Natural Approach to Chronic Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats
Written by: Dr. Jean Hofve, Holistic Veterinarian, DVM
Chronic ear infections and yeast problems are frequently a sign of allergies. Allergies are becoming more and more common and troublesome in companion animals. Please read the short article on our site about Seasonal Allergies & Itching, as this will also apply to a pet with chronic ear problems and should answer many of your questions.
What You Need to Know About Vaccinations is another important article to look at. Over-vaccination can contribute to many chronic health issues including ear infections, skin, allergy and immune problems.
Diet, digestive enzymes & probiotics, and essential fatty acids are the basics for treating chronic ear infections caused by allergies:
Diet is the foundation of good health and this is the most important thing you can do for your dog. Many dogs with food sensitivities and allergies have seen dramatic improvement on a raw food diet. Please see "What You Need to Know About Your Pet's Food" and "All About Raw Food" in our Articles & Advice section. Some people are not comfortable with feeding raw food. If this is the case for you, consider home prepared cooked meals along with a very high quality canned food or dehydrated food as at least 50% of the diet. Basically, the fresher the diet, the better it is for your pet's health & immune system. If you feed kibble as part of the diet, try to use the best quality you can afford and choose one without the most common allergens such as wheat, corn, soy and chicken – along with any other confirmed allergens for your dog (SeeAllergy Formula Foods). Consider agrain-free pet food as some dogs and most cats cannot tolerate grains well. Also, we highly recommend rotating your pet’s food to protect against the development of new allergies. Seasonal allergies also respond to diet changes (even if the problem does not seem food related).
Supplement your dog’s diet with Digestive Enzymes & Probiotics. The probiotics are especially important for an animal that has been on antibiotics, as they kill the beneficial gut flora and help set up conditions for the allergies to worsen. Continue to supplement with digestive enzymes whenever you feed processed food to aid your pet's digestion and assimilation of the nutrients in processed foods.
Supplement with Essential Fatty Acids (preferably fish oil) to nourish your pet’s skin and coat and help reduce inflammation in the ears and digestive system. You can increase the dosage above what is recommended on the bottle, but if you see loose stools, then reduce the dosage a bit until stools normalize.
You also might consider Only Natural Pet Immune Balance. This supplement is discussed in our article, "Alleviating Your Pet's Itchy Skin." It is typically recommended to continue using this supplement for 6 months, then taper off, and see if any symptoms return. All of this, however, needs to be done in conjunction with changing to a healthy diet.
If your pet also has digestive problems as is the case for many animals with chronic ear infections and allergies, gastrointestinal supplements (especially Only Natural Pet GI Support) can be helpful.
Most animals with chronic ear infections caused by allergies have unhealthy gastrointestinal systems that are not able to digest food properly. A condition called "leaky gut" develops in which molecules that are too large for the body to process are allowed through the gut wall, setting off allergic reactions, which include chronic ear infections. The gut must be healed to finally eliminate the allergies. Digestive enzymes help break down the food so that there is less of a chance of the larger molecules passing through the intestinal walls, probiotics help restore a healthy balance of flora in the gut and aid digestion, and fatty acids help reduce inflammation and heal the gut as well as nourish the skin. (It is a long-term process, not like giving a medication to make symptoms go away.)
If you would like to consult with a holistically trained veterinarian, here is a link to the American Holistic Veterinary Medical Association Referral Directory. If there is not a holistic veterinarian within reasonable distance of your home, many veterinarians will do phone consultations, so you may be able to consult with a holistic veterinarian practicing outside your home state.