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Does your dog have itchy, gunky, smelly or even painful ears that don’t seem to get better? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Dog ear infections aren’t fun for you or your dog.

Not to worry! Let’s review why your dog is battling these ear infections. Plus I’ll share natural solutions you can use that work.

Most dog owners get frustrated by how hard it can be to get rid of chronic ear issues.

In fact, ear problems are a top reason why dogs visit the vet. Finding a resolution can be challenging …

… but not impossible.

If your dog has an ear infection right now, you can jump to How Do I Treat My Dog’s Ear Infection Naturally?

But come back and read more about ear infections when you get time. It’s important to understand what causes them. 

Types Of Dog Ear Infections?

Ear infections can appear in various parts of the ear. Let’s break that down. 

  • Otitis externa: This means inflammation or infection of the external part of your dog’s ear – the parts you can see
  • Otitis media: This is inflammation or infection of the middle ear structures. 16% of dogs with otitis externa will have otitis media. And it’s also a problem in more than 50% of dogs who have chronic otitis externa.
  • Otitis interna: This is inflammation or infection of the inner ear. Unresolved otitis media can spread and become otitis interna.

You can easily manage otitis externa at home. 

For deeper ear issues, some of the home remedies below can help …

 … or you might need to work with your holistic vet. If you’re not sure, ask your holistic vet to help you figure out what kind of ear trouble your dog has.

Symptoms Of Dog Ear Infections

Your dog will be pretty clear about letting you know something is wrong with her ears.

Ear infections are painful. Think about how uncomfortable water in your ear can be. Then add to that the pain from inflammation…

… so it’s no wonder your dog tells you she’s hurting. You’ll see some of these signals:

  • Head tilting towards the side with the infection
  • Head shaking
  • Scratching or pawing at ears
  • Rubbing ears
  • Hot ears
  • Smelly ears
  • Waxy discharge
  • Crusty, scabby or red, irritated skin inside the ear flap 

Extreme cases may cause … 

  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance
  • Walking in circles

Consult your holistic vet if you see these symptoms.

A Holistic View Of Ear Issues

The first step in treating your dog’s ear issues is to identify the possible sources of the problem.

An ear infection is rarely just an ear infection. Like other skin conditions, ear problems are often a symptom of an underlying disease. This means you’ll need to look a lot deeper than the ears to help your dog overcome her problems.

We live in a toxic world. Exposure to drugs, pesticides, vaccines, and other chemicals stress your dog’s immune system.

Your dog’s body tries to get rid of these environmental stressors as best it can. Her bowels, urinary tract, skin, and ears are all ways that toxins can leave the body. 

Seeing discharge and inflammation in the ears is a sign that the body’s trying to remove toxins. 

From a holistic perspective, this is a good thing! Your dog’s body is working to heal itself by getting rid of toxins.

Holistic treatment supports this natural detoxification process. But conventional medicine takes a completely different approach.

Why Conventional Treatments Are Like Bandages

Your conventional vet will often offer antibiotics and medicated topical treatments. 

These medicines may help the ears clear up at first … but the problem often returns later.

The drugs only treat the symptoms you can see. But they don’t address the underlying condition that’s causing the symptoms. 

Using antibiotics is a tough decision. Antibiotics will disrupt the bacterial balance in your dog’s gut. And that’s just the start. Yeast can often overgrow as well … and that kills more good bacteria.

Sometimes your vet may even prescribe steroids to manage ear problems. Steroids work by suppressing the immune system. They can cause many harmful side effects. So avoid them if you can. 

When you suppress symptoms without correcting the underlying disease, that’s a problem. And with ear infections, it’s especially bad. 

Remember how I said toxins can exit the body through the ears? 

Well, if you close off that exit route by using suppressive drugs, it can drive the disease deeper. It’ll come back somewhere else. And that means your dog will get sicker … maybe with a more serious disease.

So, finding the cause of your dog’s ear problems is the key to ridding her of them once and for all.

Why Does My Dog Get Ear Infections?

Remember, ear infections are an alert that the body is unwell. The following are some reasons for ear infections in dogs.

