Wondering if your pet has an ear infection? Know the signs, symptoms and natural treatments
It's so easy to fall in love with the floppy, perky ears of a pup or marvel at the sharp ones belonging to a cat. Beyond the cuteness and intrigue, just like humans, your pet’s ears are essential to their ability to socialize, interact and protect themselves. Without good ear health, your fur friend's energy and balance would be greatly affected.
However, at some point in your pet's life, you may recognize that a pesky infection may appear almost suddenly. As a pet parent, you're now tasked with the responsibility of restoring their ears to perfect health.
Believe it or not, roughly 20% of dogs have some form of ear disease. This number rises in more humid environments where bacteria tend to thrive. Where your feline friend is concerned, ear infections are a lot less common with only about 1 in every 15 cats seen by a vet comes in because of an ear issue.
If your pet is suffering from an ear infection right at this minute, rest assured that you don't have to guess your way through their recovery. In this blog, you'll find a great guide that will help you understand what is an ear infection, the associated signs and symptoms, and some natural remedies that will help restore your beloved pet back to their happy, playful selves.
How Long Does an Ear Infection Last?
Most uncomplicated ear infections can be resolved within 1–2 weeks, once the right treatment is given to your pet. If the infection affects the eardrum, recovery can take from 3-4 weeks.
However, where the infection is severe or triggered by an underlying condition, full recovery may take months to resolve or may turn into chronic ear problems that recur from time to time. In some severe cases, there may be some structural damage that causes the ear to permanently change shape, although this is largely cosmetic.
What are Ear Infections?
Ear infections are just that: inflammation in the ear. It can occur in the inner or outer parts of the dog’s ears. Otitis (an infection of the ear) can occur in three places - the outer ear, middle ear or inner ear. An outer ear infection is the most common because that's where your pet is most likely to be exposed to bacteria, yeast, ear mites, dirty water and other foreign matter.
If left untreated, your pet's your pet's eardrum can become porous and the infection can move from the outer ear through the eardrum to the inner ear. Even if your pet's eardrum looks intact, the inner ear may still be inflamed and infected from the bacteria.
There three different types of ear infections in dogs are usually referred to as:
• Otitis externa - inflammation of the external ear canal
• Otitis media - inflammation of the middle ear structures
• Otitis interna - This type of infection is the most common of the three. It is the inflammation of the layer of cells of the outer ear canal. When left untreated, this can spread and cause otitis media and externa.
This is where some serious side effects can occur. Treating otitis externa as quickly as possible and monitoring the healing process is one of the most important parts of a pet's recovery.
What causes ear infections?
Unfortunately, some breeds are just more prone to ear infections. In dogs, some of these breeds include Cocker Spaniels, Miniature Poodles, or Old English Sheepdogs while in cats they are common to Himalayans and Persians.
Beyond your pet’s breed, an ear inflammation can also surface due to bacteria, yeast, worms, mites or a combination of these. Some of the issues can be caused by moisture, which holds bacteria and yeast; others may come from parasites found in hedges, or heavily wooded areas. Puppies and cats especially, can also get infections from ear mites. It is very important to watch your pet and make sure they don't get into dirty lakes or dense bushes where these creatures like to reside.
Even though these causes are more common, here are some more culprits that may cause ear infections:
• Endocrine disorders
• Autoimmune disorders
• Wax buildup
• Foreign bodies
• Injury to the ear canal
• Excessive cleaning
The good news is that some of these causes can be preventable, and as such, you have a great shot at preventing a recurrence in your pet. Getting to the root cause of your pet’s pain will be extremely important for both prevention and care.
If you’re still wondering if your happy dog or cat has an ear infection or what one may look like, the following list of symptoms will be a good guide for you. Do note that sometimes pets do a good job of hiding the infection as there may not be any outward symptoms besides built-up wax.
