Ear Infections: Causes, Symptoms & Treatments

pet health conditions: ear infections

What’s Causing Your Pet’s Ear Infection?

Plenty of things could be causing your pet's ear infection, including: 

  • Allergies (weakened immune system)
  • Yeast 
  • Ear mites or other parasites
  • Bacteria
  • Hair growth deep in the ear canal
  • Diet (food intolerances or allergies)
  • Chronic diseases like hypothyroidism
  • Overcleaning the ears
  • Breed (long, floppy ears trap more moisture and debris)
  • Foreign bodies (dirt, water, bugs)

Ear Infection Symptoms

When your dog or cat has an ear infection, you’ll likely be able to spot the signs and symptoms quickly. Watch for behaviours such as:

  • Head shaking or tilting
  • Unpleasant odour coming from the ear
  • Excessive ear scratching
  • Whimpering or whining
  • Lack of balance
  • Unusual back-and-forth eye movements
  • Redness or swelling inside or outside the ear
  • Brown, yellow, or bloody discharge
  • Hearing loss

Diagnosing an Ear Infection

When minor ear infections occur, it doesn't always require a trip to the vet. If you see the signs and symptoms of a potential ear infection, try some of these home remedies to see if you can clear it up naturally. 

If that doesn't work, and your pet is still showing signs of pain or discomfort, then you'll want to take him to the vet for a clearer diagnosis and treatment options.

Home Remedies to Alleviate Your Pet’s Ear Infection

Before rushing off to the vet, try some of these home remedies to help make your pet more comfortable.

Green tea is a natural antiseptic. Steep a tablespoon of green tea leaves in 1 cup of hot water for 3 minutes. Strain it and let it cool. Apply 2 or 3 drops into the ear canal once a day until symptoms subside. 

Grapefruit seed extract (GSE) has antiseptic, antibacterial, antiviral, antiparasitic, antifungal and antioxidant properties. Mix 5 -10 drops of GSE with ½ oz of aloe vera gel. Use the solution to clean ears twice daily.

Oil of oregano soothes achy ears, and combats bacteria and yeast. It is also known to fight off certain parasites and viruses. It helps float out debris and also suffocates mites. 

Garlic helps to naturally kill bacteria. Crush a few garlic cloves in 1 cup of olive oil and let it rest overnight. Remove garlic cloves and apply 1 or 2 drops to affected ears daily until symptoms improve.

Apple cider vinegar (ACV) can be given orally or topically. Add ¼ to ½ tspn twice daily to your pet’s food or water, or make a 50/50 solution ACV/Purified water. Soak cotton balls in the solution and wipe the inner ear until the cotton ball wipes clean.

When Ear Infections Require a Trip to the Vet

So your poor fur-baby is not responding to natural treatments for his ear ache. He might have a more serious condition that requires medical intervention. These are some of the treatment options your vet might prescribe:

Treating ear mites

  • Apply prescription parasiticide medication to the inside of the ear, or directly on the skin, to kill and remove the mites

Treating bacterial infections

  • Usually a two-week course of prescription antibiotics are given orally

Treating chronic ear infections

  • Depending on the root cause, surgery may be the only way to prevent recurrence

Treating yeast in the ears 

  • Apply topical antifungal ointment or cream (miconazole or ketoconazole) as prescribed by your vet
  • Use ear drops (Burow's) to help prevent yeast from spreading

How to Prevent Ear Infections

The best thing we can do for our pets is be proactive with their healthcare. Taking these preventative measures can keep your pet healthy and happy.

To prevent ear infections from recurring

  • Use an over-the-counter ear cleanser
  • Keep ears well-groomed and free from excessive hair growth
  • Keep ears dry and clean -- especially after a swim or bath
  • Watch for superficial scratches and keep them clean
  • Supplement with Essentials Canine or Essentials Feline to help boost immune system function