Ear Infection Remedies for Pets

| Modified on Jun 06, 2023
Apple Cider Vinegar Remedy on Earth Clinic.

Ear infections in dogs are not uncommon. They can be caused by bacteria, yeast and parasites. Natural remedies can be gentle and quite effective. Popular home treatments include apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and “Arcane Solution."

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections

  • Scratching the ears
  • Rubbing the ears on furniture
  • Odor from the ears
  • Discharge from the ears
  • Swelling
  • Redness

The cause of the ear infection will affect the choice of remedy used to treat the infection.

If the cause is unknown, several of the remedies will work well for different types of infection and can be chosen accordingly.

Arcane Solution 

Arcane solution is great for fungal or bacterial ear infections. If the skin of the ears is broken or sensitive, this is a gentle choice.

Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is diluted and used to wash out the ears. This remedy is good for parasites and allergies. It may sting broken skin. Because it contains water it may not be the best remedy for ear infections of a fungal nature since fungus thrives in a moist environment.

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is antibacterial and antifungal. It is soothing to inflamed or broken skin. Simply massage a pea sized amount into the ear twice daily.

Vinegar and Alcohol

Dogs that often swim can get “swimmer’s ear,” just like people. This is a fungal infection. A solution of equal parts of rubbing alchol (70%) and vinegar is used to cure and even prevent this problem. A few drops are used in each ear twice daily for an infection. To prevent an ear infection, use a few drops after each swim. The alcohol helps to dry out excess moisture in the ear.

White vinegar or apple cider vinegar can be used.

This remedy should not be used if there is broken or otherwise irritated skin!

Garlic Oil

Garlic oil fights all sorts of infections and is soothing to irritated ears. For complete instructions, see this page.

Tea Tree Oil

The use of tea tree essential oil in pets is controversial. Cats especially can be sensitive to essential oils. Properly diluted, it works well for many dogs. Add 5 drops tea tree oil to 1 tablespoon olive or coconut oil. The resulting mixture can be used a few drops at a time in the ears to fight bacterial, fungal or parasite infections in the ear.

Dietary Changes

Poor quality pet food can cause a host of problems, including ears that are prone to irritation or infection. If ear problems are chronic or are accompanied by other health problems, consider improving the quality of pet food. Eliminating grains, fillers, and colors in pet food is especially beneficial.

Allergies in pets can also cause itchy ears. Allergies are not infections and usually require a more systemic treatment, though the above remedies may provide temporary relief. See this page for information about treating allergies in dogs.

Do you have a natural remedy for ear infections in dogs or cats? Please send us some feedback!

Apple Cider Vinegar, Tea Tree Oil

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Kerri (Clarkston, Mi) on 04/10/2013

My black lab had ear infection issues for the longest time and we treated him with everything under the sun the vet could think of, she ran every test. I changed his food, made his food, and finally the one couple things that have helped are warm water mixed with apple cider vinegar to clean the ear if its full of debris. Then after the debris is cleaned I put a few drops of tea tree mixed with coconut oil.

I do this twice a day until I see improvement. Its important to clean the ear thoroughly by massaging under the ear drum while the vinegar water mixture is in the canal. Let the dog shake his/her ear after you put the fluid in it will loosen and debris and then take either a cotton ball or gauze pad to clean completely.

Blue Powder Solution

5 User Reviews
5 star (5) 

Posted by Theresa (Mpls., Mn) on 10/09/2016

I have posted the Blue Power Ear Wash formula on Earth Clinic elsewhere, but cannot find the post. I LOVE this info on Blue Power Ear Cleanser. It's from Facebook and has the best information. Please post it.

Blue Power Ear Cleaner
The good, the bad and the ugly about this popular home made ear cleaner.

By Joan M. Beck
Starlight Springers, Minneapolis, MN

Blue Power Ear Cleaner (also known as Blue Voodoo Ear Cleaner and Gentian Violet Ear Cleaner) is a very popular home made remedy for keeping canine ears clean and infection free. Lots of Internet web sites tout its benefits, and it is frequently mentioned on dog-related chat groups. Most advocates of this treatment say its great, almost magic for treating ear infections, few if any mention how or why the preparation works and if it is safe for our canine friends. Being a natural skeptic of anything advertised as “magic", I decided a little research was in order.

