Unfortunately, ear infections are a common problem in dogs. If you’ve owned dogs, you’ve likely had to deal with an ear infection at some point.
While some owners will suggest that the shape of a dog’s ear makes them more or less prone to infections, the truth is that dog ears of all shapes and sizes may develop an infection.
Not only are ear infections painful for dogs, but they can become expensive to treat.
I’ve pulled together some natural dog ear infection home remedies but don’t skimp on vet costs if your pup seems to be in pain or a serious infection has developed.
All tips in this post are meant to be supporting home remedies, but it’s best to consult with your vet before using them.
To treat dog ear infections at home, coconut oil and apple cider vinegar are popular choices.
However, what about home remedies like hydrogen peroxide, tea tree oil, witch hazel, and aloe vera gel?
Causes of Dog Ear Infections
There are a variety of reasons that dogs may get an ear infection. Since ear infections are prone to recurring, it’s especially important to determine why your dog is developing ear infections.
If you can find the cause, you can help prevent another future ear infection.
A common cause of ear infections is water being trapped in your dog’s ear. When the ear canal remains too moist, it becomes an ideal living place for bacteria and yeast.
As the bacteria and yeast grow, they lead to a nasty infection, usually noticed when your dog’s ear starts oozing brown and smelly gunk.
Left untreated, your dog may suffer permanent damage.
To prevent stagnant water from causing an infection in your dog’s ear, there are several precautions you can take when they go swimming or have a bath.
- One of the natural remedies discussed later in this article, witch hazel, has properties that help dry out the ear canal.
- There are also commercial cleaners that can moisturize ears as well as remove excess water.
- In addition, when giving your dog a bath, you can utilize cotton balls to prevent water from entering your dog’s ears.
Another common reason for dogs to get ear infections is foreign objects or mites. Whenever something is introduced into your dog’s ear, it might cause an infection.
Mites and foreign objects both cause irritation to the ear canal. Sometimes, the irritation breaks the skin.
Open wounds are the ideal place for infections to form.
In addition to physical causes of ear infections, dogs can develop chronic ear infections due to a more systemic problem, too.
Allergies, including food allergies, can manifest as chronic ear infections.
You should especially consider an allergic reaction or other whole-body cause of ear infections if you notice other symptoms, including pimples or dermatologic symptoms.
If you suspect an allergy is the cause of your dog’s ear infection, you should also consider switching their food or asking your veterinarian about checking for environmental allergies.
Not only can dogs get ear infections when their ears aren’t cleaned, due to a buildup of debris, wax, and hair, but they can be prone to infections when they’re cleaned too often.
A healthy amount of wax is useful in preventing ear infections in dogs.
It’s also important to know the symptoms of an ear infection in dogs since they can develop an outer, middle, or inner ear infection.
If a dog has an inner ear infection, the initial symptoms might only be seen in your dog’s behavior.
If your dog is shaking or tilting their head, scratching their ear, crying when the ear is touched, or you notice an odor coming from the ear, your dog might have an ear infection.
Other symptoms of an ear infection in dogs include a dark-colored discharge, bleeding in the ear, or a disruption to your dog’s balance.
Will a Dog’s Ear Infection Go Away on its Own?
An ear infection will almost never go away on its own. Plus, if it’s left untreated, you risk your dog suffering from permanent damage to their ear.
Not only can the infection cause permanent damage to the ear canal, but it can actually burst your dog’s eardrum as well. This can cause permanent hearing loss.
Since ear infections are treatable, doing nothing means unnecessarily prolonged pain or, worst-case, risking permanent damage.
Ear infections in dogs also usually require treatment for the bacteria, yeast, or other organism causing the infection, as well as the inflammation that the infection causes.
Too much inflammation, as well as failing to take care of the root cause of the infection, is likely to make treatment unsuccessful.
No matter how you decide to approach treating your dog’s ear infection, it’s important that it is treated.
A few suggestions for natural home remedy treatments for ear infections in dogs (as well as those to avoid) can be found below.
How to Treat Dog Ear Infection Without the Vet
In many cases, if your dog’s ear infection has already progressed, you will need the medication that you can get from the vet clinic in order to fully treat the infection.
