See the article on Ear Care and Disease
(starting on page 11) for in depth information about various causes of ear problems, both chronic and acute.
Also see Treating Ear Problems in Cats, Dogs, and Other Pets
for an easy to read overview. Note that most chronic ear problems are related to allergies, so in order to control the ear problems, the allergies must also be controlled. Antihistamines
can help with environmental allergies (and sometimes with food allergies) -- see this page
for dosage info. Natural anti-inflammatories, such as salmon oil (fish body oil), vitamin E, bromelain (given away from meals), quercetin (bioflavonoid) and yucca tincture can sometimes help. Frequent bathing with a gentle shampoo can remove allergens from the body and help many dogs, as can frequent vacuuming and the use of a HEPA air filter. Dogs should be kept flea-free as well. See Food Allergies Part I: Ear problems
for more information on the relationship between allergies and ear problems.
dogs "often have ear infections and show ear pain, redness, and odor
," and Cushing's Disease
can also be associated with chronic ear problems, particularly in middle-aged dogs.
Many dogs suffer from chronic ear infections that are caused by a yeast overgrowth. Sometimes removing grains, yeast, and all sugary/starchy foods from the diet (including most fruit, potatoes, sweet potatoes, yams, corn, peas, and winter squashes) will help. See Malassezia Infections
and Yeast Infections of the Skin
for information on a specific yeast organism called Malassezia. Also see Feeding Grains to Dogs?
for a good article on why grains are not necessary and some of the problems they can cause. It is helpful to give something to kill yeast as well, once you have switched to a yeast-free diet. One such product would be Azmira's Yeast & Fungal D'Tox
. Olive leaf extract is also good for controlling yeast, such as Animals' Apawthecary's Ol-Immune
Other supplements that may help with yeast include Probiotics, Vitamin C with bioflavonoids, fresh crushed garlic, olive leaf extract, and salmon oil. Other things that can set off a yeast infection are vaccinations, anethesia, topical flea killers, and autoimmune disorders. Allergies (environmental/inhalant/atopy, flea or food) and bacterial skin infections (pyoderma, folliculitis) may also be interrelated with yeast problems. In fact, recurrent yeast infections are usually related to allergies
Two people have reported that their dog their dogs had terribly yeasty ears, and one began to lose his hearing. Both ended up discovering that the dogs were hypothyroid. Treating the hypothyroidism resolved the ear problems. Neither had other symptoms of hypothyroidism except a little lack of energy. See below
for more info on hypothyroidism.
There are many topical treatments for yeast and other ear problems.
Please keep in mind that almost anything other than sterile saline can cause ototoxicity
(deafness) if used when the ear drum (tympanic membrane) is ruptured, which is not uncommon when a dog is having ear problems, but the ear drum will grow back when the infection is removed.
These treatments may be useful for keeping a chronic problem under control, but it may be best to have your vet take a look first, to determine what is going on with the ear, and whether the ear drum is intact, before proceeding with home treatments -- it will not help to treat the ears for yeast infection if the real problem is bacteria or mites, for example. If the ear is very infected, it may also be necessary for your vet to flush it out before you will be able to use one of these methods for helping to keep the ear clean.
Rather than filling the ear with fluids, in most cases it's better to put the treatment on a cotton ball or swab and use that to clean out the ear. Moisture encourages the growth of yeast, so you want the ears to be dry.
- I've used the following solution with success: Mix 1 ounce witch hazel with 1 ounce aloe vera gel, then add a few drops of lavendar oil. Use this mixture to clean the ears daily for three days, then weekly after that. Witch hazel is drying, which is good.
- Zymox Otic has been recommended by several people as helping when nothing else seemed to work. It is supposed to be effective for both yeast and bacterial infections. You can get it with or without hydrocortisone (which helps control itching). Click here for more information. There is also an Ear Solution for regular cleaning. Both are available thru Amazon and VetAmerica
- Blue Power Ear Treatment is a mixture of alcohol, boric acid powder and gentian violet. I have used this solution in combination with the witch hazel/aloe vera mixture above with success in treating a long-term yeast infection, but I still hesitate to recommend it. Both alcohol and gentian violet are ototoxic (can cause deafness) if the eardrum is ruptured. The solution dries the ear out (probably due to the alcohol), which really seems to help stop the yeast from multiplying. It can be irritating to the ear, though, so I don't use it as frequently as recommended. It can also be very painful if ears are inflamed. Some people have used witch hazel or a combination of witch hazel and aloe in place of the alcohol in the recipe for a dog with very sensitive ears, or for long term use with a dog prone to yeast infections.
K9 Ear Solutions from Liquid Health uses alcohol, boric acid and gentian violet, along with colloidal silver.
Gentian Ear Treatment from Urban Carnivore is a combination of witch hazel, boric acid and gentian violet.
Gential violet "has the potential for severe damage" according to this article on ototoxicity.
- Another recipe that is somewhat similar to the Blue Power Ear Treatment above combines 6 oz alcoholboric acid powder, 2 oz white vinegar, and one teaspoon betadine. Boric acid is commonly used in ear medications. Vinegar is a source of acetic acid, which is often used in ear cleaning solutions to combat yeast. The combination of boric acid and acetic acid can also be effective against pseudomonas. Both of these ingredients appear to be safe even if the eardrum is ruptured (many other ingredients can cause ototoxicity/deafness if used when the eardrum is not intact). Betadine is an iodine solution that is antibacterial and may help to soften wax and loosen other debris. Alcohol is drying, but can be irritating if the ears are inflamed, and may be harmful if the eardrum is ruptured. It shouldn't be used frequently, or if the ears are inflamed or the eardrum is not intact. You could replace some or all of the alcohol with either sterile saline (which is not drying, so would leave the ear more moist, which could be a problem with yeast) or witch hazel, which is an astringent and has some drying properties.