Here is what I discovered:

The Formula:

There are several recipes for Gentian Violet based ear cleaners on the web. The following recipe seems to be the most popular and based on my research the safest and most effective formulation: 2 cups (1 pt.) 70% Isopropyl alcohol (don't use the 91% solution, it is too strong for use in an ear cleaner and can physically burn the delicate ear tissues) 4 Tablespoons boric acid powder 16 drops of 1% gentian violet solution or 8 drops of 2% gentian violet solution. (Order from your local pharmacist)

For best results, place two cups of isopropyl alcohol in a glass measuring cup and heat until luke-warm in the microwave. Heating the alcohol helps the boric acid powder dissolve in the liquid. This recipe calls for a very saturated concentration of boric acid compared to the amount of alcohol. If you don't heat the alcohol first, then you tend to get boric acid crystals settling out at the bottom of your bottle. Boric acid crystals in suspension (particles floating in the liquid) are less effective for altering the pH of the ear canal than boric acid in solution (particles dissolved in liquid). After mixing the boric acid and alcohol, then add the gentian violet. Be sure to place newspapers under the area where you are working. Gentian violet is a strong aniline dye and permanently stains, especially in its concentrated form. I have found that adding one drop of liquid dish soap to this warm purple mixture helps make this mixture work even better because the soap helps break down the surface tension of the earwax so the alcohol can dissolve it. Adding more than one drop of soap starts to change the pH of the solution and reduces its effectiveness. It is recommended that this product be used once or twice a day for two weeks to fight ear infections, then twice a month afterwards to prevent overgrowth of the microbes that cause infection. If your dog produces a lot of earwax and needs more frequent ear cleaning, you might consider alternating the use of this formula with a commercially available ear cleaning formula so long as the commercial ear cleaner also acidifies the ear.

The Good-Why it Works

In case you are wondering why this formula works, here is the scoop. Gentian violet is a fairly powerful antiseptic. Antiseptics are agents that destroy or inhibit the growth and development of microorganisms in or on living tissue. Unlike antibiotics that act selectively on a specific target, antiseptics have multiple targets and a broader spectrum of activity. Gentian Violet was quite popular prior to World War II, especially in veterinary use. It is particularly good at killing fungus like yeast and Staphylococcus bacteria, both big culprits in ear infections. For it to truly work, the solution needs to be in contact with the fungus or bacteria for a minimum of sixty seconds. So filling the ear canal and massaging it around for a minute is a good idea. I suggest you warm the solution slightly in the microwave to make it more comfortable for the dog and to help the alcohol (also an antiseptic) dissolves the wax build-up. Be sure to test the temperature on your own wrist before pouring it into the ear canal. The boric acid in the recipe helps to acidify the pH of the ear canal making it an inhospitable environment for nasty beasties to grow back.

The Bad - Some of the dangers

Now why, if this stuff is so great, don't we see commercial preparations of this formula? One reason is that Gentian Violet is a mild carcinogen (cancer causing agent) Studies at the National Center for Toxicological Research (and similar studies listed below) have shown Gentian Violet to be a thyroid and liver carcinogen for laboratory animals like rats, mice and rabbits. Another reason is that Gentian Violet is toxic to the sensitive cilia cells of the inner ear. If some of the solution happens to seep through a perforated eardrum it can cause a debilitating and permanent dizziness or deafness. A third consideration is its reported effects on the fetus. Pregnant animals in the Gentian Violet studies showed fetal abnormalities including those to the musculoskeletal and urogenital systems. Gentian violet also affected fertility and was deemed the cause of a high rate of post-implantation mortality (either death or reabsorption of the fetus). These factors make the product too big a potential liability for a commercial production. The FDA has banned its use as a food preservative and discourages its use in human medical and veterinary preparations designed for chronic use (like ear cleaners) although the agency seems to have no problem with occasional use.

The Ugly- More is not better

Please don't use more gentian violet than is recommended in the formula. Antiseptics, like Gentian Violet, have been found to be toxic not only to bacteria and fungus, but also to cells essential to the wound healing process, such as fibroblasts, keratinocytes, and leukocytes. However, this cell toxicity appears to be concentration dependent. In other words, in low (recommended) concentrations, antiseptics like Gentian Violet retain their antibacterial and anti fungal activity, but they don't end up killing off beneficial cells. The Moral of the Story When used properly this is a good ear cleaner/disinfectant. It has been reported to stop some ear infections when all other treatments have failed. Given the research studies, especially the cancer studies, it may not be advisable to use this as your dog's only ear cleaner, but it is a good product to get ears back under control. The fetal death and abnormality studies suggest that it is not advisable to use this product on a pregnant or lactating bitch. The risks of fetal abnormality are just too high. Colloidal silver preparations and non-staining iodine compounds work almost as well as Gentian violet preparations and have been shown to be very safe. Many commercial preparations are also very good and very safe. Look for those that do not contain chlorhexidine (also can cause birth defects) and state that the product leaves the ear acidified to discourage re-growth of bacteria and yeast.


