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Apple Cider Vinegar & Ear Infections in Dogs [Vet Advice]

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bottle of apple cider vinegar next to a dog with an ear issue

Apple cider vinegar is often touted as a cure-all for everything ranging from reducing blood sugar to cleaning your face. It’s even used in our furry friends. One of those uses is with ear infections in dogs. If you’re interested in trying a home remedy for your dog’s ear infection, read on.

Important: ear infections can be painful and get worse over time, you should consult your veterinarian before trying home remedies.

Is apple cider vinegar effective to treat ear infections & other disorders in dogs?

Even with apple cidar vinegar’s (ACV) popularity, it’s important to understand its uses, and also its limitations. Diluted ACV (50% water and 50% ACV mix) might be effective for getting ahead of very mild and uncomplicated ear infections, or to be used a periodic cleanser for healthy, noninfected ears.

However, apple cider vinegar isn’t a substitute for professional veterinary care and can be dangerous and painful to use in many cases. Avoid using it with severe infections, deep wounds, or if your dog has sensitive or inflamed skin. The application of this acidic substance can actually cause chemical burns if not appropriately diluted, if applied and not wiped away, or if allowed to sit in the skin crevices without being rinsed out.

If the skin in and around the ear is already inflamed and exuding discharge, application of ACV is likely to be painful. You should also not put anything into a dog’s ear that has a ruptured ear drum.

When choosing a course of treatment for your dog, it’s best to weigh their best interest and their comfort against your own personal preferences.

If you want to use apple cider vinegar for an ear infection, here is how to do it carefully (Step by Step)

Using ACV on your dog’s ear infection requires caution and precision to avoid causing further discomfort, or complication of an issue. As always, consult with your dog’s veterinarian first, and if they feel it is safe to pursue basic home treatment, you can follow these steps to clean your dog’s infected ears:

  1. Dilute properly: Mix 1 part ACV with 1 part distilled water. This gentle solution reduces the acidityof ACV and minimizes irritation. This step is absolutely essential. Pure ACV or even white vinegar should never be applied to skin undiluted.
  2. Gather supplies: Prepare a soft cloth or cotton ball, the diluted ACV, and treats to give your dog while you’re cleaning to make it a more positive experience. DO NOT USE Q-Tips or swabs to clean the ear, as damage to the ear and eardrum are possible!
  3. Clean the ear: After dampening your cotton ball with diluted ACV, gently wipe the outer ear (carefully lift the ear flap if your dog has flopped-over ears). Do not pour any liquids into the ear canal, and do not reach fingers, instruments, swabs, or any material down into the ear canal.
  4. Positive reinforcement: As you work on the ear, be sure to praise and reward your dog with treats for staying calm and cooperative during the process. If your dog struggles or expresses discomfort, try a more enticing treat once or twice. If they persist, it’s best to stop trying and redirect your energy toward making a vet appointment.
  5. Frequency: Use this approach on the advice of your dog’s veterinarian. For more frequent issues, they may recommend repeating a couple times per week. For dogs with only rare or intermittent issues, cleaning as needed, or once every couple of weeks, may suffice. Do not clean every day or even multiple times a day, as overuse can lead to dryness and irritation.
  6. Monitor for improvement: If you see any adverse reactions, or if there is no improvement after a few attempts, discontinue and consult your vet.

Remember, ACV is just one potential home-based treatment and not a substitute for professional veterinary advice. Always prioritize your dog’s comfort and well-being.

Top home remedies to treat a dog ear infection

Skin and ear infections are one of the most common reasons that pet parents bring their dogs to the vet. This issue is often caused by an underlying allergy and requires veterinary expertise to diagnose and treat appropriately. Not only are ear infections uncomfortable for your dog, they can become quite serious if left untreated. Most cases can easily be managed by your vet, but is there anything you can do at home to help treat an ear infection?

When it’s ok to try home Remedies to treat a dog ear infection

If an ear infection appears mild or you caught it very early, you may try cleaning your dog’s ears at home following the instructions above. However, in most cases, an ear infection will not resolve and may worsen without veterinary treatment. If you notice these signs below, do not attempt at-home treatment. Instead, schedule an appointment with your vet right away: 

  • Your dog is painful 
  • There is blood or purulent (pus) discharge in your dog’s ear
  • Your dog is tilting their head, leaning, or falling to one side
  • Your dog has developed an ear hematoma (blood-filled swelling of the ear flap) 

Home remedies you can try to treat a dog ear infection

To help treat mild ear infections or while you are waiting to get an appointment with your vet, you may try the following at home. Note that these treatments may NOT be effective in the late stages of an ear infection, and you should not delay veterinary care.

1. Clean your dog’s ears

If an ear infection is mild or in the early stages, an ear cleaning may help clear the infection. There are many ear cleaners available, which can be purchased from your vet, a pet store, or online. It is always best to ask your vet for advice when choosing an ear cleaner in case they have a specific recommendation in mind, however, the products listed below are also good choices. Ears may be cleaned daily for one week and then weekly as needed, or as directed by your vet. 

Sale
Vetericyn Plus Dog Ear Rinse | Dog Ear...
  • PET EAR CLEANING SOLUTION: Clean your pet's ears a few times daily with Vetericyn Plus Antimicrobial Ear Rinse to buildup that causes bad odor and potential ear infections in dogs and cats.

2. Prevent additional damage

You can help prevent your dog from further scratching and injuring their ears by putting them in a cone and keeping their nails trimmed. 

Supet Dog Cone Adjustable Pet Cone Pet...
  • 【GREAT PROTECTION FOR YOUR PETS】The dog cone collar is a safe and good method of preventing your pet from aggravating a healing wound or injury. Helps to overcome lick-bite, Itch-scratch cycle. Ending self-Inflicted wound aggravation or mutilation, prevent your pet bite others in the dermatology / Beauty / surgical procedure.

3. Remove excess hair from the ear canal

Certain breeds are predisposed to having excess hair in their ear canals, which can trap moisture and debris leading to infection. Keeping these long hairs plucked can help prevent ear infections in some dogs. Because this can be uncomfortable, it’s best to have it done by a professional groomer or a veterinary proffessional.

4. Manage underlying allergies 

Recurrent ear infections are often a symptom of underlying allergies, which can also cause itchy skin and skin infections. If your dog has had multiple ear infections in the past, discuss options for managing allergies with your dog’s veterinarian. Depending on what your dog is allergic to this may include year-round flea prevention, feeding a hypoallergenic diet, and/or using medications such as Cytopoint and Apoquel to help decrease allergy symptoms and frequency of infection. Over-the-counter options such as Benadryl and omega-3 fatty acids may be beneficial in mild cases but it’s best to consult with a veterinarian before attempting treatment.

Learn more about home remedies to treat dog ear infections (with product recommendations by our veterinarian)

Other related post: Apple Cider Vinegar and Dog Yeast Infections.

Authors

  • Dr Chyrle Bonk, Veterinarian

    Dr. Chyrle Bonk received her Master in Animal Science from the University of Idaho and her Doctorate of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) from Oregon State University in 2010. She has over 10 years of experience in small animal veterinary practice, working for a veterinary clinic in Idaho.

  • Kate Howard, Vet Tech

    Kate Howard lives in Upstate New York, and received her degree in Veterinary Technology from Alfred State College of Technology in 2010. She has been a veterinary technician for 13+ years, and spent her career working primarily in general practice and veterinary emergency care. Kate has 3 dogs, a cat, and keeps a small flock of backyard poultry.


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