However, if your pet is symptomatic, these are the signs to look out for in your dog or cat:
• Redness of the skin
• Increased discharge
• Scaly skin
Untreated, symptoms can advance to:
Untreated, symptoms can advance to:
• Hearing loss
• Loss of balance
• Walking in circles
Undoubtedly, ear infections are painful for your best friend; the sooner the symptoms are detected and an infection is identified, the sooner you can take the necessary actions to reduce the discomfort your pet is experiencing and ultimately place them on the path to full recovery.
How to treat dog ear infections at home?
Ear infections are one of the most common reasons pets are taken to the vet by their owners. While it’s wise to gain an official diagnosis from a health care professional, you can try the following natural remedies at home first if it doesn’t appear too severe.
• Green Tea
Green tea is a natural solution for inflammatory pain. This is due to the antioxidants in green tea. First, you will want to boil 8 oz of water and add two green tea bags. Just like you would if you were drinking it, let the tea steep and cool off. Lastly, syringe the solution into the ear canal.
• Grapefruit Seed Extract
Grapefruit seed extract is an antioxidant as well. It fights bacteria, fungi, and other causes of ear infections. You can add 3 to 5 drops into your cat or dog’s food, or mix 10 drops with half an ounce of pure aloe vera juice and use that to clean the ears.
• Oil of Oregano
The oil of oregano is a powerful antioxidant, as well. Just like grapefruit seed extract, mix one drop of oregano oil and half an ounce of aloe vera juice. Use this to clean the outside of the ears.
• Vinegar and water
This solution can reduce itch and pain. For this one, mix one-part vinegar and one part water. Use this to clean the ears. It's recommended to use organic apple cider vinegar for this remedy.
Try a holistic natural supplement for pet ear health
Alternatively, or even in addition to the above ingredients, you may readily have in your kitchen, you can try a natural treatment specially made for restoring pet ear health. Made from select plants and minerals, Bestlife4Pets Ear Infection and Ear Itch Relief Remedy is specially formulated to ease all of the symptoms listed above and conquer the root causes behind ear infections in dogs and cats.
While there are many more recipes for natural remedies than we can list here, it's important to remember that prevention is necessary to make sure your pet's ears stay healthy and the infection does not recur. Some things you can do right away include:
• Keep ear clean
• Monitor their diet
• Add food supplements to their diet (eg. garlic is good for yeast issues)
• Keep an eye out for potential signs and symptoms. Remember, sometimes ear infections come from a deeper problem.
When to take your pet to the vet and what to expect
Of course, the aim is for natural remedies to entirely eliminate the problem.
However, if there are no visible changes, then it’s time to take your four-legged friend to the vet. Here are some signs you should go to the vet for your pet’s condition:
• Symptoms not improving/getting worse
• If your pet's pain levels are too high
• If the ear swells up or looks puffy
• If you feel it is time to take them! Sometimes your gut is both you and your Fido or feline’s guardian angel. As a loving pet parent, you naturally know when it’s time to take them to the nearest pet clinic.
If you do end up needing to take your dog or cat to the vet, here are some things to be ready to answer:
• Duration of the symptoms
• Allergies or medical conditions
• Food habits
• If you clean your pet’s ears and which products you use
• If you’ve trimmed or plucked the hair in their ears
• Recent activities
• Former ear infections, when they occurred, and how they were managed
After answering these questions, it will be time for the physical exam. These depend on the severity of the ear condition. Here is what this could look like, depending on your case:
• Visual assessment
• Examination with an otoscope
• Gentle pressure to assess the level of pain
• Samples taken by swabbing the ear
• Biopsies or X-rays
Seeing our sweet furry love in pain is something that you’ll never want to experience. As owners and lifelong friends, you will always want to give them the healthiest and most loving lives that you can provide. If the situation keeps recurring, strongly consider a lifestyle change.
Pets with more natural lifestyles are less likely to get ear infections. It’s important to look at every detail and find out what is causing the infection to prevent them in the future. Researching, reading articles, talking to the vet are all great starts for prevention in the future.
Hopefully, this guide has educated you on what an ear infection is, what it looks like, and how to get your dog or cat back to perfect health.