Ear Infections and Your Pet


Humans car hear sound waves traveling at 20,000 cycles per second, while dogs hear sound waves traveling at 100,000 cycles per second.  Cats can hear even higher frequencies; it is what enables them to detect the ultrasonic squeaks of mice.

To protect this exquisite sense of hearing, their ear canals are L-shaped, which helps prevent damage to the eardrum.  The problem with this design is that it also allows the ears to trap moisture, debris, earwax and parasites - any of which can lead to ear infections.  Cats often get infections because of ear mites, and up to 80 percent of ear problems in dogs are linked to allergies.

The traditional treatment for ear infections is to give antibiotics, antifungal drugs or other medications.  The problem with this approach is that medications upset the normal chemistry inside the ear, possibly turning a simple infection into a complicated, long-term problem.  It makes more sense to deal with underlying allergies and strengthen the immune system so that it is able to battle bacteria and other germs BEFORE they cause infection.  In addition, there are many natural treatments for cleaning the ears and stopping infections without using drugs.

What are the Signs of an Ear Infection?

         Your pet shakes her head or holds it to one side.

         She/he is scratching or rubbing her ears, or she/he is rubbing her head against furniture or carpet.

         There is a yellow, brown or black discharge in one or both ears.

         The ears smell bad or are tender or red.

The Solutions

Clean the ears with vinegar - If your pet's ears are filled with brownish-pink wax, there is a good chance that allergies have triggered a yeast infection.  You can clear up yeast infections by cleaning the ears thoroughly.  Veterinarians often recommend using white vinegar, also called acetic acid, because it removes dirt and debris and helps restore a healthful chemical balance in the ears.

Diluted vinegar works well.  When using vinegar, pour a small amount into the ear canal, massage the area, then gently wipe the inside of the ear with a cotton ball.  Do this once a day until the ear is better.

Stop infections with pau d'arco - Also called Inca Gold, the herb pau d'arco, which comes from the inner bark of a South American tree, is a natural antibiotic that quickly kills fungi and bacteria.  Mix equal parts pau d'arco tincture and mineral oil and put several drops in your pet's ears at the first sign of infection.  You can give the drops two or three times a day for several days.

Reduce inflammation with vitamin C - The adrenal glands produce a natural steroid that can help reduce inflammation when ears get infected.  Giving pets vitamin C can help the adrenal glands work more efficiently.  Cats and dogs weighing less than 15 pounds can take between 100 and 250 milligrams of vitamin C a day.  Pets 15 to 50 pounds can take 250 to 500 milligrams a day, and larger dogs can take 500 milligrams two or three times a day.  Vitamin C can cause diarrhea, so you may have to cut back the dose until you find an amount that your pet will tolerate.

Eliminate toxins with a healthful and natural diet - Giving your pet a healthful, homemade diet or high quality commercial food that doesn't contain wheat, corn, additives or preservatives (such as Flint River Ranch) can vastly reduce the amount of wax that the ears produce, while also helping the immune system work well.

Air out the ears - Increasing air circulation inside the ears can control the growth of bacteria, yeast and fungi.  Periodically trimming or plucking hair inside the ears will allow more air to get inside.

Strengthen the digestive tract - Supplements such as bromelain and quercetin (with bromelain) can help prevent an allergic response in the gastrointestinal tract, making food allergies less of a problem.

Stop ear mites with oil - When an infection is caused by ear mites, putting a few drops of almond oil or olive oil in each ear will smother the mites and may allow the infection to heal.  You usually need to continue the oil treatments for three to four weeks, putting three to seven drops of oil into the ear canals each day.  Cleaning wax and other debris from the ears before using oil will help the treatment work more efficiently.

Try an over-the-counter remedy - One of the best ways to stop ear mites is with over-the-counter products containing pyrethrins, like Bug Arrest (which also kills fleas, lice, scabies, and is excellent for use on pets, carpeting, bedding and humans), Natural Animal and Pet Gold herbal powders.  Made from chrysanthemums, pyrethrins are natural insecticides that are very safe to use.  Just follow the instructions on the label.


When to Call the Vet

Ear infections can look and smell awful, but they usually affect only the outer part of the ear and aren't too serious.  You will still want to see your veterinarian, however, to find out what is causing the problem if you are unable to get to the root of the problem yourself, particularly if your pet is doing a lot of scratching.  Vigorous scratching can break blood vessels in the earflap, causing the entire ear to swell like a balloon.  This condition, called hematoma, must be drained by a veterinarian to prevent permanent damage.

Other symptoms to watch out for include head tilting, clumsiness, walking in circles or drooping eyes.  These are signs of an inner-ear infection, and must be treated by a vet.  Your pet will probably need antibiotics to knock out the infection.  In addition, your vet may need to drain pus and other fluids from inside the ear!