Especially if your dog is showing severe signs of pain, it’s important to consider a veterinarian for rapid treatment. It’s not fun or fair for our dogs to suffer needlessly.
However, if you suspect that an infection is just about to start, or are looking for natural ways to clean your dog’s ears to prevent future infections, these options will give you some insight.
Apple Cider Vinegar for Dog Ear Infection
A common item in the cupboards of many dog owners who love home remedies, the staple of apple cider vinegar might help our dog’s ear infection heal faster.
However, in its natural form, it might burn your dog’s ears.
Instead of using full-strength apple cider vinegar, dilute the product with 1 part apple cider vinegar to 1 part water, before using it to treat your dog’s ear infection.
Then, dip a cotton ball in the solution and use it to gently clean your dog’s ear.
This works particularly well on yeast infections, including yeast infections on your dog’s skin.
If you have a dog with skin folds, you may find yourself needing to use apple cider vinegar to treat or prevent those yeast infections as well.
Coconut Oil for Dog Ear Infection
If you have a dog, you definitely want to keep coconut oil on hand. Not only can this product help dog ear infections, but it has plenty of other health benefits as well.
To use coconut oil as a supportive natural way to treat your dog’s ear infection, you can put a small amount of coconut oil at the entrance to their ear canal.
Next, massage the coconut oil down into their ear.
Not only can this help promote healthy skin in your dog’s ear, but the coconut oil can smother and kill any ear mites that have found their way inside.
Plus, coconut oil can act as a moisturizer and soothe the skin.
Hydrogen Peroxide for Dog Ear Infection
The use of hydrogen peroxide (3%) can be helpful to treat mild ear infections. It’s very important to avoid using it at full strength, though.
Without dilution, the hydrogen peroxide will burn your dog’s already irritated ear canal.
The recommended treatment for ear infections with hydrogen peroxide includes mixing 1 part hydrogen peroxide with 1 part water.
After you’ve diluted your hydrogen peroxide, you’ll want to use a bulb ear syringe to flush your dog’s ear with the solution to dislodge any debris.
If your dog has any open sores, you’ll want to avoid using hydrogen peroxide.
While it can be very effective at getting rid of the things that are causing your dog’s ear infection, it doesn’t discriminate.
When used on open wounds, hydrogen peroxide can potentially slow the healing process by destroying the cells that are trying to repair wounds in the skin.
Dilution of the hydrogen peroxide, or choosing another treatment method, is ideal in this case.
Tea Tree Oil for Dog Ear Infection
While you may find tea tree oil recommended for treating ear infections in dogs, you should avoid this natural treatment.
In both cats and dogs, tea tree oil can be extremely toxic, even fatal.
There are some proponents of using tea tree oil, also known as melaleuca, who state that diluting the oil makes it safe for dogs.
However, many vets recommend avoiding this anyways because of the potential risk, especially when safer options are around.
Witch Hazel for Dog Ear Infection
Used in small amounts, witch hazel can help dry out your dog’s ear. This is helpful in small doses, to prevent water from remaining in your dog’s ear and leading to an infection.
As with many of the other potential natural remedies for dog ear infections, a large amount of this product used at full dose can dry out a dog’s ear too much and cause unintended damage.
Instead, try using just 5-10 drops of witch hazel in your dog’s ear to dry it out enough to prevent infection.
You can also follow this treatment with coconut oil or another moisturizing remedy to counteract the drying properties of witch hazel.
In addition, avoid using witch hazel if your dog’s ear is already red, painful, or has broken skin.
Otherwise, you will make your dog’s ear hurt worse in your attempt to fix the problem.
Aloe Vera Gel for Dog Ear Infection
A soothing product, aloe vera gel can help take away some discomfort as your dog recovers from a painful ear infection.
This solution is best used on the outer part of your dog’s ear to soothe the painful skin.
As with some of the other natural remedies, aloe vera gel can be used in combination with another approach for best results.
You can put some of the gel on a cotton ball and wipe it on your dog’s ear, or place a few drops in the ear canal and massage them deeper.
How Do I Clean My Dog’s Infected Ear?
