Ear infection definition:
Bacteria and yeast are present naturally, throughout the body, including the ears, part of the balance of life. When environmental or other factors disrupt the balance, they may grow out of control and an ‘infection’ results. Deep-seated infections can take long time to clear.
How it affects pets:
A common symptom is a pet shaking his head and/or scratching excessively at his ears. Otitis (inflammation of the ear canal) is usually accompanied by redness of the ear flaps. Signs may be subtle, such as a very slight tilt of the head, or one ear being held at a different angle than the other. You may notice a pungent, yeasty odor often accompanied by a dark reddish-brown waxy substance. Some dogs may scratch and shake incessantly, causing damage to the pinna (ear flap). In severe cases, a hematoma (swelling) can develop.
Certain breeds are pre-disposed to infections and yeast buildup, e.g. Setters, Spaniels and Retrievers, because the longer ear flaps provide an internal ear environment that’s dark, moist – perfect for the growth of yeast and bacteria.
Food (or environmental) allergies may be the cause if both ears are involved. An excess of grain and/or sugar in the diet is a common causes of ear infections in dogs. Sugar feeds the yeast already in the body and causes an overgrowth, which results in the dark, yeasty-smelling buildup inside the ears.
Dogs that spend time in lakes, oceans, and swimming pools can be more prone to ear problems. The ears should be gently dried afterwards, using a soft towel or cotton wool to remove the excess moisture.
What types of foods do holistic vets recommend?
A grain-free diet is almost always helpful in combating chronic yeast infections. Grains contain natural sugars which yeasts can feed upon, and multiply.
A raw or natural, minimally-processed diet can be very helpful. It provides the natural, whole-food nutrition that the dog’s immune system needs to be strong. Removing toxic chemical preservatives and excessive gluten, by-products and fillers can have a marvelous effect on most of the body, including the condition of the ears.
Consider supplementing the diet with a good probiotic supplement containing acidophilus to help maintain the balance of good bacteria in the dog’s system. Live-culture plain yogurt with lactobacillus and acidophilus can also help, especially if prescribed antibiotics.
Other modalities to consider:
Natural topical treatments can be used routinely, or on an as-needed basis, to gently clean the ears. Apply the product onto a cotton pad and very gently wipe out excess wax and buildup.
Consider Calendula Lotion, Comfrey, and Tea Tree Oil products, as well as those containing Niaouli. Gentian Violet, Mullein Oil, and Colloidal Silver may also be helpful.
Consider homeopathic remedies: Pulsatilla, Hepar Sulph, Sulphur, Silica, Phosphorous, and Tellurium.
To find holistic help with your pet's ear infections, see our list of integrative veterinarians and holistic practitioners.
Diets that meet some of the parameters vets suggest:
- Love (gluten/grain-free, beef)
- Embark (gluten/grain-free, turkey)
- Force (gluten/grain-free, chicken)
- Zeal (gluten/grain-free, fish)
- Thrive (no gluten, no fruits, chicken)
- Preference (gluten/grain-free foundation mix)
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