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Complete Guide to Treating Dog Ear Infection with Home Remedies

An essential aspect of dog grooming is ear cleaning. Without regular ear cleaning, dogs are at risk of getting ear infections that could potentially lead to hearing damage and other health complications. Ear infections are most commonly reported in dogs than in other animals affecting their normal behavior and utility (Singh, 2019). Dog owners should, therefore, regularly clean their pets’ ears and examine if there are signs of inflammation, redness, discharge, and putrid odors. When these symptoms are seen in your dog’s ears, you should see your veterinarian as quickly as possible, as clear signs of an ear infection. 

Ear Infection

In a study published by Jacobson (2002) in the Journal of South African Veterinary Association, he cited that the most common ear disease among dogs is the so-called otitis externa – an inflammation of the ear canal that often reflects an underlying dermatological disease. In the early stages of acute otitis externa, a wide range of clinical signs could already manifest, such as ear scratching, head shaking, otic discharge, acute dermatitis, malodor, pain, and swelling. Loyola University Health System (2018) cited other complications such as:

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  1. Bacterial Meningitis.

    The symptoms include severe headache, irritability, high fever, altered mental status, and malaise. As the infection spreads, the dog develops more severe restlessness, delirium, and confusion. 

  2. Acute Mastoiditis.

    This is an infection that affects the mastoid bone located behind the ear. It must be treated to prevent it from progressing to more serious complications.

  3. Hearing Loss.

    When excessive wax builds up in the ear canal, partial or temporary hearing loss could happen. But when ear infection becomes severe and is not given attention, permanent hearing loss will most likely happen. 

  4. Facial Paralysis.

    An inner ear infection can cause facial paralysis in dogs. Facial paralysis can either be partial or total. In partial paralysis, the muscles of facial expression move less than normal. In total facial paralysis, the animal cannot move its eyelids, ears, lips, or nostrils and dogs often drool and have a dull facial expression. 

In a similar study made by Rosser (2004), he enumerated the primary causes of otitis externa that are directly responsible for the inflammation of the external ear canal. These causes are as follows:

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  • Parasites.

Otodectes cynotis (an ear mite), Demodex canis, Otobius meaning (ear tick) – these are some of the leading parasites that cause inflammation in the dog’s ear canal which then lead to head shaking and ear scratching. 

  • Foreign bodies.

Plant awns like foxtails are a common cause of otitis externa during the foxtail season. This family of plants can get into the deepest part of the dog’s horizontal ear canal and can damage the tympanic membrane of the eardrum, thereby resulting in a concurrent otitis externa. Other kinds of foreign bodies observed to cause infections in dogs’ ears are sand, dirt, dried otic medications, dead insects (particularly flies and mosquitoes), and broken or loose hairs. 

  • Allergic Diseases.

The presence of inflammation and pruritus (severe skin itching) not just on the dog’s ear but also on the other parts of the dog’s body is associated with atopic dermatitis or food allergy. The study revealed that 80% of the dogs with food allergy have otitis externa.

  • Keratinization disorders.

Hypothyroidism, hyperadrenocorticism, and sex hormone imbalance – all endocrine disorders – may change the keratinization production in the external ear canal thereby resulting in an initial ceruminous and seborrheic form of otitis externa. 

So, in cases where dogs are showing symptoms of ear infection, what possible treatment could dog owners give to their pets? The first option on the table would be to go to a vet clinic and get medical prescriptions to buy antibiotics for the infection. 

But, aside from medically-prescribed treatments, home remedy is also a good and effective alternative of treating dog ear infections.  Not only that the negative side effects of medical prescriptions are avoided, all the essentials needed for the treatment are also available at home. 

In an article published in the Austin Journal of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, most commonly prescribed antibiotics to dogs with ear infections were not completely effective and might even be responsible for frequent treatment failure (Singh, 2009). 

Home Remedies

These home remedies listed below can significantly minimize the risk of complications caused by dog ear infections.  Plus, they can all be done in the comforts of your own homes.

1. Clean the ear with a gentle cleanser

Cleaning your dog’s ears is an effective way to minimize ear infection and excess wax build-up. But since the ear is still painful due to inflammation, a gentle cleaning solution should be used to clean it. 

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How to do this: Pour an adequate amount of the cleaning solution into a perfectly-fitted cotton ball and place it in the ear canal opening, then gently massage the base of the ear for 10-20 seconds. You can repeat this process many times as long as your dog can tolerate it. 

The cotton ball acts as a lid that allows the fluid to go back and forth in the canal and it absorbs the excess solution and holds onto the debris as it comes out, so you will know what is inside the ear canal. After the ear has been cleaned, allow it to dry for about 10 minutes. 

Caution: There are few cautions to remember when doing this at home. One is that Q-Tip swabs should not be used to clean the dog’s ear as they may push debris deeper into the air canal which may rupture the eardrum. Another caution to be made is to not use rubbing alcohol or other strong solutions such as vinegar and hydrogen peroxide as they can irritate the inflamed skin. 

2. Apply topical ointments

Applying ointments or drops into a dog’s infected ear can treat the infection inside since topical ointments are formulated to act as antifungal, antibiotic, and anti-inflammatory. As such, it can give a soothing effect to the dog’s ear and can reduce the swelling from within. 

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How to do this: Talk to your vet before using any topical ointment and follow the indicated dosage in the label. Don’t give your pet with more than what the label says and you must certainly follow the specified schedule for applying the ointment. The length of treatment depends on the severity of the infection and the improvements or changes that will manifest (Kristinsson, 2005).