National Center for Toxicological Research
www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/ cpg/cpgfod/cpg578-600.htm

Littlefield, N. A., B.-N. Blackwell, C. C. Hewitt, and D. W. Gaylor. 1985. Chronic toxicity and carcinogenicity studies of gentian violet in mice. Fundam. Appl. Toxicol. 5:902-912

Case, R. A. M., and J. T. Pearson. 1954. Tumours of the urinary bladder in workmen engaged in the manufacture and the use of certain dyestuff intermediates in the British chemical industry. Br. J. Ind. Med. 11:213-221..


www.fda.gov/ora/compliance_ref/ cpg/cpgfod/cpg578-600.htm

Antiseptics on Wounds: An Area of Controversy
Anna Drosou, MD, Anna Falabella, MD, Robert S. Kirsner, MD
Wounds 15(5):149-166, 2003. © 2003 Health Management Publications, Inc.
Posted 06/11/2003

Characteristics of systemic and topical agents implicated in toxicity of the middle and inner ear
Peter S. Roland, MD

Dermatologische Klinik und Poliklinik der Technischen Universität München, Biedersteiner Strasse 29; D-80802, Dr. Knut Brockow: München (Germany)

Brennan SS, Leaper DJ. The effect of antiseptics on the healing wound: A study using the rabbit ear chamber. Br J Surg 1985;72:780-2.

Bennett LL, Rosenblum RS, Perlov C, et al. An in vivo comparison of topical agents on wound repair. Plast Reconstruct Surg 2001;108(3):675-85.

Livingstone DH, Cryer HG, Miller FB, et al. A randomized prospective study of topical antimicrobial agents on skin grafts after thermal injury. Plast Reconstruct Surg 1990;86(6):1059-

De Gracia CG. An open study comparing topical silver sulfadiazine and topical silver sulfadiazine-cerium nitrate in the treatment of moderate and severe burns. Burns 2001

Crossfill M, Hall R, London D. The use of chlorhexidine antisepsis in contaminated surgical wounds. Brit J Surg 1969;56(12):906-8.

Brennan SS, Foster ME, Leaper DJ. Antiseptic toxicity in wounds healing by secondary intention. J Hosp Infect 1986;8(3):263-7.

Lineaweaver W, McMorris S, Soucy D, Howard R. Cellular and bacterial toxicities of topical antimicrobials. Plast Reconstr Surg 1985;75:394-6.

Skog E, Arnesjo B, Troeng T, et al. A randomized trial comparing cadexomer iodine & standard treatment in the out-patient management of chronic venous ulcers. Br J Dermatol 1983;109:77-83.

Robins P, Day CL Jr, Lew RA. A multivariate analysis of factors affecting wound healing time. Dermatol Surg Oncol 1984;10:219-22.

Geronemus RG, Mertz PM, Eaglstein WH. Wound healing: The effects of topical antimicrobial agents. Arch Dermatol 1979;15:1311-4.

Cooper ML, Laxer JA, Hansbrough JF. The cytotoxic effects of commonly used topical antimicrobial agents on human fibroblasts and keratinocytes. J Trauma 1991;31(6):775-84.

Payne DN, Gibson SAW, Lewis R. Antiseptics: A forgotten weapon in the control of antibiotic resistant bacteria in hospital and community settings. J Roy Soc Health 1998;118(1):18-22.

British Journal of Dermatology, Volume 139 Issue S3 Page 13 - December 1998
1365-2133.1998. Vol. 139 Issue S3, Staphylococcus aureus colonization in atopic dermatitis and its therapeutic implication, Abeck & Mempel

Blue Powder Solution
Posted by Karen (Roscommon, Mi) on 02/11/2012

Our dog suffers from recurring ear infections. Our vet continued to give him a prescription cream. It would work while being used, but once it was gone, the infection returned. I finally did a search on the internet for a natural solution and found a recipe for the Blue Powder Solution... I mixed up a batch and finally, his ear infection was cleared up!

After being ear infection free for over a year, I got lazy about the solution and hadn't used it in quite some time.. He ended up with another flare up while we were on vacation. We purchased a herbal product, but it didn't seem to do much of anything..

