Dog Ear Infection : Diagnosis & Natural Cures

A dog ear infection is not only the most common of all dog ear problems, but it is one of the most common overall problems reported by veterinarians. It is estimated that approximately 20% of our dogs are affected by mild to severe ear infections. 

What does that mean to you?

It means that your dog has a fairly good chance of developing a dog ear infection at some point.

The severity, diagnosis and treatment can vary quite a bit from dog to dog, so you must learn to recognize the symptoms, have them assessed by a veterinarian and move forward with the correct treatment in order to relieve your dog’s suffering as quickly as possible....

Signs of a Dog Ear Infection

You are on this site, so you are likely to have a great relationship with your dog. This is the first step towards diagnosis!

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Knowing your dog well enough to recognize strange behavior is key.

There are a several signs of a dog ear infection:

  • A strange, often foul odor coming from the inner ear
  • Consistent scratching and rubbing of the ear and/or head
  • Discharge in the ear
  • Overall changes in behavior including depression, tiredness and irritability
  • Pain or tenderness of the entire ear area
  • Redness or swelling of the inner ear
  • Vigorous shaking of the head and tilting to a favored side
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Causes of a Dog Ear Infection

Since dog ear infection problems are widely varied and occasionally difficult to diagnose, it is helpful for you to do some research about all of the possible causes before you make an appointment with the vet.

Causes include...

  • Allergies: Often dogs with allergies will suffer from ear infections. The ear infection could be the result of an inhaled particle or a food substance which can be the initial sign of a dog with a dog food allergy. In these cases, it is important to remember that you must treat the cause of the symptom along with the actual symptom. This means diagnosing your dog’s allergy along with treating and preventing future ear infections (more on this further down the page). 
  • Foreign Particles: After a nice walk, your dog often arrives home with a numerous particles from the trail on his fur coat! Occasionally one of those particles enters the ear canal and can cause a big problem. Foreign particles in the ear can cause an infection and, if untreated, a serious trauma to the ear canal.
  • Heredity:  Certain dog breeds are recognized for having more ear problems than others, such as dogs with "floppy" ears (i.e. cocker spaniels, basset hounds, etc.) or dogs with hairy inner ear flaps (i.e. schnauzers, miniature poodles, etc.).  If you have researched your particular breed and found this to be the case, it is best to discuss a plan of prevention with your veterinarian.
  • Hormonal Imbalances:  Certain deficiencies or imbalances of various hormones in a dog’s body can cause dog ear problems.  Irregularities in the glands, like the adrenal gland, can affect the health your dog’s skin and ears.
  • Microorganisms: One of the most common of these types of ear infections is the dog yeast infection, but there are numerous types of bacteria that can cause dog ear problems.  These bacteria and yeast have a better chance of forming in the ear of an unhealthy dog or a dog whose ear environment has changed.  The normal, healthy ear has a good defense against these organisms.
  • Parasites:  The most common parasite that makes the lives of our pets more difficult is the ear mite, Otodectescynotis.  These pesky little mites tend to favor cats, but certain dogs are hypersensitive to them.  Dogs with ear mites will often display excessive scratching of the ear and head, and can cause themselves serious ear trauma.
  • Trauma: Certain accidents can cause trauma to a dog’s sensitive ears.  Wounds, if left untreated, can lead to serious infection and even deafness.  If your dog has suffered any type of physical trauma, make sure to check all areas of the body, including the ears, to make sure nothing has happened to them.
  • Canine Tumors:  Tumors have been found in the ears of dogs.  This is a rare occurrence and can only be diagnosed by your veterinarian.
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How to Diagnose Dog Ear Problems

As we discussed above, there are many causes of dog ear problems which can make it difficult to diagnose your dog accurately at home.

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We recommend that you see your holistic veterinarian first to eliminate the possibility of a serious issue. Your vet has a variety of techniques to diagnose your dog’s ear problem. For example, they can...

  • Look down the ear canal with an otoscope to observe the amount of inflammation present.  They will also be able to determine if the ear-drum has been affected or if there are any foreign particles or tumors visible.
  • Use a cotton swab to remove a sample of the ear wax which can be viewed under a microscope and examined for yeast, bacteria or mites.
  • Conduct a physical exam to get a better idea of the dog’s overall health.  Questions about the dog’s heredity and possible allergies may be asked.
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Specific Treatments for a Dog Ear Infection

Treatment of a dog ear infection will depend on what the initial cause of the infection was:

dog ear infection

Note: If you're still having problems and would like specific advice from our holistic veterinarians, you can click here to ask them directly via My Online Vet.

You can also review pictures and questions submitted by other visitors in our My Online Vet Ask-A-Vet Library section on Dog Ear Problems.

Dog Allergies

Ear infections caused by dog food allergies or dog skin allergies are often treated by regular cleaning of the ear with an appropriate ear cleaner and removing the allergen from the dog’s diet/atmosphere. 

Bacterial Infectiondog ear infection creme

Antibiotics are often prescribed by conventional veterinarians for any type of a bacterial infection, but it is much safer over the long term to use holistic treatments.

Cleaning the ear regularly with diluted white vinegar is one option. Another effective product to consider is DERMagic Cell Restoration Creme.

Consult with your local holistic vet for other appropriate substitutes. 

Dog Ear Mites

Ear Mites can cause a crumbly, dark brown substance to form in the ear.  You may be able to diagnose this on your own.  Place ear wax from your dog's ear under a bright light and look for small white specks.  The ears need to be cleaned daily during treatment along with a prescribed treatment from your holistic vet to kill the existing ear mites.  This can take a few weeks to cure completely so don’t be discouraged if it doesn’t work right away.

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Ways to Prevent a Dog Ear Infection from Recurring

The key to floppy, happy and healthy dog ears is CLEAN, CLEAN, CLEAN!

Look in your dog’s ears on a weekly basis to check for wax build up, foul smells or other common symptoms of a dog ear infection listed above.  And no matter what you find, clean the ear often using your vet-approved method and a good natural ear cleaner.

Our Dog Ear Cleaning page will teach you how to do it properly.

Consistent and proper dog grooming will also help to keep your dog’s ears healthy.  Any excess hair growing around the inner ear can be cut to provide additional air flow to the ear to prevent the lodging of debris.

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