How to Treat Your Dog’s Ear Infection at Home

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As you all know, I’m a big supporter of consulting the vet when my dogs are sick or hurt, but that’s not always a possibility.

Recently, we were out camping in the woods when Sophie started shaking her head and scratching at her ears. Even though we’re consistent about cleaning her ears weekly, he still gets the occasional ear infection, especially after swimming.

One look and I was sure he had an ear infection. her ears were red, swollen, and smelled horrible.

We knew right away how it had happened: Sophie was in and out of the lake all day, so we hadn’t bothered to dry her ears until the evening.

Unfortunately, we were a good hour away from the closest vet office. Plus, it was a Saturday.

Luckily, we had dealt with ear infections before and came well prepared.

First, we cleaned and dried out her ears then treated them with Mometamax otic, a prescription ointment from our vet.

This whole thing got me thinking, what if you didn’t have medicine from your vet and were too far from a vet clinic to get any?

There are many reasons why getting to a vet office can be difficult and sometimes impossible, which means you may need to take care of your beloved canine on your own.

How to Tell If Your Dog Has an Ear Infection

what does an infected dog ear look like how to identify infection
This dog’s ear is infected! Photo by Kalumet (CC BY-SA 4.0)

Ear infections cause different symptoms in dogs. Keep an eye out for these signs, in order to catch the infection early:

  • The ears are inflamed, swollen and warm to the touch.
  • The inside of the ears may look wet or have brown waxy build up.
  • The ears will have a foul yeasty or fruity smell.
  • Your dog is shaking its head or scratching at their ears excessively.
  • Your dog’s ears seem tender or painful if you rub or touch them.

 If You Dog is Suffering from Severe Symptoms – Don’t Wait, Drive to the Vet!

If your dog displays any signs of the below severe signs of an ear infection, get your dog to the vet as soon as possible to avoid any permanent damage:

  • Loss of balance
  • Unusual eye movements
  • Walking in circles
  • Pus draining from the ear
  • Hearing loss
  • Vomiting and nausea
  • Drooling from the side of the mouth
  • Difficulty eating and dropping food
  • Eye discharge

Should I Take My Dog to the Vet?

If your dog is having the above severe symptoms, stop reading and go to the vet!

how to clean your dogs ear infection safely
Even military dogs are at risk for ear infections!

If not, here are some ideas to help treat your dog’s ear infection.

Please note these treatments, like all at-home treatments whether for fleas or infection, are intended to help manage your dog’s ear infection until you can see a vet. If the infection becomes dramatically worse, stop treatment and seek emergency vet care.

I’ve yet to find a veterinarian who felt comfortable with people treating their dog’s ear infections without professional guidance.

However, most people who have dogs with chronic ear infections, especially allergic dogs, only need to see the veterinarian once. After that, they only need to call in for refills on the medication.

I know there are situations when you may not be able to afford a visit to the vet. If this is the case, try one of the treatments below.

However, if it is a severe infection, talk to your vet about a possible payment plan.

What Causes Ear Infections?

It’s always good to know what you’re dealing with before you begin treatment on your own.

which dog breeds get ear infections at risk beagle basset hound cocker spaniel retriever

  • Allergies – If your dog suffers from allergies, be it seasonal or food, it’s relatively common for them to also suffer from chronic ear infections.
  • A ruptured eardrum – “A ruptured eardrum can be the result of trauma, infection, exposure to toxins, sudden severe changes in atmospheric pressure, very loud noises, and foreign objects” ~Ryan Llera, BSc, DVM and Ernest Ward, DVM.
  • Tumor or polyp within the ear canal – Your vet would need to conduct a biopsy to verify a Tumor or polyp.
  • Long Ears – Dogs with long floppy ears might be cute, but they are naturally predisposed to chronic ear infections. Breeds that are more likely to have issues with their ears include beagles, bassets hounds, cocker spaniels, and retrievers.
  • Excessive Moisture – Dogs who enjoy swimming often contract ear infections. The combination of the moisture, the dark of the ear canal, and body heat all make for an excellent breeding ground for yeast. You may need to take care when washing your dog, too.

Types of Infections

Diagnosing the actual infection type and cause is something that would need to be done by your vet.

Some infections require particular medications to resolve the issue entirely because medicine that works for one type of infection isn’t always effective for other types.

  • Bacterial infection
  • Fungal Infection
  • Ear Mites
  • Yeast Infection

What to do if Your Dog has an Ear Infection

If you can get to a pet store

I know that getting to a pet store isn’t always an option, but if it is, I recommend buying a cleaner as well as an over the counter otic treatment.


Getting a liquid cleaner is best for this situation as it can reach further into the ear canal than cleaning pads. These are my favorites:


Once you clean and dry the ears you should administer the medicine.

When purchasing an over the counter medication, choose one that is specific to dogs/pets and specifically states that it’s for infections.

What if you don’t have access to a pet store?

There are times you may not have access to a pet store.

If that’s the case, I suggest trying to find a health food store, and if that’s not available, go to a grocery store.

There, you’ll find the following natural treatments:

Oregano Oil

Oregano oil is a strong antibiotic that, like other essential oils, should never be used undiluted.

Mix one drop of the oregano oil with a teaspoon of carrier oil. Olive oil is a good choice. You can find both ingredients at a health food store.

It can either be applied directly into the ear or on a cotton ball or gauze and applied to the top of the ear canal.

Calendula Oil

Calendula oil works as an antifungal and pain reliever.

Be sure to purchase one that can be used directly on the skin without further dilution.

Apply directly on and in the ear.

Calendula oil can be found at a health food store, too.

Coconut Oil

This is good for yeast infections, mites, and general cleaning.

Melt the coconut oil (coconut oil has a low melting point of 76° F) then let it cool completely, but not solidified.

Drop a few drops into the dog’s ear canal and rub gently.

Finish by rubbing small amounts at the top of the ear canal as well.

Boric Acid

This is good for cleaning and also minor infections. The acid nature discourages the growth of yeast.

Be sure to use caution when using this powder. It’s not to be ingested or inhaled, so be sure to protect you and your dog’s eyes, nose and mouth.


These are just some ideas to help slow down the ear infection until you can get into the vet.

Depending on the severity of the situation, the treatments listed above may be all you need to resolve the issue.

However, if it doesn’t completely heal, recurs within a week after the infection has been treated, or gets worse, it would be best to consult your veterinarian.


Can you put peroxide in a dog’s ear for an ear infection?

Hydrogen peroxide is not recommended because it causes greater irritation, especially if the canal is inflamed or ulcerated.

How long does it take for a dog’s ear infection to clear up?

Anywhere between 10-30 days.

It all depends on the severity and type of infection, as well as the treatment method.

Will a dog ear infection go away on its own?

According to Dr. Wendy Hauser, DVM, “…ear problems aren’t likely to clear up on their own. They are painful and can cause hearing loss if left untreated.”

Is my dog’s ear infection an emergency?

Not usually, but if your dog is suffering from severe symptoms, you should treat it as an emergency.

How do I know if my dog’s ear infection is gone?

All visible symptoms will be gone. Also, the smell should have also wholly resolved.

It’s always good to continue medications for the recommended period to kill off all of the bad bugs, or the infection might return!

Still Have Questions?
Ask a Vet!