How To Treat Your Dog’s Ear Infection

Jim D. Carlson, DVM CVA CVTP
Holistic Veterinarian
Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center

Dog ear infections are a top reason for a veterinary visit.  But a lot of people don’t want to or can’t afford a vet visit due to ear infections in their dogs.  The head shaking, itching, brown discharge, swelling and redness of an ear infection is important to treat.

If you’re concerned about an ear infection, one thing you can do at home is smell the ear.  It sounds gross to smell your dog, but the smell of yeast infection in your dog’s ear is important to note and one of the ways a veterinarian can tell what kind of infection your dog has.  The yeasty canine ear smells like bread that’s been sitting awhile and was put away when still warm. This means, your dog’s ear will smell like old, moist bread. Gross, but true. Your dog’s behavior during a yeast outbreak is also something to consider.  If you gently rub the outside of your dog’s ear, it feels good to your pet and he will lean into the rub. If it’s a bacterial infection, this rub could make your dog yelp. Yeasty itchy ears are not a problem you can treat at home or find an over the counter OTC solution.  This means a veterinary visit for your dog to get the right treatment and likely testing to see what’s going on.

This dog has a yeast infection in his ear. Notice how he is leaning into the owner’s hand and enjoying the soothing rub on his ears.

Another item that will require a veterinary appointment for a dog ear infection is a bacterial infection. This problem is very troublesome and can take multiple visits to handle correctly.  The bacterial infection is accompanied by green or yellow discharge or runny ears in your dog. Run, don’t walk, don’t try anything at home, do not not not, put anything OTC in your dog’s ears or even try to clean them out.  You can not cure this dog ear infection naturally at all. You never will. The only home treatment for a canine bacterial ear infection at home is to wipe off the exterior discharge and leave the ear alone for your veterinarian to deal with.   

This is an important veterinary visit for your pet.  One of the biggest reasons for this is that a doctor needs to examine the ear to be sure there eardrum is still intact.  If it isn’t, any method of treatment will be horrendously painful. From there, the veterinarian will likely run an ear cytology and make up a treatment plan with antibiotics and pain relief.  

If one round of antibiotics doesn’t cure your pet’s ear infection, a second round of a different medication may be prescribed.  However, your better bet might be to send out a sample to a lab to test for precisely the bacteria causing your dog’s ear infection.  The list of potential pathogens is long but common bacteria present in the ear range from Pseudomonas, strep and MRSA. Those infections require custom compounded medications to resolve.  For some dogs, this is the reason their ear infections don’t resolve for months. They need appropriate laboratory testing via a culture to see what’s lurking in the ear.  

I hear a lot of pet owners call to make an appointment in my clinic who assume their pets have ear mites.   While this is a possibility in any dog, it’s less frequent than owners realize. Out of the frequent ear mite appointment requests, most of the dogs have either yeast or bacteria in their ears and no mites.   Since ear mites can’t really be seen without a microscope, a veterinary visit is essential for the correct diagnosis. Dogs with symptoms will scratch intensely with their back legs and show coffee ground-like discharge in their ears.

My advice is to always save up a bit of cash for veterinary emergencies.  An ear infection can catch you off guard but if you have some money put aside for your pet’s needs you won’t have to worry so much about the veterinary visit and needed medications.  Veterinary professionals want both you and your dog to be happy.  Please ask questions at riversideanimalclinic.net. You can also Live Chat with us on our website or email with concerns: riversidemchenry@gmail.com. Appointments and new clients welcome.

Dr. Jim Carlson, Holistic Veterinarian and Owner of Riverside Animal Clinic & Holistic Center, McHenry, Illinois

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