As soon as we got home, I mixed up a new batch of the blue powder solution, only because his ear was very raw and tender, I used witch hazel instead of rubbing alcohol... It appeared to be very soothing to him, and within 2 weeks, the infection was gone..

I've learned my lesson.. I'll make sure he gets one dose a month from now on, which is recommended once the infection is under control.

The solution calls for boric acid and Gentian Violet Solution. I found boric acid at a "real" pharmacy and the pharmacist from Walgreens ordered the Gentian Violet for me (it only cost a couple of bucks)..

Great natural remedy that cost pennies, but most importantly, works!

Blue Powder Solution
Posted by Deb (Granby, Quebec Canada) on 12/07/2008

With regard to the smelly/itchy ear problem that I've seen in a couple of posts, we have used the Blue Power Ear Treatment from here: http://www.itsfortheanimals.com/Adobe/Blue Power Ear Treatment.pdf -- It gets you out of using antibiotics for your fur-kids. I'll be giving our two dogs small amounts of garlic with their meal once or twice a week. Too much of anything can cause problems.

Blue Powder Solution
Posted by Pamela (Omaha, Nebraska) on 12/30/2007

My dog who has had constant ear problems for years has been on blue powder solution for 2 days and it is definitely providing relief. My veterinarian is out over the long holidays and it great not to have to pay for emergency care. I am hoping this is a more permanent cure that previous prescription ointments, etc. I have looked around the internet and found that many sites connect chronic ear problems to lack of some nutrients, and am currently going to try feeding my dog 1/2 a sweet potatoe every other day, and see if we can go longer between ear problems.

Blue Powder Solution
Posted by renee (tully, new york) on 09/19/2007

The remedy is called Blue Power Solution and can be found on any search engine. My Bernese Mtn dog, Gunther had very serious infection in both ears and we tried clearing it up with prescription meds for 2 years. I found the solution by doing my own search for a natural treatment. After two years he was cleared of infection in about 2 weeks. I now only use it once a month. The vet was amazed!

Boric Acid

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Dawn (Lewes, Delaware) on 03/13/2015

I take 150 ml of water and add a heaping teaspoon of boric acid and add 70 to 80 ml of clear vinegar to it. Then I pour it into those containers which have isopropyl alcohol sheets (can buy them in drug stores or Kmart or Walmart).

I pull out a sheet, squeeze out excess fluid and wipe out my dogs ears with it. Boric acid and vinegar kill bacteria and fungus. Boric acid can also kill ear mites.

Cannabis Oil + Colloidal Silver

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Denise (Rockford, Illinois) on 05/02/2019

I mixed an eyedropper full of organic cannabis oil that was cut with olive oil in the tincture only. Then added an eyedropper full of colloidal silver. Put it on a cotton pad and gently cleaned ears and swabbed all over the inside earlobe. Did this 3 x times daily. Healing took hold within a few days.

Amazing! It's gentle on inflammation and has no side effects.

Coconut Oil

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by Allison (Montpelier, Vt) on 12/27/2012

wanted to recommend Organic Virgin Coconut Oil for pets ears. My guys lick it right off of the spoon (it's just as good for their insides as well as their outsides) and you can clean your pup's ears out with a bit of the coconut oil as it's an excellent anti-fungal remedy. I put a dab on an organic cotton ball and wipe it out when it looks yuckky inside, sometimes it takes a couple of cotton balls so don't be surprised if you have to do this more than once at a time.

I give 1 tsp for every 10 lbs (meaning 1 tablespoon for every 30 lbs) internally. I spread some on a piece of toast in the morning with peanut butter to get my pup use to it initially but then he loved the taste and just licks it off the spoon every morning. If you give him too much, he'll get diarrhea (just so you know). The stuff is great for humans too so it's something everyone in the family can benefit from!

Colloidal Silver

1 User Review
5 star (1) 

Posted by The_specialist (Atlanta, Ga) on 09/04/2011

My dogs had has ear infections and I was able to heal them in just 2 days with colloidal silver. Just a few drops in the infected ear, and in 48 hours, the ear infection was gone. It has happened several times and it works all the time.

Dietary Changes

5 User Reviews
5 star (5) 

Posted by Becki (Pennsylvania) on 12/13/2016

I have an American Bulldog & he had ear infections since he was a puppy. It was so expensive & so sad to see him suffer. I changed his diet to grain free/ NOTHING with chicken meal in it. Merrick grain free with salmon worked for us, but you have to do grain free teats as well. No chicken meal at all. Stick to fish based food, treats with only veggies in them.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Debbiefudge (Brighton, Uk) on 08/18/2013

Hi. Any dog that suffers with ear infections/problems, due to yeast.