3. Homeopathy

The practice of homeopathy is based on the doctrine that a substance that causes the symptoms of a disease in healthy people would cure similar symptoms in sick people. It is one of the most widespread forms of alternative medicine that is used to treat ear infection and other skin diseases. Most homeopathic remedies combine the extract of a natural substance with a synthetic compound which enhances the therapeutic effect.

The table below shows the common homeopathic remedies for an ear infection (Marom, 2016).

Homeopathic Remedies
AgentCommon Indications
1. Belladonna
  • Ear pain extends down to the neck or is accompanied by a sore throat.
  • Earache with sudden intense pain and with few prior symptoms.
  • Signs of uncomplicated infection such as bright red outer ear, ear canal, or eardrum without pus formation, and sudden high fever.
2. Ferrum phosphate
  • Early stages of earache before pus has formed.
  • Symptoms are similar to Belladonna but not as sudden and severe.
  • An alternative for Belladonna if symptoms have not improved.
3. Hepar sulfate
  • Chillness and aversion to cold and the increased desire for warmth.
  • Earaches worsen in the cold or open air and get worst at night.
  • Irritability
4. Pulsatilla
  • Mild disposition; craves affection and physical contact.
  • Ear pain is worst at night and even in a warm room.
  • In general, worse from the warmth and wants fresh air.
5. Chamomilla
  • Extreme irritability
  • Severe ear pain
  • Symptoms are worse when stooping or bending over and improved by warmth or being wrapped in warm covers. 
6. Soluble Mercurius 
  • Earache is worse from the warmth and at night.
  • Profuse, bad-smelling perspiration, and head sweats.
  • Increased salivation and puffiness of the tongue.
7. Silica
  • Later stages of an earache: physical weakness and tiredness, chilliness, desire for warm covering.
  • Pain behind the ear in the region of the mastoid.
  • Sweating on the head or the hands and feet. 

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4. Herbal medicine (Phytotherapy)

Herbal medicine is the use of plants for medicinal purposes. In general, herbal products are considered safe, although its effectiveness is still unclear and the side effects may vary. The study of the use of natural extracts as medicines or health-promoting agents is called phytotherapy. 

Phytotherapy aims to preserve the complexity of plant substances by avoiding mixing it with synthetic substances. It has been reported to be effective in managing dog ear infections. Otic solutions that are used to treat infections of the dog’s ear canal contain extracts of the garlic bulb, mullein flower, yarrow, and calendula flower. 

They are as effective as oral amoxicillin and topical anesthetics because of their presumed antimicrobial, anti-inflammatory, and immuno-stimulating effects, and they have a good penetration through the dog’s tympanic membrane (Marom, 2016).

5. Aromatherapy (Essential Oils)

Due to their biological activities, essential oils are one of the natural interesting product groups use in different aspects of life. Aromatherapy or the use of essential oils is a great home remedy to treat dog ear infections, chronic pain, and anxieties, and they are safer and more natural.

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Essential oils have psychological (affecting emotion), pharmacological (affecting chemistry), and physiological (affecting bodily function and process) benefits to dogs. The most common ways of using essential oils are by applying them to the skin (topical) and by breathing them in (inhalation). When used topically, essential oils can treat dog pains, skin diseases, and infections. 

Essential oils are extracted from almost any part of plants such as flowers, seeds, fruits, leaves, stems, and roots. According to Wexner Medical Center (2018), these are the common essential oils and their uses:

Essential Oils and their Uses
Essential OilsUses
ChamomileFever, nausea, colds
EucalyptusTopical pain reliever and decongestant
BergamotSkin healing and anxiety-reducing
LavenderCalming and sleep-inducing
CloveDental and pain-relieving
RosemarySkin, hair health, and joint pain
PeppermintCold and flu prevention, energy booster
LemonNatural household cleaner and disinfectant
FrankincenseMood enhancer and stress reducer
OreganoSkin healing


Dog ear infections require immediate attention to stop the spread of the infection into the whole body. The usual course of action taken by dog owners is to use strong antibiotics, which, when used frequently, can eventually weaken the dog’s immune system. Also, the negative side effects of using medically-prescribed drugs for treatment might even lead to other complications. 

Home remedies that involve the use of natural treatments are a great alternative to treat dog ear infections. These remedies are simple and straightforward measures to prevent a potentially complex health issue if you notice signs of an ear infection in your dog or if you think your dog is susceptible to it. 

Thus, if your dog is suffering from dog infections, you can always recourse to these friendly and easy home remedies. Not only are they effective, but most importantly, they’re economical, safe, and won’t damage your pet dog’s health.


Jacobson, L.S. (2002). Diagnosis and medical treatment of otitis externa in the dog and cat: A review article. Journal of South African Veterinary Association, 73(4): 162-170.

Kristinsson, K., Magnusdottir, A., Petersen, H., & Hermansson, A. (2005). Effective treatment of experimental acute otitis media by application of volatile fluids into the ear canal. The Journal of Infectious Diseases, 191(11): 1876-1880.

Loyola University Health System. (2018). Ear infections can lead to meningitis, brain abscess, and other neurological complications.

Marom, T., Marchisio, P., Tamir, S., Torretta, S., Gavriel, H., & Esposito, S. (2016). Complementary and alternative medicine treatment options for otitis media. Medicine, 95(6): e2695.

Rosser, E. (2004). Causes of otitis externa. The Veterinary Clinics, 34: 459-468.

Singh, BR., Pawde, AM., Singh, SV., Agri, H., Sinha, DK., Vinodhkumar, OR., Zama, MMS., Kinjavdekar, P., Amarpal, & Saxena, AC. (2019). Ear infections in animals in Bareilly: Common causes and effective antimicrobials. Austin Journal of Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry, 6(3): 1061.

Slater, V. (2018). How and why to use essential oils.

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