How to Treat a Dog's Ear Infection Without Vet Help

Cooper my crazy sweet lab
Cooper my crazy sweet lab

The Dreaded Ear Infection

It is not unusual to see our dogs scratching away. When they scratch their body or their head, it usually means nothing. But when the scratching becomes frequent, we need to take notice and examine what may be an issue.

I have been pretty lucky with my previous dogs in that they never had any issues with their ears. This all changed when I bought my golden retriever Marvin and my Labrador retriever Cooper.

They both have those cute floppy ears. Little did I know that floppy ear predisposes them to ear infections. The floppy ear doesn't allow air to circulate in the ear, moisture increases, and therefore bacterial and yeast infections are common. I noticed excessive scratching at the ear as well as excessive shaking of the dog's head. When I lifted the ear flap, I saw a lot of redness and smelled an odor. There also was an excessive amount of black earwax.

I had my first doggie ear infection.

Sweet Marvin
Sweet Marvin

Treating the Infection Without A Vet

It was a weekend, and honestly I didn't want to pay the "emergency room fee" to take my doggie in to get his ear checked on the weekend. Therefore, I started doing some online research.

First of all, after reading some online articles, I realized I had made a mistake. I should have been trying to prevent the infection from occurring in the first place with a weekly cleansing of the ear. A little preventative care goes a long way in keeping infections at bay.

There are many commercial dog ear cleaners that you can buy at the pet store, but you can also just use white vinegar, diluting one part vinegar to one part water, and then placing it in a bottle and apply it into the dog's ear. Massage the ear after the fluid is in and then gently wipe off any excessive solution. The dog will shake its head and the solution will come flying out. Be prepared!

That's terrific to know, and I made a mental note to keep the dogs' ears clean particularly after they take a swim, but unfortunately I still had an infection that I needed to treat. My research brought me to a homemade recipe from Zim Family Cockers to treat the infection. They have used this on their cockers' ears and have had great success.

Ingredients Needed:

  • Rubbing (isopropyl) alcohol
  • Boric acid powder. I found this in a pharmacy. Ask the pharmacist. A prescription is not needed, but they sometimes keep it behind the counter.
  • White vinegar
  • Betadine antiseptic solution
  • Bottle with an applicator at end (these can be found in beauty supply stores)

Pour 6 ounces of rubbing alcohol into the applicator. Add 1 ½ teaspoons of boric acid powder (do not get any boric acid on your skin or clothing, and if you do, wash immediately). Shake well, then add 2 ounces of white vinegar. Shake again. Lastly add 1 teaspoon of betadine solution. Again shake. You can warm the solution slightly which makes some dogs not object to having it put in their ear.

Now administer the solution into the dog's ear. You may need someone to hold the dog while you do this. Betadine stains, so make sure you are some place where stains won't matter. After putting the solution in you can massage the ear. The dog will shake his head so be ready for the fluid to come out. It stains, so do this somewhere where stains don't matter!

Apply daily until symptoms clear, then once a week, then once every two weeks to maintain the ear.

I used this solution and got the ear infection nipped in the bud. I really was impressed with this, and thanks to Zim's Cocker Spaniels I found a terrific remedy.

One final note is that this should not be applied when the eardrum is ruptured or if there are any open wounds in the ear. The alcohol can sting and you don't want the boric acid to get in to the dog's system. If you have any doubts, please go to the vet and have them look at the ear.

brothers from different mothers.. Our ears feel better!
brothers from different mothers.. Our ears feel better!

Other Options for Home Treatment of Infections

As good as that solution was, I did find it a bit messy. The betadine solution did stain and I wanted an at-home way to treat my dog's ear infection without the mess.. I came across a product that I am absolutely THRILLED with. It is called Zymox and it is honestly one of the best products I have used.

Zymox is for acute and chronic inflammation of the external ear caused by bacterial, viral and yeast infections. It contains antibacteral, antifungal and antiviral agents. This is an antibiotic free treatment. Zymox comes either with or without 1% hydrocortisone, depending on whether you feel you need the cortisone to address the dog's discomfort. No need to clean the ear before treatment; in fact it is discouraged. Treat once a day for seven days or up to 14 days if the infection is chronic.

I gave it a shot; I bought Zymox and put it to the test. So did it work?


