Our floppy eared dog Molly had been miserable with a persistent ear inflammation. She would scratch her ears, shake her head, and there was a lot of ear wax building up. Her ears did smell, but were not stinky, or oozing with pus. The dog did not have a fever. Molly loves to go swimming, and initially I thought that the moisture and persistent dampness had resulted in a bacterial or yeast infection, a doggy version of swimmer’s ear.
A vet visit confirmed that there were no obvious parasites, so mites could be ruled out. The vet also did not find the distinctive “yeasty” smell, that accompanies an infection of that sort, but sampled the ears and sent it off to be cultured. In the meanwhile she asked if I wanted to try an ear wash, that would also aid with the drying out of the ear canal after Molly’s swims, which were at least twice daily. It was a hot summer and keeping her out of the pond would have been cruel and unusual, not to mention near impossible to do. So I bought the ear cleaner.
I used the ear wash to clean out the ears, and remove the excess wax, and worked to keep Molly’s ears dryer. Her ears were cleaner, smelled better, and were less itchy. But they were still red inside, and the flap seemed thicker and had crusty patches. Molly developed a slight skin condition and was put on a course of antibiotics after another vet visit. Molly loves going to the vet, and sometimes I wonder if she gets herself in trouble just to get to see the Doc. We were still waiting on the results of the fungal culture of her ears, but nothing grew even after several weeks. The antibiotics worked well on her skin, but her ears became waxier and redder and itchier once more. The antibiotic should have cleared up a bacterial infection in the ears, according to the vet.
After Molly had yet another ear scratching, head shaking fit, I looked through my stash of home remedies and found a small bottle of Pure Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia) Oil. Tea tree oil has anti-fungal and antibiotic properties, when used as a topical agent. It should not be used internally, it is toxic, I believe, and may be absorbed through the skin, so I would not use it on small animals or children.
I did however swab my own ears with it, and while there was an odd sensation from the evaporation and the volatility of the oils, it did not burn or hurt. Thus encouraged by human testing, I decided to proceed to animal trials, and used the oil to swab out Molly’s ears.
Her itchiness stopped immediately, and the tea tree oil’s smell covered any malodorous emissions the dog might have committed, and certainly the odd ear smell. A day later the ears were still clean, and rather pink, but not red and inflamed looking inside. The thickened part of the flap returned to pliable and pink, and now, weeks later, her ears are clean, healthy, with very little ear wax in evidence.
I am not advising that you skip the vet visit and work your way through a drawer full of home remedies, but in this case tea tree oil cured what antibiotics and ear washes could not address.