Ear Infection (Canker, Otitis Externa) is a progressive disease describing the condition of infected tissue in the ear canal (or more rarely the middle ear or inner ear), triggered by yeast or other fungi, bacteria, ear mites or other parasites, or rarely by a virus or an environmental irritant.
Further triggers are floppy ears that do not get enough air to absorb moisture (for GSDs only the case with young puppies), swimming in standing waters (which often are infested), roaming through the woods or high bushes, fights with other dogs, draft and dust from tobacco or otherwise.
The most common cause of Ear Infections are poor diet and (earlier) administration of immunosuppressants or of antibiotics, whether purposefully as medicaments or unnoticed in meat and dairy, both of which have impaired the immune system.
Why are antibiotics a cause as well? Because antibiotics have the same effect on every organism: they lead to an overgrowth of yeast and pathogenic bacteria. While none of the mentioned triggers affects every organism: even dogs and people that are subject to the same trigger don't all get an Ear Infection.
Who Suffers Ear Infections
Dogs that aren't fed industrial dog "food" normally never have an Ear Infection in their life. And indeed, we never had a dog with an Ear Infection. Now compare that to the fact that Ear Infections are among the most common reasons for vet visits, and to the fact that industrial dog "food" is what's most commonly fed to dogs these days.
Coincidence? Not all. And here's why:
What? You must now be wondering "where does the yeast in all the yeast infections come from, if not from the environment??"
Good, because exactly that is important to understand: Most yeast infections are acquired inside the body.
Just like many pathogenic bacteria, yeast too naturally coexists with all the beneficial bacteria in the digestive system. There is a constant battle among all of these microbes to become the biggest or only force in the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract) - as well as in the mouth, rectum, vagina, and skin, though in healthy organisms here in rather minimal numbers.
And in today's food chain meat and dairy are loaded with antibiotics and steroids (do click the link to digest what you find on the plate there).
These antibiotics and steroids in meat, bones etc cannot be magically "removed" when the pet "food" industry manufactures the cute kibble pieces and rather bland tins from bone and meat waste etc.
Now, when you eat the industrially produced meat or dairy - or when your dog eats the waste of that industrially produced meat and dairy - then your dog (and you and your family!) receive constant doses of antibiotics and steroids with the "food", every day.
Even without any additional prescription of antibiotics and steroids, that's right.
What now happens in your and your dog's GI tract is:
- antibiotics always kill the beneficial, often vital bacteria
- while antibiotics are meant to kill only pathogenic bacteria
- and antibiotics never kill yeast or any other fungi, nor viruses, protozoa, prions, or parasites.
Because antibiotics only and indiscriminately target bacteria, and they are most successful with the bacteria that have developed no weaponry as their sole function is to enable the body to survive and thrive.
So, what you have now is the situation that the yeast population is able to grow ever larger in the digestive system (as well as the heavily armed pathogenic bacteria) and they need more room, and so they start to perforate the stomach and gut lining to expand.
This not only results in the so-called leaky gut syndrome (there it is!) but also allows the yeast to piggyback with the bloodstream and via the cardiovascular system to spread into other tissues throughout the body!
Then you or your dog gets sick, and what typically happens is, you take your dog to an ordinary allopathic vet who blanket-prescribes even more antibiotics.
Think about that: You or your dog faces a yeast infection (caused by antibiotics in the "food") and you pay to get it treated with more antibiotics (in the prescribed medicaments). How is that gonna help your condition, or your dog's condition?!?
Whatever. You just saw that yeast infections in dogs as well as people are most often acquired inside the body when diet and/or medicaments allow yeast to proliferate into tissues way beyond its natural habitat in the gut. You also saw that the standard treatment protocol then causes only more trouble, and long-term.
Ear Infections (whether from yeast or not), even if only affecting the outer ear (otitis externa), can be very painful. Even in cases where they don't cause pain, they are always very irritating, leading to discomfort and possibly to behavior changes too.
If untreated, the infections of the outer ear can quickly grow to affect the middle ear or even inner ear too. Then in addition your dog will feel dizzy and uncontrollable.
As a dog's ears are so crucial to the wellbeing of the dog (for dogs, hearing is the essential sense, while we people rely on vision to navigate the world), we better ensure the best care for our dog's ears.
- tilting the head or shaking the head
- pawing at the ear
- leaning over or balancing problems
- clear changes in dog behavior
- excess ear wax
- red inflammation
- bad odor from the ears
- frequent scratching
- in severe cases even nausea
- frequent vomiting
- nervous system disorder, up to and including possible aggression.
Preventing Ear Infections
According to the above (Who Suffers Ear Infections), first and foremost: Feeding REAL foods, natural foods, unprocessed foods is the easiest way to prevent Ear Infections too. Even in our times where it has become hard to avoid meat and dairy loaded with antibiotics and steroids.