When my lab Cooper got another one of his ear infections, I went with Zymox instead of the homemade solution. My dog had been in extreme discomfort, and his ear was scarlet red and had a bad odor. I regret not taking pictures of it before and after the treatment, since the difference was remarkable. Using only this solution, his ear was almost back to its normal pink color within three days! Cooper was no longer scratching at his ear or shaking his head. The black gunk in his ear was almost gone. I really was impressed with this product.

There are a few cons with this product. One was that I am not able to buy this product locally and must order it over the internet. The other is that it leaves a bit of an oily residue, so the hair on the doggie's ear looks dirty. I am sure this is much the same if you are using an antibiotic solution in the ear but I still thought it worth mentioning.

The best part for me (besides not having to drag my dog to the vet) is the money I am saving. This sure beats the cost of antibiotics.

I have been using cleaners to keep the dogs' ears healthy, but when they do get the occasional ear infection this product is the answer! I believe some vets carry this product now, but honestly it would be much cheaper getting this product elsewhere. It is NOT a prescription and you don't need to pay prescription prices.

Let me add that when I wrote this article back in 2011 I absolutely loved this product. It is 2016 and I must say this is a product that no pet owner should be without. I have used it many many times. It has saved me hundreds of dollars on vet visits. The product is outstanding!!!

Now there are times that a vet visit is wise and prudent. Sometimes ear pain is not due to fungal, viral or bacterial infections. A trip to the vet would be wise if you have any doubts. However, if you are pretty sure this is just a run-of-the-mill ear infection, the solutions above should be tried. It is great to have them at your disposal and it really is cost saving. Many people have spent hundreds of dollars trying to treat chronic ear infections in their animals. Using cleaners plus the above solutions may be the answer you are looking for. In this economy, this is the answer for me.

Comments 45 comments

Brooke 21 months ago

I have a chocolate lab. She is only 1 and a half years old but she has had an ear infection almost every 3 months since I've had her and it's been insanely expensive. I finally did an allergy test and found out she's allergic to A LOT of things. Would these solutions work for a dog with allergies? I am on the cusp of having to spend $300 for vaccinations and then $150/month for meds if I can't find another solution. I'm freaking out just a little bit.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 21 months ago from State College Pa Author

Brooke,,, sorry to hear about the allergies. My golden is the same way. I would suggest addressing the allergies to try ( if possible) to prevent the eAr infections. I know that isn't always possible but with my golden I altered his food etc to try to elimante the causes of his issues. The zymox will (in most cases) get rid of the ear infection. If it is chronic and recurrining then I would use it a bit longer. Once it is cleared up I would do what I do with my golden, keep the area clean with zymox cleaner and once a week use the zymox liquid as a preventative. There is no harm in using these as maintenance as described, it wouldn't hurt to try them. As long as the allergies are there the lab will always be prone to the infections until the causes are eliminated.The stuff vets give are expensive and harsh. I just was out of town with my golden and didn't have access to my zymox. I went to a vet who prescribed a $75 bottle of medicine . When I googled the side effects it said possible deafness! It freaked me out so back to zymox I went. His ear is much better. So to make my long story short, it is worth a try. Follow the directions and use it for at least a week. Let me know how it goes!

Kris 17 months ago

Which Zymox did you use??? When I went on Amazon, there were like 3 different ones??

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 17 months ago from State College Pa Author

I always bought the one with the hydrocortisone because my dogs ears itched and were very painful. I have also bought the one without which I used for maintenance once a month to keep infections away. It really is your personal preference. They both work just as good for infections. I keep the ear cleaner around to use to prevent infections. Let me know if I'm can be of further help

Bethienkaiyah 13 months ago

My lil 3 year old american bully has had ear infections since she was a pup and around this time last year she had one and i took her to the vet after trying many ear mite and infection remedies. I knew it wasnt exactly mites because i never saw any nor did it get any better. They gave me an antifungal gel and it's worked every time she's had problems, but this time it's making it worse, like its swollen kinda and has runny mucous and when she shakes her poor head i can hear wet suction like there is a lot of mucous built up. I cant really afford to go to the vet at the moment, so if anyone could help with suggestions on home remedies for somewhat bad infections please let me know asap

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LesleesBits 13 months ago from State College Pa Author