1. Diet

Diet is a huge factor, especially if your dog eats a processed diet. Kibble is high in refined carbohydrates, preservatives, and processed ingredients.

Dry diets feed the natural yeast in your dog’s body. This causes the yeast to grow larger colonies in the gut … leading to inflammation.

That’s why you’ll often see signs of food allergies or intolerances if you feed kibble.

It’s always important to feed your dog a fresh, raw and organic diet if you can.

[Related: Raw Feeding Dogs: 10 Simple Rules To Get Started]

2. Anatomic

If your dog has long ear flaps, like a Cocker Spaniel, she’ll be more prone to ear infections. The long ears trap more debris and moisture. There’s less airflow than in a dog with pricked ears.

She may also have a tendency for waxy buildup and discharge. Her ear canal is a dark moist environment that can encourage the excess growth of yeast and bacteria.

3. Lifestyle

Dogs who live a more natural lifestyle are less likely to develop ear infections.

Make some lifestyle choices that reduce stressors:

  • Feed your dog a whole food, raw diet
  • Don’t over-vaccinate. Talk to your vet about titers and avoid unnecessary vaccines
  • Use caution with pharmaceutical drugs and avoid them when possible
  • Avoid exposure to pesticides and chemicals in your dog’s environment

4. Excessive Ear Cleaning

Healthy ears shouldn’t need cleaning. If your dog’s ears look a little waxy, try to leave them alone. A little wax in the ears is normal.

If your dog isn’t uncomfortable, don’t clean the ears. Overcleaning can lead to skin irritation and inflammation.

If you do need to clean your dog’s ears, wipe them out with a little organic witch hazel on a cotton ball or pad.

5. Weakened Immune System

If your dog has food or environmental intolerances, her immune system is weak. Like an ear infection, you need to find the root cause of food intolerances. 

Often they’re due to an imbalance in the gut. About 80% of your dog’s immune system lives in her gut … so gut health leads to overall health. 

So you’ll need to get to the bottom of your dog’s allergies to resolve her ear issues.

[Related: Dysbiosis: Does Your Dog Have Leaky Gut?]

6. Other Chronic Disease

Chronic conditions like hypothyroidism or autoimmune disease can also result in ear infections. Again, these conditions stress her immune system. 

So she won’t be able to tolerate stressors and toxins from her environment. 

Work with your holistic vet to identify the underlying reason for the problem.

So … if your dog does get itchy, gunky ears, what can you do?

Next, let’s talk about some different types of ear infections.

Types Of Ear Infections In Dogs

These are some of the most common types of ear issues for dogs.

Bacteria Or Yeast Overgrowth

Bacteria and yeast both exist naturally in healthy ears, but they can get out of balance.

If your dog swims a lot, moisture in the ears can contribute to either of these conditions.

If your dog’s ears are yeasty-smelling with a dark brown discharge, it’s often yeast overgrowth. Yeasty ears may be itchy but are usually not painful.

Bacterial infections can also appear. You may notice a bad-smelling yellow or greenish discharge.

Ear Mites

Ear mites, known as otodectes cynotis, are a parasite infection and a type of mange.

Dogs with ear mites will often shake their heads and scratch at their ears.

Young dogs often get mites and they’re quite contagious, so you’ll want to treat them fast.

You also need to avoid other pets in the house catching them. Cats can get them too!

You can usually identify mites by the “coffee-ground” discharge they leave in the ear. The outer ear may also have reddish crustiness.

Foreign Bodies

Sometimes ear discomfort comes from foreign bodies getting into your dog’s ear. Your dog can pick up grass seeds or foxtails, a bug, water from swimming, or even dirt.

Your dog will usually shake her head to get rid of the debris. If she’s unsuccessful, she may develop irritation and bacteria or yeast overgrowth.

Aural Hematoma

If your dog shakes her head or scratches it too hard, she can cause an aural hematoma. This is a type of bruise that forms a pool of blood between the skin and the ear flap cartilage.

Most vets will recommend surgery for this condition. Don’t rush into it! There are some gentler treatment options you can try first.

So now you know a little more about ear infections in dogs! Let’s move on to natural solutions for prevention and treatment … that work!