Should definately change to raw feeding. Meat/Bones/Fish etc. NO vegetables as these contain natural sugars. Which feed the yeast. No steroids or antiiotics. They feed the yeast too. My Vet almost killed one of my dogs, so I have learnt all this the hard way. NO treats. A raw one is much better as a treat. Keeps their teeth clean. Gives them calcium. I'd say a big no to goats milk or any other milk.. Give probiotic yogurt every day. And, raw garlic. (A natural way to keep fleas away)

A regular dose of Diatomaceous Earth (DE) will keep worms at bay. And, also treat any. (MUST be Food Grade). Don't put any chemicals on to or in your dog. Don't give yearly booster vaccinations.

I have been raw feeding my 3 Shihtzus for 4 years now. And they are extremely healthy. No fat on them. Just pure muscle. And, it is so easy to do. I rotate what I feed them. Only, the one whom the vet nearly killed, has an on going issue with his ears. And that's because his ear canals are narrower than they should be. So, I regularly clean them with half water/half white vinegar, And put in colloidal silver, if he gets an infection.......

Most of these things are caused by food allergies. Skin problems etc. He has an overgrowth of yeast. Every time my groomer comes, she washes him in an anti fungal shampoo and the final rinse is half white vinegar/half water and left on to dry and both sides of his ears are shaved. (I don't use ACV on him, because it contains apples. That's why I use white vinegar, instead)

Dietary Changes
Posted by Allie (Bc, Canada) on 06/09/2013

For those dogs with itchy ears, ear infections.... I have a holistic dog consultant that helped me greatly. She recommened two main things: proper food - no corn, soy, or grain; and a deworming with Black Walnut. You can get Black Walnut at your health food store - my dog is 55 lbs, and I use 20 drops Black Walnut, in a syringe and into her mouth every day for 5 DAYS, then stop for 3 weeks, and then do it again for 5 DAYS. Right into your dogs mouth with the syringe and squirt it in. It tastes bad so putting it on their food won't work. ALSO, rotating food as well.... Switch from a chicken blend, to a lamb blend (lamb is actually best tolerated) to a fish blend, and round and round. Do a gradual switch though - so blend the new food into the old gradually increasing for about a week which gives your dogs digestive system a chance to adjust to the change otherwise you will have diahrrea and stomach upset. Good Luck!

Dietary Changes
Posted by Dixiechick (Lakeland, Fl) on 09/22/2010

I just discovered something alarming about canned dog food. One of my dogs is 5 yrs. Old and has never had an ear infection or ear problem. I just recently converted both of my dogs to a wheat-free and corn-free diet. I switched them both to Dick Van Patten's Natural Balance L.I.D. Food. Everything was fine until I purchased their canned dog food to add to the dry food. The dog with the ear infection wouldn't eat unless I added something, so that's why I purchased the canned food. She got a severe ear infection 5 days after consumming the canned food. I tried ACV and MMS. They did nothing. My neighbor had this same exact problem with his dog. Last year his dog was rushed to the vet with the same symptoms. His dog was being fed dry dog food with Alpo canned food. I never saw the correlation until it happened to my dog. Symptoms start as head shaking, then tiny bumps in the ear, then redness, inflammation, then pus. Also included were nose rubbing, scratching, coughing, eye swelling. The symptoms started on the day after eating the food and progressed to the fifth day with full blown redness, inflammation, pus, eye swelling, cough. It was unbelievable. Went to the vet for treatment. Dog is currently recovering with home made food and meds. My neighbor's dog and my dog are officially off canned dog food. His dog recovered nicely. There is something in canned dog food that is causing ear infections. It may not happen with every dog, but if your dog is sensitive you need to avoid canned dog food. It doesn't matter what brand, whether premium or low grade canned dog food. I saw it first hand using a premium L. I. D. Food. That's limited ingredient diet.

Dietary Changes
Posted by Dee (Keene, Nh) on 10/27/2009

I have finally cured my cocker spaniel's ear infections. He had a yeast infection in both ears - first I tried Zymox which worked but then his infections came back. He also had a skin condition which cockers are known for. I've kept his ears clean and have been giving him Alaskan Salmon Oil and changed his diet to foods from his origin - Cockers came from Portugal - so basically foods that his ancestors ate - lamb, etc.