- Another astringent is Burow's Solution/Domeboro, which contain aluminum acetate.
See the following web sites for more information:
Bur-Otic HC Ear Cleanser with 1/2 tablespoon Pellitol ointment was recommended by a vet in an article in the Whole Dog Journal (June 2004). She says to completely fill the ear canal with Pellitol, massage the ear, especially around the base, then leave it undisturbed for a week (this is one case where filling the ear is appropriate). The ointment will dry up and flake off, taking the ear's debris with it. You can then use cotton balls or Q-tips to remove whatever is left. If the ear is not ulcerated, bleeding or painful, you can put a pinch or two of boric acid powder in the ear first, using your finger or a Q-tip to work it in, before applying the Pellitol. Remember that boric acid is toxic,
- it is important to be sure that none gets in they eyes, mouth or nose if you use it. Sometimes a second treatment with Pellitol is necessary, or you may need to flush the ear to complete the therapy. Cleaning with a regular cleaning solution on an ongoing basis should be done to prevent problems from recurring. Pellitol is also available at VetAmerica. Vinegar (acetic acid) in various combinations is often recommended. Vinegar helps to control yeast and fungus. Note that alcohol is drying, which can help with yeast, but it can also be painful if the ear is inflamed, so use with caution. I have seen a variety of recipes, including:
- Mix 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (acetic acid) with one cup of (warm) water.
- Mix equal parts of alcohol and white vinegar.
- Mix 3/4 white vinegar with 1/4 water.
- Mix 3/4 apple cider vinegar with 1/4 witch hazel. White vinegar may be the better choice for yeast.
- Probiotic Powder or Acidophilus can be used both orally and in the ears to help clear up yeast infections. For yeast infections, you can also use Monistat or Massengill Vinegar & Water Douche or other over-the-counter treatments for vaginal yeast infections in women. Apply creams gently using a Q-tip.
- DermaPet® Ear/Skin Cleanser , which contains both Acetic Acid (vinegar) and Boric Acid, has been recommended for treating both yeast and bacterial infections of the ear. Vodka/Boric Acid: Use an 8 oz bottle and fill with about 6-1/2 oz of vodka. Into the vodka put about a tablespoon of boric acid powder and shake vigorously. Make a saturated solution so keep adding the powder until it no longer dissolves. Squirt into the ear and massage, let them shake their heads, then wipe out with cotton pads. If there's a lot of gunk, do this twice a day. Works for sore ears and infection. Vodka is supposed to be less harsh than rubbing alcohol. Mix Betadine and (warm) water half and half. Betadine, like alcohol, is drying but can be irritating, so use with caution.
You should warm
any solution you use to body temperature by immersing the bottle in a bowl of warm water. This makes ear cleaning much less aversive to the dog. Put the solution on a cotton ball, then use that to wipe the ear. You can also use a Q-Tip, but be careful not to go any further into the ear than you can see or you may cause damage. Clean daily for three days, then every other day for a week, then weekly after that. Other things that have worked for some people include:
- adding organic apple cider vinegar to their food (anywhere from 1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon, depending on the size of the dog)
- cleaning with olive oil (just on the cotton ball, not instilled in the ear)
- treating the ear with acidopholus powder (just break open the capsule and sprinkle the powder in the ear after cleaning),
- treating the ear with whole milk yogurt
- Lavender essential oil can be effective against yeast, but should not be used straight, it is better to mix it with witch hazel or a carrier oil, and should not be used at all on cats, toy breed dogs, or very young puppies.
- A fellow Shar-Pei owner was successful using Colloidal Silver to treat yeasty ears.
- Another person added Ascorbic Acid (a form of vitamin C) to acidify the body and it helped clear up a yeast problem in the ears. If you try this, be sure to use Ascorbic Acid, and not one of the ascorbate forms of vitamin C, which are not acidifying. Also, increase vitamin C slowly, as too much will cause loose stools.
- A combination of topical Monistat 1-Day (miconazole, an anti-yeast medication) in the ears daily for 10 days and oral cephalexin (antibiotic that is used to treat staph infections) for 14 days worked to solve one St. Bernard's chronic ear infections.
See the following articles for a number of other natural suggestions for ear problems:
Herbal Help for Ear Infections
under Health/Herbal Info
Good conventional overview of causes of ear problems Products I've seen recommended by people who have used them with success:
Surolan Ear Drops
-- this is a medicinal product that contains Miconazole nitrate for yeast (malassezia), polymyxin B sulfate for bacteria, and prednisolone for inflammation. Click here
for a little more info. One person whose dog had a long term problem with her dog's ears was able to clear them using this product combined with flushing the ears.
Canyon Meadow Natural Ear Wash
-- contains tea tree oil, so use with caution
Herbal Ear Rinse
from Animals' Apawthecary
Halo Herbal Ear Wash
Ear Fresh Medicated Ear Powder
Animal Dermatology Laboratories Foaming Ear Cleaner and Ear Flushing Drying Lotion
(available only from your vet)
Ear Wash with Tea Tree Oil
(do not use tea tree oil for cats or toy breed dogs)
DermaPet Ear/Skin Cleanser for Pets
Epi-Otic Ear Cleanser
Natural Ear Comfort
Pooch Calming Ear Remedy
Hy-Otic Ear Rinse
contains hyaluronic acid to help with healing if the eardrum is injured (common with severe infections)