Vet visits can be expensive, and sometimes even stressful for you and your dog. I understand why you’d want to avoid them when possible! But unfortunately, this isn’t always feasible.
It’s important to bring your dog to the vet when they have an ear infection because home remedies will not clear the infection. Many so-called “natural cures” will actually make the infection worse, and waiting for treatment can mean more pain for your dog if the infection spreads.
In this article, we’ll discuss why home remedies for ear infections don’t work, the risks, how vets treat ear infections, and more!
Table of Contents:
Are There Home Remedies for Ear Infections?
Unfortunately, the only surefire way to clear up a dog’s ear infection is to bring the dog to the veterinarian. You want to do this as soon as possible to prevent the infection from becoming worse.
Untreated ear infections can continue to spread into the middle and inner ear, causing your dog more pain and making the infection harder to treat.
Severe ear infections can spread to other parts of the body, affecting the brain, eyes, and more. Although it’s rare, severe ear infections can lead to deafness, blindness, and infection in the brain that affects their breathing and heart rate. Your dog’s balance can also be affected permanently by a prolonged ear infection.
Home Remedies Not to Use
To be clear, I don’t recommend using any home remedies on your dog’s ear infection. They will not work and can even worsen the problem–even if only by being ineffective and making your dog wait longer for treatment.
That said, there are a lot of myths that go around when it comes to treating ear infections. Let’s talk about why you shouldn’t try them!
- Hydrogen peroxide kills healthy cells, can impede healing, and leaves water in your dog’s ear canal. While hydrogen peroxide can interact with and kill germs, it doesn’t discriminate between bad germs and healthy cells! It also consists primarily of water, which will remain in your dog’s ear and can become trapped. Trapped liquid is one of the leading causes of ear infections.
- Vinegar kills yeast, but also leaves water behind. Ear infections can worsen or reoccur when a dog’s ear is left wet or water gets trapped inside. Apple cider vinegar also falls into this category and is unsafe to put in your dog’s ear.
- Alcohol in the ear will hurt your dog, especially if they have any cuts or tears in their ear from itching. This will make them wary of allowing you or the vet to touch their ear in the future, making treatment more difficult. Alcohol will also leave water behind in the ear which can make the infection worse.
- Waiting it out can cause the infection to worsen. A simple outer ear infection can spread to the middle or inner ear, or even the brain in rare circumstances! It’s then more difficult for your vet to treat–and more expensive, if finances are what’s stopping you from seeking care.
- Ear cleaning solutions only clean the ear–they don’t heal infections. While keeping your dog’s ears is an important part of treatment and preventing infections in the future, you’ll still need a prescription from the vet to get rid of the infection.
What if I Can’t Afford a Vet?
Sometimes, even with the best financial planning, you can end up in a situation where vet care is out of your budget. In this case, I suggest the following solutions:
- Call your local shelters and rescue groups. They often have programs meant to help low-income families keep their dogs in their homes. They can also connect you to free or low-cost vet clinics.
- Research low-cost vet clinics near you. For a while, I brought my dog to a low-cost mobile vet in my area. They sometimes can’t deal with large-scale health problems, but low-cost vets will be able to help with basic ear infections.
- Apply for Care Credit. Care Credit is a credit card meant to pay for veterinarian expenses. Not everyone will be approved, but if you are, it can help pay for your dog’s treatment with no interest for the first six months.
- Ask for a payment plan. Many vets won’t agree to payment plans because many people never pay them off. But, it’s worth asking around if your dog needs treatment. Some veterinarians are willing to work with you.
- Crowdfund the money. Asking friends and family for help, or even your social media following if you have one, can sometimes raise enough money to get your dog treated.
- Borrow from friends or family. Asking for help can be difficult, but if someone you know can afford to loan you money for a short time, this can be the solution you need to get your dog healthy again.
Please keep in mind that treating a simple ear infection is relatively cheap, as far as veterinary costs go. Avoiding the vet will cause your dog’s infection to worsen, which can increase the costs to treat it–so if you’re on the fence due to the cost, it’s best to see the vet now than to pay more for treatment later on.
Symptoms of Ear Infections in Dogs
The best way to get ear infections treated quickly, and prevent further health problems from occurring, is to know the symptoms. Here’s what to watch for if you think your dog has an ear infection, or if they get them frequently:
- Head shaking
- Pain (flinching or yelping when the ear is touched, acting more subdued than normal, etc.)
- Dark discharge
- A sweet or yeasty scent
- Redness or swelling
- Crusty or scabbed ears
Sometimes you might notice secondary concerns, like if your dog begins having problems with their eyes due to the infection or they scratch their ears open and they bleed.
While these aren’t symptoms of an ear infection itself, they’re another indication that your dog has an infection.
How are Ear Infections Diagnosed?
Ear infections can typically be diagnosed with a simple examination by your vet. They’ll ask you questions about your dog’s symptoms and look into their ears with a scope. They might palpate the ear to determine if your dog is in pain or take a swab or culture.
If the ear infection is extreme, veterinarians may need to sedate your dog to look further into the ear. However, this isn’t common, especially if your dog has just begun to show symptoms.
In these more extreme cases, your vet might also need to perform x-rays or biopsies.
How do Veterinarians Treat Ear Infections?
Simple ear infections can be treated by keeping the ear clean and using a medicated ointment. Sometimes vets will also prescribe oral antibiotics or anti-inflammatory medications.
Usually, ear infections will clear up with treatment in 1-2 weeks, but it can take months for a more complicated infection to heal completely.
In very severe cases where the infection won’t go away, surgery may be required to remove the ear canal.
Can Ear Infections be Prevented?
Some dogs are more prone to ear infections than others due to breed, genetics, environment, and other factors. Although there’s no way to guarantee your dog doesn’t get another ear infection, there are ways to help prevent it from happening:
- Clean their ears weekly. Your veterinarian can give you ear cleaning solution, or you can buy some over the counter. This can be used to flush your dog’s ear, and you can also apply it to a cotton pad and carefully wipe the ear once a week.
Remember to never stick q-tips or other items into your dog’s ear canal, as this can damage their ears.
- Keep them dry. If your dog goes swimming, takes a bath, or plays in the sprinkler, it’s important to dry their ears off afterwards. Try to prevent water from going into the ear when possible. Dogs who love water often have more frequent ear infections.
- Prevent injuries and when injured, keep the wound clean. Like any other open wound, ear injuries can become infected!
- Treating allergies. If your dog’s ear infections are caused by allergies, treating them can help to prevent the infection from recurring.
- Treating other underlying ailments. According to the AKC, some ear infections are caused by underlying disease, such as thyroid disease, other endocrine disorders, or autoimmune disorders.
These are good ways to stay out of the vet’s office and to keep your dog from being in pain and discomfort.
I hope this article has helped you to understand why at-home remedies for dog ear infections don’t work, what the vet will do during your visit, and how to prevent ear infections in the future. Remember that using at-home solutions or trying to wait out the infection can make things worse, and quick vet care is the best way to go!