Ear infections are one of the most common reasons dogs and sometimes cats visit a veterinarian. When I was in conventional practice I would see tons of ear infections every day.
While one ear infection in your pet’s lifetime is no big deal, many dogs and cats suffer from repeated ear infections. This becomes frustrating and expensive. When I began practicing holistically, not only did I see a decrease in ear infections, but they became much easier to treat.
In this article, I am going to discuss why dogs and cats get ear infections and what you can do to treat and prevent recurring infections holistically.
Why do dogs and cats get ear infections?
There are many reasons pets get ear infections. In my experience here are the top 3 reasons:
1. Allergies. Ear infections can be caused by food allergies, environmental allergies or both. In my experience, food allergies are a top culprit. If the food allergy can be identified, often the chronic infections can be resolved. For a list of commercial foods I like click here.
2. Anatomical conformation. Dogs with big floppy ears or tiny ear canals are much more prone to infections. While cats don’t have big floppy ears, some have the misfortune of smaller than normal ear canals. Yeast and bacteria love dark, moist environments with little to no airflow.
3. Parasites. Sometimes mites can cause itchy, infected ears.
What are some symptoms of an ear infection?
- Head shaking
- Scratching Ears
- Foul smell coming from ears
- Brown discharge in ear canal
- Swollen ears
- Rubbing head on walls or floors
What should you do if you suspect your dog or cat has an ear infection?
You should take them to your veterinarian. This is not the time to try a home remedy first.
Your veterinarian will look in your pet’s ear to evaluate both the vertical and horizontal ear canal.
This is an important step because we want to make sure there is not a foreign object and we also want to make sure the eardrum is intact.
Also, your veterinarian will take a swab of the ear wax and check it under a microscope. This helps differentiate between yeast and bacterial infections and will identify parasites.
How can I treat an ear infection holistically?
If your dog or cat has a moderate to severe infection, the best first line of treatment are steroids, antifungals and sometimes antibiotics.
This is one case when pharmaceuticals will outperform natural remedies by a long shot.
Many of my clients avoid conventional therapies when possible. In most cases I support that philosophy.
However, with ear infections, I use topical creams or drops with steroids, antifungals, and antibiotics to knock out the ear infection. After the infection has been cleared, then it’s time to use natural therapies to prevent recurring infections.
How can I prevent ear infections from coming back?
This is where the holistic approach really pays off. Here are the top 3 most important things you can do to prevent the infection from returning.
1. Identify food allergies. For some, this is as easy as removing wheat or corn. For others elimination diets and food allergy testing are necessary. A great place to start is to remove wheat, corn, soy, and all grains from your pet’s diet.
2. Regular cleaning. Clean your pet’s ears when they begin having waxy debris build up. For some animals, this is every week. For others, it is once monthly or even seasonally.
For a guide on how to clean your pet’s ears click here. As a bonus, I included my special natural ear cleaning recipe that you can make yourself right at home.
3. Ensure that the last infection is completely gone. I see this frequently as a cause of chronic ear infections. This is why it is important to bring your pet back to your vet for rechecks until the ear is completely free of infection.