Oh no! Poor thing. Im not sure what to tell you. My golden has chronic ear onfections and the zymox does the trick. My dog never had mucous though. Just swollen red wet ears. Maybe you can give it a try? Couldnt hurt. Its just enzymes. Best of luck

Lewis 5 months ago

Thank you,thank you, thank you!. I ordered the Zymox from your link.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 5 months ago from State College Pa Author

I love it. It's a staple in my house. Please let me know how it works. Make sure you use it at least a week for an acute infection or if it's chronic a bit longer. Keep me posted :)

suzicriscoe 4 months ago

lab/beagle mix ears not real bad but printing in case! wonderful having people who care with the vets this day they only want money!! GREEDY. I'm old on s. s. and have to have the dog. The last vet was hooked on DRUGS herself!!!!!!!

Tom watt 4 months ago

What about flushing with hydrogen oxide then putting in tincture of iodine

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 4 months ago from State College Pa Author

I have not used hydrogen peroxide with betadine. I did use it with boric acid and vinegar ( see above article). Does it work well? I found the betadine too messy and it stains. But any new solution is much appreciated!

Jeanette 3 months ago

Ordered from your link. In 3 days our dogs ears were healthy again. Saved a ton over visiting the vet again and ordering medicine. Thank you so much! Any less expensive options for flea / tick control?

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 3 months ago from State College Pa Author

Awesome! I haven't found anything yet for tick and fleas but I'm always on the lookout :)

Dipak 3 months ago

Hello my dog have ear infection

his left ear is filled with liquid. why its happened?

what is solution.

please send me on

his ear is getting too heavy. we consult doctor but problem is not solve.

Please Help

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 3 months ago from State College Pa Author

Dipak... I am not a vet so I do not know why your dog's ear is filled with liquid. The solutions above work very well for run of the mill yeast infections as well as some bacterial. If you are getting no solutions from your vet I would recommend getting a second opinion from another vet. Please let me know how it goes. I am so sorry that your doggie is sick!

Vikki 2 months ago

Can it be used on a pregnant dog?

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

I am not sure to be honest. It is basically enzymes. Maybe you can call the company?

belladonna1959 2 months ago

Just so you know, Zymox can be bought at any Hollywood Feed. I've been using both the spray for hot spots and the ear solution. THE BEST STUFF EVER!

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

Thanks for that info. I don't have a Hollywood feed where I live. Is the price there as good as Amaxon?

Drew 2 months ago

I have 2 labs with recurring ear infections. Thanks so much for this article. I made the vinegar wash and the antiseptic today for my oldest... George. Crossing my fingers that it helps him.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

Best of luck! let me know how he does :)

Melc 2 months ago

Don't use alcohol on a dog's sore ear, for gawd's sake! IT BURNS!

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

Yes you are absolutely right which is why I mentioned this in my article. If the dog's ear is scratched or has open wounds, sores or punctures it should not be used. The ear drum also must not be ruptured. However if there are no open wounds then you can safely use this. I have and had no issues and it cleaned their ears just fine~ I just switched to zymox because it was less messy. I have edited my article to BOLD the sentence that warns against using this is open sore or punctured eardrums. That way no one will miss it.

Caz5968 2 months ago

My poor Lab, Meg, is nearly three years old and has had almost constant ear infections since around a year old. She has been to the vet who took her in and flushed her bad ear out (cost me around 150GBP) but never really cured it. I have used the antibiotic drops provided by the vet every 2nd day and the ear cleanser once a week and it has never really cleared up...even after the ear flush! Currently she seems in a lot of pain...constantly whining and rubbing her ear against any object. It has been so bad recently that I can see her back leg reacting whenever she is walking around. Tonight I washed her ear out with some diluted antiseptic/disinfectant and let it dry which seems to have provided a little relief to her. I have just bought the Zymox Otic .5% and Zymox cleanser after reading some great reviews. Fingers crossed this arrives from the States quickly and actually works. It breaks my heart to see her so uncomfortable and obviously in pain :-(

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

Poor thing. Use the zymox every day. The hydrocortisone will help the pain. Since this is a chronic infection I'd use it at least for two weeks. Don't clean the ear out before you use it. Is it a yeast infection?

