Is your dog or cat tormented by ear infections? Do you spend time and money at the veterinarian's office trying to bring relief to your beloved pet, only to find that another infection appears over time? If so, you may want to try some more natural approaches to preventing and treating your pet's ear infections.
Dogs and cats have an incredible sense of hearing. To protect their hearing and prevent damage to the ear drum, their ear canals are L-shaped. The problem with this design is that it allows the ears to trap parasites, moisture, debris, and earwax, and any of these can lead to ear infections. Up to 80 percent of ear problems in dogs are linked to allergies, and ear mites are often the cause of infection in cats.
The traditional treatment for ear infections is to give antibiotics, anti-fungal medications or other drugs. The problem with this approach is that drugs upset the normal chemistry inside the ear and can possibly turn a simple infection into a long-term problem. It makes more sense to deal with underlying allergies and strengthen the immune system so that it is able to fight bacteria and other germs BEFORE they cause infection. Also, there are many natural treatments for cleaning the ears and stopping infections without using drugs.
*Pet scratches or rubs ears, or rubs head against furniture or carpet.
*There is a yellow, brown or black discharge in one or both ears.
*Ears smell bad or are tender or red.
*Clean the ears with vinegar - If your pet's ears are filled with brownish-pink wax, there is a good chance that allergies have caused a yeast infection. To clear up yeast infections, clean the ears thoroughly. Veterinarians often recommend using white vinegar, also called acetic acid, because it removes dirt and debris and helps restore a healthy 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 - 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. At the first sign of infection, mix equal parts pau d'arco tincture and mineral oil and put several drops in your pet's ears. 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. Pets weighing under 15 pounds can take between 100 and 250 milligrams of vitamin C a day. Cats and dogs 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 healthy, all natural diet - Giving your pet a healthy, homemade diet or high quality commercial food that doesn't contain corn, additives or preservatives can greatly reduce the amount of wax that the ears produce, while also helping to boost the immune system.
*Air out the ears - Increasing air circulation inside the ears can control the growth of bacteria, yeast and fungi. Trim or pluck hair inside the ears periodically to 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. To help the treatment work more efficiently, clean wax and other debris from the ears before
*Try an over-the-counter remedy - One of the best ways to stop ear mites is with over-the-counter products containing pyrethrins. 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. If you're unable to get to the source of the problem (especially if your pet is still scratching a lot), you will want to see your veterinarian to find out what is causing the problem. Vigorous scratching can break blood vessels in the ear flap, causing the entire ear to swell like a balloon. This condition is called hematoma and 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!