast (a natural occurrence), parasites, or foreign items which have become lodged in the ear (twigs, for example). Foreign items need to be removed, of course.
Home Treatments for Ear Infections
Once you’ve identified where the infection is (inner or outer ear, etc.) and the likely cause of the infection (is it yeast or is it a bacterial infection?), then it’s time to start treatment.
There are several ways to approach this, and we’ll go into detail below by explaining easy at-home remedies and lifestyle changes you can make in the future.
While your dog is recovering, you can make things easier for them in the house by installing a bed ramp for dogs to help them to get around. Stock up on their favorite treats (they are going to be in pain!), and make sure you pamper them with kindness!
#1. Over the counter ear infection medicines
You can purchase many simple ear infection medicines online or over the counter. This is a much cheaper alternative to a costly trip to the vets, as it’s easy to diagnose an ear infection and then purchase an appropriate medicine.
Head to a local dog store if you want a little extra advice, too. Common over-the-counter medicines include Zymox and Clorexyderm. Simply follow the instructions on the packaging to apply the treatment.
#2, Apple cider vinegar
One of the most effective home remedies is a simple solution of apple cider vinegar diluted with water. The vinegar works to fight bacteria and yeast and is surprisingly good at removing infections!
Mix up a 50-50 solution of vinegar and water, then apply to the affected area of the ear using a swap or cotton wool. Apply several times a day, and you’ll find minor infections quickly clear up.
If you don’t have apple cider vinegar, other vinegars also do a good job at cleaning ears.
#3. Regular cleaning
Dogs need their ears to be regularly cleaned in order to remove any dirt, excess yeast, bacteria, or parasites from the inside and the outside.
Don’t overdo the cleaning (excessive cleaning can itself be damaging and lead to infection), but try to visually inspect and lightly clean the ears no more than once a month. You can use cotton wool or earbuds to remove excess wax and dirt from the ears.
You can also apply apple cider vinegar to your earbuds to kill any bacteria that might be present before they have a chance to spread and cause infection to the ear.
If chronic ear infections continue or can’t be treated with home remedies, you’ll need to speak to the vet. Often, they’ll prescribe a course of antibiotics to fight a bacterial or yeast infection.
Antibiotics can be prescribed in the form of ear drops, which are easy to apply to the affected area, or tablets, which need to be ingested with food. If antibiotics don’t work, then again, you’ll need further advice from your vet.
How to Treat Dog Ear Infection Without Vet Help: The Last Word
It’s definitely possible to treat your dog’s ear infection at home if you can’t get your dog to your local vet. Treatments don’t need to be expensive either, and you can clean dog ears effectively with earbuds and a dash of apple cider vinegar!
If you’re ever worried about your dog’s ears, however, or if chronic ear infections persist, then don’t hesitate to visit your vet. Chronic infections can be a sign of underlying medical conditions, and further investigation will be needed to get to the root of the problem.
If your dog is suffering from ear infections, then why not bookmark our guide to treating dog’s ear infections at home?