Ear Problems

by Tiffani M. Beckman, Vet Asst. & Student of Veterinary Medicine

Ear problems are very common among dogs.  While others may suggest using a chemical solution or immune-suppressive drugs, I prefer to try to treat ear problems in a more natural way.  Ear problems are very often the effect of something else wrong in the body, such as a food allergy. Remember when you are treating the ear, you are (usually) treating the symptom, and not the cause, and to CURE the ear problem the cause must be found and eradicated.  The following are some ideas for cleaning out ears and treating them.

1.  Calendula flush -  combine in a glass drinking glass 1 cup warm distilled or filtered water, 1 teaspoon Calendula tincture, and 1/2 teaspoon sea salt.  Mix well.   With an ear syringe or dropper, gently and quickly squeeze some of the liquid into the ear canal.  Not deeply, but just slightly inside.  Try not to let the applicator make a noise as it might scare the animal.  Fold the ear flap over and massage in.  Do this to other ear, then stand back and let animal shake.  Let it stay in, and use 2 times a day until irritation and discharge reduce or stop.

2.  Wash with green tea if they are moist.

3.  Wash with aloe vera concentrate if they are dry.

4.  Dilute ACV with 1/2 rubbing alcohol to wash out and dry ears.  Do not use if ears are ulcerated, as it might burn.

5.  Some homeopathic preparations are indicated.  Ask your vet about the following to see if one or more should be used on your pet - Lycopodium, Psorinum, Pulsatilla, Silicea, Sepia, Kali Sulph, Sulphur, Nitric Acid, Thuja, Kalie Chlor - these are all given internally.  Make sure and ask your vet before medicating with any of these.  Also ask about the following treatments for external application - Arnica, Arsenium Album,
Psorinum, Sulphur.

6.  A Calendula cream or tincture might help a lot too.  Sometimes Calendula and hypericum are combined in a cream called hyper-cal.  This can soothe many skin problems.

7.  Always make sure to check and see if anything is actually caught in the ear.   Foxtails are a menace and can cause major problems if they happen to get caught in an ear and start to burrow inside.  A good general idea is to brush out coats and clean out ears after your animal comes in from a swim or other excursion outside.  This can help keep you find ticks and foxtails in a timely fashion, before they start causing big problems.

8.  Aloe applied directly to the ear helps heal and soothe also.  Use fresh juice if at all possible.  Aloe plants are easy to grow and help cleanse the air of impurities, especially formaldehyde fumes from wood paneling.

9.  Sweet almond oil will help soften and dissolve dark, waxy, oily discharge.   Apply into ear and massage in.

10.  Garlic in olive oil will help in the same ways sweet almond oil will. Take a bottle of olive oil and submerge 2 peeled cloves of garlic (the clove is the smaller "pearl" inside the whole garlic bulb).  Let it stand for a week, then strain out garlic and use the oil as mentioned above in tip number 9.

11.  Dogs don't tend to get ear mites, but cats do.  The same rules apply to ear mites - low immunities seem to invite mites.  Strengthen the immune system (taking care of the cause of the problem) and get rid of the mites by cleaning out the ears initially.  A half ounce of olive or almond oil mixed  with 400 IU natural Vitamin E (the kind with d-tocopherols, NOT dl-tocopherols) makes a nice cleanser - warm to room temp in a hot water bath and apply to ears, massage in, and wipe clean.  Apply this oil every other day for 6 days (3 total treatments).  Don't start the next treatment for 3 days.   For the next stage, take some Yellow Dock (Rumex crispus) and make a tea with the herb.  Use the warm (NOT hot) tea (let the herb sit in hot pure water for 15 minutes, then strain through a strainer or cheesecloth) just like you did with the oil.  Treat once every 3 days for 3 - 4 weeks.

To strengthen the immune system enough so it can heal itself, you need to be a bit of a detective.  Why are your dog's ears problematic in the first place?  The easiest place to start is diet.  Are you feeding a natural diet, or a highly processed one full of unnecessary ingredients and harmful chemicals?   Are there grains in the diet - if so which ones?  What type of meat is the diet based on - beef or lamb or poultry, etc.  If you are not already, I highly recommend feeding a natural diet, which means a diet of raw meat, bones and vegetables.   If you need information on a natural diet, please see the articles in this series on B.A.R.F., and Natural Feeding.  A proper diet will allow the body to heal itself and resolve the internal problems causing the ear problems.  Even if you are feeding a natural diet, your animal may still be allergic to an ingredient in it. Start at the basics....offer nothing but a meat, say chicken.  Any problems with chicken?  If there are no problems after a while, try adding a new ingredient, say pureed carrots.   Keep testing each new ingredient slowly until you find the source of the problem....many dogs end up being allergic to grains and beef.  Also, if you have recently started a natural diet, your dog may be detoxing....if you are unsure of what this is, please let me know and I will send you information.

After you have looked at the diet, look at the environment.  Do you live in an area that contains many allergens, like ragweed or molds?  And what about the stress at home - is the animal perfectly happy?  Reduce the level of stress as much as possible, and bolster the immune system with a proper diet and supplements such as herbs and vitamins.  Stress can cause acne in humans - why couldn't it cause ear problems in dogs?

Washing all the bedding the dog sleeps on or hangs around on will help too if you suspect an air-borne allergen.  Washing the bedding several times a week will get rid of the allergens that can accumulate (this also works in humans with allergies to air-borne things, especially the washing of the pillowcases).

If your dog swims a lot, try to dry out the ears afterward to dry out a potentially good environment for yeast - warm and moist.  The ACV/alcohol solution is good for just an all-purpose cleaner and dryer.

Try to clean out your dog's ears often, definitely more than once a month. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, remember.  Even if your dog doesn't have a tendency to have ear problems, a clean ear can do no harm.

A chiropractic adjustment may work wonders for your pet too.  Cervical subluxations, or one of the first 7 vertebrae being out of joint, can cause numerous problems, including ear infections.  Consult a veterinary chiropractor to see if this is indicated for your pet.

Vit C and ACV (apple cider vinegar) can be given internally to help the immune system clear up the ear problem.  Vit C up to bowel tolerance and a splash of organic ACV in the drinking water or in the food can help lots.

The most important part of this article is the part about the immune system. You *must* build up the immune system instead of suppressing it, as suppressing it only drives the problem in deeper.  Later the problem may surface in a more serious way.  Are you *really* feeding your animal for health?   Look hard.

Please feel free to email me if you have more questions, or need more information.


Tiffani M. Beckman tabbique@yahoo.com

This article is Copyright 1998 No reprints without expressed permission.

**Disclaimer - I am not a vet.  Please check with your vet before trying any new treatments or diets.**