Dogs hear the darnedest things, but their ears’ construction makes them especially prone to infection. The ear canal drops down and turns sharply before meeting the eardrum, creating dark, dank grounds for infection-causing bacteria and yeast to overgrow when exposed to moisture, explains Robert Silver, DVM, a holistic veterinarian in Boulder, Colorado. Floppy-eared dogs are even more susceptible because their canals don’t get much airflow to help dry moisture.
If your pup’s prone to infection, after he dunks in the lake or tromps through the snow, Silver suggests using a solution of one part acidic apple cider vinegar and one part astringent witch hazel to lower pH and up the ears’ natural infection-thwarting power. If his canals are inflamed or he’s been scratching, swap witch hazel for non-stinging spring water.
Pour the mixture into the ear canal; fill to the brim, and then compress the canal with your thumb and fingers. Keeping your dog still, vigorously massage the entire length of the canal from the outside–it’s OK to give it a good squeeze. After a few minutes of kneading, let him shake his head, and then clear out any remaining solution with a light towel. Repeat for other ear.
Chronic infections may stem from food allergies or sensitivities, so a holistic vet can help make appropriate dietary changes.