Ear infections in dogs can be maddeningly frustrating for a dog and can leave a pet owner feeling helpless. So, if you see your dog constantly shaking his head, you know that your pet probably has quite an earache and feels miserable.

Thankfully, there are many effective, safe, and natural options you can try in order to get rid of the problem. Here’s some information on why an infection can develop in a dog’s ear canal and what you can do about it.

Different Kinds of Ear Infections In Dogs

Even though ear infections in dogs can affect any breed, those with longer, floppier ears tend to be at the highest risk. These include breeds such as Cocker Spaniels and Basset Hounds.1

Ear infections occur in the ear canal. The most common infection is known as otitis externa. This develops in the outer area of the ear canal and can be extremely painful.2

If your dog moans while scratching the ears or shakes his or her head on a regular basis, this type of infection is likely to blame. This usually results in the ears turning extremely red in color due to inflammation. There might also be a discharge of black or yellow liquid as well as a pungent odor.3

Another type of infection affects the middle ear. This is known as otitis media. Thankfully, otitis media will usually only occur on a sporadic basis. It occurs when an infection in the outer ear reaches the middle of the ear canal.

If otitis media isn’t treated, an infection can reach even farther into the ear canal, resulting in a condition known as otitis interna. With otitis interna, inflammation can result in hearing loss. That hearing loss may lead to imbalance, which looks like head tilting, circling, leaning toward the affected side, and even falling over.

The consequences of not properly treating an ear infection in dogs can be extremely serious.

Infections will only get worse, and could possibly lead to permanent damage. This can lead to narrowing of the ear canal, increasing pain and itching, and possibly even a ruptured eardrum.5

Common Causes of Ear Infections In Dogs

There are three main reasons that ear infections in dogs develop. Here’s some quick information on each.

ear infections in dogs | Dr. MartyYeast infection

A yeast infection, also known as a fungal infection, occurs due to an overgrowth of the yeast that is found naturally in a dog’s ears. One common sign of a yeast infection is an excess of wax in the outer portion of the ear canal. However, a fungal infection can also cause the formation of scabs.

If your dog tends to be around water on a regular basis, he or she will be more susceptible to this type of problem. The main reason is the yeast thrives in water. When water from a pond, lake, or swimming pool gets trapped in the ears, yeast can proliferate to the point that an infection takes place.6 (Read more about yeasty ears here.)


There are quite a few ways that a dog’s body is similar to a human’s. One of the things we have in common with our four-legged friends is that our bodies contain both good and bad bacteria.

If the balance between harmful and helpful microbes is thrown out of whack, that can result in a weakened immune system. In a dog, an overgrowth of the Staphylococcus bacterium can often result in a canine ear infection.7

Foreign bodies

If you have a dog that loves to be outside, she will be at risk of something getting into the ear canal. Something as tiny as a tick, for example, can lead to big problems. These include not only substantial irritation but an infection as well.8

Natural Ways to Fight Ear Infections in Dogs

If you would rather address your dog’s ear infection through natural home remedies, talk to your veterinarian first, to make sure the method you try will be safe for your dog’s health.  It would be best if you have a medical professional show you how to apply the remedy in the safest manner possible. And never use a Q-tip. It could cause severe damage such as a perforated eardrum. Ouch!

You have several options for natural home treatments. Here are just a few to consider.

1. Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar contains powerful acids that can both clean your dog’s ears and also kill bacteria and yeast that might be causing an infection. However, it’s very important that you avoid this home remedy if your dog’s ears are already bright red. The reason is that apple cider vinegar will be too painful. If your dog’s ear infection hasn’t reached that stage yet, I recommend mixing equal parts vinegar and water in a glass and squirting a small amount into the ear canal. You can also soak a cotton ball in the mixture to clean the dog’s ear flap.9

2. Mullein

This is a plant with powerful antibacterial properties. You should be able to find it at a nearby health store. Mix the flowers and leaves into a jar, soak them in olive oil, and add a couple of cloves of chopped garlic. Cover the jar with a lid and let sit for two weeks, keeping it at room temperature. Then, strain the oil and use a dropper to apply to the ear canal. Soak a cotton ball in the mixture and clean the ear flaps.10

3. Calendula

ear infections in dogs | Dr. MartyThis plant helps fight fungal infections. Mix a teaspoon of calendula tincture (again, you should be able to find it at a health food store), a half a teaspoon of sea salt and a cup of warm – not hot – water in a glass. Then use a syringe to put 10 drops in each ear, taking care not to put the syringe in the ear canal.

Massage the ear gently and then let the dog shake his or her head. This will get the oil deep into the ear canal to promote healing.11

4. Vitamin C

Giving your dog vitamin C could help reduce ear canal inflammation while boosting the immune system at the same time. Talk to your vet to make sure that you’re giving your pet the right dosage. If you give too much, that could lead to diarrhea.12

5. Dietary Changes

One thing that could be contributing to recurring ear infections is the food you’re giving to your dog. For example, foods high in starch can cause an overgrowth of yeast in the ear canal.13 However, speak with your vet first before you make any major changes to your dog’s diet.

If you get the okay to switch food, do so gradually. Sprinkle in some of the new food with the old for the first day, then give your dog around a half-and-half mixture the next two days. Sprinkle in some of the old with the new the next day. After about five days, you should be able to exclusively give your pet the new food.14

(Learn more about DIY dog ear cleaner ingredients from Dr. Marty.)

The Bottom Line

If you have a dog, especially one with floppy ears, you have to be aware of the signs of an ear infection. If you don’t address this problem in time, ear infections in dogs can have serious side effects and your pet might suffer severe, long-term effects.

Of course, there are many different safe, natural remedies you can try in order to eliminate the problem. But again, make sure you talk to your veterinarian first to make sure the remedy you try will be right for your dog’s particular situation.

For more health tips for your pooch, keep reading here:
9 Ways To Help Your Dog Live Longer (And Healthier)
7 Surprisingly Bad Foods for Dogs (They are Toxic!)
7 Fun Dog Exercises (simple idea to get your dog to move!)