Avoiding medicaments that directly suppress the immune system (steroids and NSAIDs) and medicaments that indirectly suppress the immune system (antibiotics) also is key in the prevention of Ear Infections: Naturally the immune system plays the vital role in preventing all infections (diseases).
Clean your dog's ears very gently and remove all dirt, but don't use anything with a sharp end or anything that may disintegrate in the ear!
You can use the top ear cleanser and cotton buds. But be aware that cotton buds sometimes lose the cotton on the bud, and if this happens while in the ear then you have a sharp end as well as a disintegrating tool: the cotton bit will be stuck in the ear.
In addition, consider when the dog jerks while you are having the cotton bud near the ear, that very "counter-force" may make the sharp end injure the ear! So, be extra careful during Ear Care (as well as Eye Care).
Also, your dog may not like getting the top ear cleanser squeezed into the ears, right? My Miguel certainly doesn't like that at all!
To avoid all these challenges, here's what I do:
Most times, first I spray the top wound and skin care on some kitchen paper towel to wipe off the biggest dirt layers from inside the pinna. Once the pinna is reasonably clean, I spray the top wound and skin care on cotton buds, both ends, one after another, and gently roll them through all the ear cup crevices.
Meaning, I never poke the cotton bud in the ear (never apply pressure towards a bud end) because this is what causes tiny ruptures on the pinna that could lead to Ear Infections.
The way I do it, it usually takes 6 cotton buds, times 2 ends, gives 12 roll-cleanings per ear. The entire ear-cleaning session does take me about 15 minutes, yes. But the dirt I get out in my opinion justifies the time spent. German Shepherd Dog ears get so quickly dirty!
Plus, Ear Care is great for relationship building too, it builds trust if you do it gently.
Why did I say this is how I clean the ears "most times"? Because, the top wound and skin care is great, applicable in all situations of skin care, and cheaper than the top ear cleanser, but it is not preventative ear care, it does not prevent future infections other than by keeping the ears clean.
Conversely, the top ear cleanser leaves an antimicrobial film on the pinna that seems to protect the ears for up to a few weeks. So, every once in a while I use the top ear cleanser instead of the top wound and skin care.
I spray it on cotton buds just like the other. While flushing the ears (squeezing it inside the ears) I usually now leave to a vet visit: better the dog holds a grudge against another person than myself, ha!
Remember to carefully roll the cotton buds inside the ear. And do not get deep into the ear at all: You must always be able to see the cotton-covered end clearly, or else you would affect the delicate middle ear.
The same applies when you clean your own ears: Be exceptionally careful to stay away from the eardrum, to gently roll the cotton bud, and not to lose bits of it inside the ear.
Treating Ear Infections
To treat an existing Ear Infection that looks mild you can initially proceed as described under Preventing Ear Infections, but be sure to now use the top wound and skin care because this is a more broad-spectrum antiseptic with high efficacy against existing infections.
To treat an existing infection, thoroughly clean the dog's ears at least three times a day as described. As this spray is not an aerosol your dog shouldn't get too agitated, so after cleaning the ears as described you can spray the top wound and skin care directly in the ear to reach areas that you shouldn't even try to reach with cotton buds, because you must never touch the eardrum!
To treat an existing Ear Infection that already looks severe to you, apply the top pet ear treatment without hydrocortisone. Do not buy the sister product with hydrocortisone: The one without is proven to work better, and the one with is harmful. Why I say harmful?
Because hydrocortisone is a corticosteroid, an artificial ueber-concentrated hormone which has dramatic "side effects" with impact on seemingly unrelated body functions. Those "side effects" in fact are the main effect and will cost you a lot of money down the line.
Remember, our aim should always be to get the correct diagnosis, and then to use the most appropriate treatment with the least side effects, especially no long-term side effects. The Zymox Otic Pet Ear Treatment without Hydrocortisone is the most appropriate and effective remedy to treat Ear Infections.
Contrary to allopathic vets, I would not recommend using this on a weekly maintenance schedule, because its future efficacy depends on not allowing pathogens to develop resistance.
If within 24 hours your chosen initial DIY home treatment does not clearly relieve the symptoms that made you start treatment, then visit a quality vet.
Remember, a quality veterinarian will NOT prescribe a blanket antibiotic or even steroid or NSAID treatment! A quality veterinarian will not rely on guess-work, (s)he will identify the CAUSE of the Ear Infection - and highly likely the cause is what I have laid out above.
If your vet does not bother to identify the CAUSE, it's not worth paying anything at all: You would be paying a LOT going forward to rectify the harmful treatment (s)he started. Mark my words.
Therefore, once you have your vet's diagnosis of the CAUSE, not of the symptom, consider carefully what kind of treatment can actually help your dog, instead of your vet. With Ear Infections, the DIY home treatment laid out above is often all that's needed.