Your pup's ears are probably one of your favorite things about them. But regardless of how adorable and soft they are, most dogs will suffer from an ear infection at some point in their lives—and breeds with long, floppy ears like Cocker Spaniels or Basset Hounds are particularly prone. The most common cause of infections in dogs is an imbalance of bacteria or yeast in otherwise healthy ears. A holistic approach that takes diet and lifestyle into account can help prevent them in the long term.
Clean the Ears Regularly
Cleaning your pup's ears once a month (or more often if they're prone to ear problems) greatly reduces the chance of developing an infection. The American Kennel Club recommends first checking inside the ears for debris, scratches, or discharge. Then give your pup's ears a sniff, since a bread-like odor usually indicates a yeast infection while a foul smelling odor can signify a bacterial infection. Moisten a cotton ball with mineral oil and gently wipe out the ears, going no deeper than the first knuckle on your finger. Avoid using any q-tips, which push bacteria further into the ear canal.
Eliminate Sugars and Grains
Approximately 80% of dogs with food sensitivities also develop ear inflammation. An excess of grains and sugar in your pup's diet is one of the most common underlying causes of infection. A grain-free diet is especially helpful in ear infection prevention since grains contain sugars which yeast feeds on and uses to multiply. In milder cases, simply eliminating grains and sugar can set your pup on the path toward long-term ear health.
Take Special Care After Swimming
Pups who swim frequently in lakes, oceans or pools are more prone to ear problems. Since both yeast and bacteria (the two major culprits of ear infection) reproduce in moist, dark places, it's important to take special care to dry your pup's ears after they go for a dip. Gently pat your dog's ears using a soft towel, softly squeezing the fur to dry any excess water after swimming. To get water out from inside your dog’s ear, use a cotton pad to gently dab along the opening of the ear canal. If your pup is prone to infections, you should do this after baths, too.
Apply Natural Topical Treatments
Balancing the pH of your pup's ears is an important step in combating both yeast and bacterial infections. To be proactive about it, a basic ear cleaner can be prepared at home to correct the pH of their ears and kill any contaminants found there: Combine one cup of lukewarm water with two tablespoons of hydrogen peroxide or apple cider vinegar, which can then be used to wipe out excess debris from visible areas of the ear with a cotton ball.
Try Omega-3s and Probiotics
Skin allergies to pollen, grass, and mites inflame the surface of the body, which can cause infection. The tight space of the ear canal breeds yeast and bacterial growth that can exacerbate ear inflammation. To combat this, add omega-3 fatty acids to your pup's diet to reduce skin inflammation—they can be found in fish oil supplements and are naturally occurring in foods like salmon and chia seeds. A suppressed immune system can also make your dog more prone to infection, so it's important to maintain balance with a probiotic supplement to regulate bacterial flora in your pup's intestinal tract.