How To Treat Your Dog’s Ear Infection In 7 Easy Steps


A devoted pet parent, pet store manager and animal shelter volunteer. Read more about me here.

When it comes to taking care of your dog, vet bills pile up quite quickly. Many dogs are prone to ear infections, and a lot of us want to treat them at home as best as we can before having to resort to expensive veterinary care. If you’re looking at How to treat dog ear infections and know when you’ll absolutely have to take them to to the vet, then read on and we’ll help you and your pooch out the best we can.

What You’ll Need

There’s not a whole lot you’ll need to look around for, but if your dog is prone to ear infections you should keep all of the following on hand anyways to help with protection and to keep your dog’s ears healthy.

  • Cotton Balls
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • A Spray Bottle
  • A Couple of Towels
  • Rubbing Alcohol
  • Boric Acid
  • Iodine Based Disinfectant
  • White Vinegar
  • An Applicator Bottle
  • A Trusted Vet

As always, you’ll need a trusted veterinarian for your animal as a last resort. If things don’t clear up within seven to ten days, you’ll be needing to make a trip after all.

The rest of these items are generally easy enough to find around the home, so you won’t have to go out and spend a fortune to make sure that you have everything you’ll need. We’ll go progressively from less drastic to more drastic measures, take a couple of days between each adding on to the methods from the step before in order to get the best results.

1) Make Sure It’s An Ear Infection

Since dogs can’t tell us much, it can be hard to determine exactly what’s wrong with them. Ear infections are particularly notorious among dog owners since they’re painful and expensive to treat and often require quite a bit of care for the animal on top of the expensive veterinarian visit. The following symptoms are the easiest way to tell if your canine companion has an ear infection:

  • Shaking of the Head
  • Tilt of the Head
  • Head Shyness
  • Excessive Scratching of the Ears

In more extreme cases, discharge and redness of the dog’s interior may occur. These are sure signs of an infection, and you know you have a serious problem. If they’re suffering from the latter symptoms, your window of time to try to manage the problem at home is very narrow so be sure to check the ears on occasion no matter what.

2) Determine the Cause of Dog Ear Infection

While you’re probably not a trained vet, the type of infection caused can be quite important when it comes time to treat it. You might not be able to differentiate one hundred percent, but if you’re careful you can come to a pretty good conclusion which will come in handy later:

Bacterial - Bacterial infections can be either inner or outer. Outer infections will be easy to diagnose, there will be redness, discharge, and a foul odor emanating from your dog’s ear.

Mite Infection - If your dog’s main symptom is extensive scratching and there is a coffee grounds like substance in the dog’s ear, you’re likely dealing with a mite problem. Remember that they’re highly contagious and check your other animals.

Yeast Infections - If you notice a lot of scratching and flaking, you may be dealing with a yeast infection.

Allergens - Not to be confused with food allergies, which aren’t proven to cause ear infections, dogs often react to environmental allergens like pollen and dust with symptoms in their ears and skin rather than their respiratory systems like we do.

3) Apply A Warm Compress

While it might seem amazingly simple, this should be your first action. It doesn’t take much, you’ll just be applying a soaked and hot towel to your dog’s ear. Remember to wring it out otherwise you’ll just be soaking your dog.

This is best done in the early stages of infection and isn’t quite as effective as some of the later steps.

You’ll want to do this several times a day, and if things don’t start looking better soon it’s best to move on to something a little bit stronger pretty quickly. If you have the time for it, it’s best to keep doing this repeatedly even if you continue with other methods or have to go to a vet as it will open things up and help your pet with the pain.

4) Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is a great way to treat a lot of things, and your dog’s ears are no exception. Ideally, as a preventative and general health tonic, you should be adding some to your dog’s water once or twice a week anyways but this is of little use when the infection has already begun.

If that’s the case, you can make a simple cleaning solution using hydrogen peroxide, water, and apple cider vinegar in equal amounts and gently apply it to your dog’s ear. Put a bit on a cotton ball(not a q-tip) and rub it around your dog’s ear once or twice a day.

Pro tip: You might want to combine apple cider vinegar with a witch hazel solution and add a few drops to their ears with an eye dropper. This will also help to relieve the discomfort they might be feeling.

5) Whip Up The Solution

It’s time to get your home chemistry on if things haven’t cleared up with the less drastic solutions offered above. This next step is going to be a little bit more intensive, so get your pen out and get ready to take some notes.

The first thing we’ll be doing is preparing a solution, and while it’s not exactly advanced organic chemistry it’ll require a bit more thought than pouring some vinegar and water together.

First we’ll need to pour six ounces of rubbing alcohol into an applicator bottle, followed by adding one and a half teaspoons of boric acid. Take care not to get the latter on your skin or clothing, while it’s not exactly dangerous it can cause some discoloration. Shake it until the boric acid is dissolved properly.

Next, add two ounces of white vinegar, shake things up, and add one teaspoon of your iodine solution. Remember that it needs to be the solution, not the scrub.

6) Applying The Solution

Applying the solution might be a two man task, depending on the size of the fight in your canine. Hold them down and fill their ear canal with the solution, be sure to hold them down and knead the ear a little bit.

It’s probably best to do this on a towel, as the iodine will have a tendency to stain things if it gets all over the place. Your dog is going to shake their head as soon as you let go, so massage around the ear to make sure that the solution gets all over in there.

Afterwards, let them up, and if necessary you’ll want to apply it to the other ear as well. Do this daily and make sure that you look for signs of improvement. If you don’t see any soon, we’ll have to go on to the next step.

Pro tip: Heat up the solution before you place it in your dog’s ear and they’ll fight you a lot less. Don’t just stick it in the microwave, though, the isopropanol might catch fire and then you’re looking at property damage as well as an ill pet. Place it in the sun for an hour or so, and you’ll be on the right track.

7) The Final Solution: The Vet

If you’re not able to handle the infection at home within a period of ten to fourteen days or so, we’re going to have to go with the most expensive option. At this point, in order to ensure that your animal doesn’t suffer hearing damage, we’re going to have to take them to the veterinarian.

If you don’t already have one you trust, ask your friends. A lot of vets see this problem a lot and might be tempted to just hand you a bill and some antibiotics. The above solution should have handled any minor to moderate bacterial infection, so that’s exactly what you don’t want.

At that point, you’ll just need to trust the vet and follow their advice. If your dog has recurring ear infections, you’ll be needing some preventative measures and everything from the apple cider up is a good idea.


We hope that we’ve shown you a great way to handle the all-too common problem of doggy ear infections. If you’ve been looking for a comprehensive look at how to treat a dog ear infection at home, know that we had to cut through a lot of fluff in order to bring you something that actually works and isn’t based on pseudoscience.

We hope that you’ve enjoyed this tutorial and it helps you sort out your dog’s ears. If we’ve helped, or you have anything to say about our article, let us know in the comments below.

About the Author

A devoted pet parent to two lovely creatures – Charlie the Cat and Jimmy the Dog – a full-time assistant pet store manager, and an animal shelter volunteer. I've gathered knowledge about pets for almost a decade, and it all started in a small store called Jack's Pets.

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