There are a variety of ways you can clean your dog’s ear to treat or prevent infection.
For best results, you’ll likely want to use a combination of these approaches, depending on the condition of your dog’s skin around the ear.
One of the most important parts of treating an ear infection is to make sure the ear canal is cleaned thoroughly.
A bulb syringe, that allows for flushing (as well as potential suction to remove solution left in the ear) is ideal for this process.
Make sure to use a warm solution so that your dog isn’t as uncomfortable. Your dog will be happier without the shock of a cold product hitting the ear canal.
After flushing the ear canal to remove any excess debris, you should massage the base of the ear from the outside.
This will make sure the solution works its way deep enough to fully clean the ear.
After massaging the ear canal with the solution in it, allow your dog to shake their head to loosen any further debris.
Next, wipe the outer part of the ear canal with a cotton ball or cotton padding so that you finish cleaning the ear.
After you’ve used the product to flush and wipe your dog’s ear, you can follow it up with another treatment.
A few drops of one of the natural treatments can make the difference between a clean ear that develops another infection or an ear that stays healthy.
Finally, if the outside of your dog’s ear is inflamed and irritated, you can use an additional natural remedy, such as coconut oil or aloe vera gel, to soothe the skin.
How to clean your dog’s ear in short:
- Bulb syringe for flushing with warm solution
- Massage base of the ear
- Allow dog to shake, wipe outer part of ear canal with cotton ball
- Few drops of natural treatment
- Coconut oil to soothe skin
As mentioned, a healthy amount of ear wax is good but you should check out how to evaluate your dog’s ear wax color and maintain accordingly.
The natural remedies mentioned in this article can provide a great starting point for treating or preventing an ear infection in your dog.
However, they are not a substitute for veterinary attention.
Especially if your dog’s ear is painful, red, has signs of discharge, or smells, you should schedule a vet visit.
If you have to wait a few days, some of the natural remedies can help make your dog more comfortable in the meantime but don’t hesitate to visit the emergency vet for serious cases.
Saturday 4th of March 2023
my dog is getting constant ear problems how can you know what type of infection are the one she has or has had so as to know how to treat it?
Saturday 4th of March 2023
Hi Robert, if you suspect an ear infection please visit your vet. They should be able to determine what type of treatment is necessary and provide advise on what you can do at home. But it's important to visit the vet especially to get it looked at.
Leanne D Badduik
Wednesday 21st of December 2022
Hi there, Im wondering how many times would I apply the apple cider vin/h2o solution?
Tuesday 13th of July 2021
What about hair removed from their ears? We have a Bichon that has for the second time in his young life, had a lot of hair removed out of his ears that was unpleasant for him (yesterday). He now shakes his head. Do you recommend the coconut oil for his now sore ears?
Thursday 15th of July 2021
The anti bacterial properties in coconut oil can help but you need to be careful not to apply too much or get it inside the ear. I'd recommend asking your vet and perhaps carefully washing it with an appropriate medical/natural shampoo to avoid infections or irritiations.
Tuesday 23rd of March 2021
Thank you for your tips! I think my dog requires the vet. I just tried to clean out her ears. Her left ear looks infected to high heaven. I feel like bad dog mom. She has allergies and takes apoquel too.
Tuesday 23rd of March 2021
Hi Gen, as long as you're taking care of it now, there's no reason to feel bad about it. Visiting your vet is always the best solution in case you're unsure about what you're seeing. Maybe it's just irritated due to scratching caused by something easily treatable like ear mites but you never know.
After you have clarity about what your dog has, I'd start cleaning the ears regularly from then on :).
Monday 15th of March 2021
Thank you for this article! I often see articles or videos using some of these remedies but without the wise cautions you mention.
I need to clean my dog’s infected ears but I worried that ACV, witch hazel or hydrogen peroxide might cause pain since the ear is infected.
Your advice is very helpful.
Monday 15th of March 2021
Hi Jacque, I'm glad to hear the tips helped.
Since my dog has the occasional mite infestation, I can definitely attest that some of these things help pretty neatly, but one should definitely be cautious even with home remedies :).
Thanks for your feedback, Danielle