Caz5968 2 months ago

I'm not actually sure if it is yeast or not. One ear is red and inflamed inside and the other has the little black dried stuff that other people have mentioned. Having said that it is the inflamed side (obviously) that is causing her most grief. I'm praying this works for her.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 2 months ago from State College Pa Author

Black funky stuff is a yeast infection. It can cause a lot of redness and pain. Just make sure you don't clean the ear before you use it. Let me know how it goes. It's been my saving grace! I use it once a week to maintain the ear after infection is gone..

Caz5968 2 months ago

Thanks for the advice.

Coco the bulldog 8 weeks ago

Hi there,

I would like to really thank you for the great and detailed article about this issue that us as dog owners suffer from a lot, especially bulldog owners i believe hehe.

My dog had an ear infection and i have taken her to the vet. Classic..... ear swabs $, regular check$, antibiotics(Refused) $ and bad for your dog when you can treat the problem at home and ended up just getting the antibiotic ear drops.

I have been using it for 5 days and stopped although it was suggested for a full week but im just against the idea of antibiotics in the first place and my dog ear looks just fine now after 5 days.

In reference to your great article, i have bought these two cleaners:

1) Zymox Ear Cleanser With Bio-Active Enzymes, 4 oz.

2) Virbac Epi-Otic Advanced Ear Cleaner, 8 oz

Could i possibly use (1) as a treatment when my dog ears are infected or in discomfort or its uses are the same as the Virbac cleaner?

Or would i have to get the other Zymox products for this case?


1) Zymox Otic with 1% Hydrocortisone

2)Zymox Enzymatic Ear Solution with 0.5-Percent Hydrocortisone

3)ZYMOX OTIC with Hydrocortisone 1.0 % Ear Solution Treatment bacterial, viral, and yeast infections

Thank you for your feedback and assistance.



LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 8 weeks ago from State College Pa Author

Coco.. when using zymox Ear cleaner can use that to maintain healthy ears. The zymox Otic you use when the dog has an infection. Do not clean the dogs ear prior to using it. I would follow the instructions and use a bit longer if the dog's infection is chronic. The virbac ear cleaner I have never used but I imagine once the ear is healthy you could use this or the zymox ear cleaner to maintain a healthy ear. The zymox otic comes in a few different ways the hydro cortisone for irritation is either .5 or 1 percent. Or you can get without as well. I use the 1 percent for my dog because his ears really bother him. I hope I helped!

Paola 7 weeks ago

Hi there.

Thank you so much for all the helpful advice in your article. I have an 11 year old cocker and he's never had an ear infection before but I notice now that he keeps flapping his ears like he's in discomfort. I checked his ears and they are really red and full of black stuff, which I assumed was wax build up. So I cleaned it out but I keep reading the comments that you mention not to clean the ear prior to the zymox application. Did I mess up!? I hope I didn't make things worse :/

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 7 weeks ago from State College Pa Author

No worries. You didn't make it worse but the product works best if the ear has not been cleaned. So it may not be as effective until the ear gets dirty again. It does sound from your description that your pup has a yeast infection. Zymox does a great job eliminating it but the ear should not be cleaned prior to using the product. So it can clear it up. Let me know how it works!!

Sherry 6 weeks ago

I have a pug which gets ear infections but really can't afford vet . Need a good home solution that I can use......

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 6 weeks ago from State College Pa Author

There are pretty good ideas right here....

Travis 5 weeks ago

I have a 7 mth old puppy that has the ear infections in both ears (seems kind of minor I guess). Before coming across this I had already cleaned (removed all the black gunk)his ears with a cap of rubbing alcohol and he got relief and went straight to sleep after scratching ears during the night. late the next morning he started scratching every now and then and so I went to petco & bought an ear powder treatment for relief it said so then afterwards he's been alot better but still see some light red and every now and then he'll shake his head and( very rarely) he will scratch his ears so he still has the issue it seems. I just recieved the Zymox 1% hydrocortosone. But as his ears are clean now from me cleaning would I be risking making things worse by using the Zymox. Should Iuse a very little only? Thanks in advance.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 5 weeks ago from State College Pa Author

No you wouldn't be making things worse. It is just that the zymox works better if the ear has not been cleaned. It may not be as effective with them being cleaner. The black gunk is probably a yeast infection which zymox works great for. You can give it a try but do not use zymox with any other cleaner or alcohol.

Travis 5 weeks ago

I saw it mentioned earlier I just didn't get a clear understanding of it and wanted to make sure, last night his pain came back so I'm going to give the Zymox a try today Thanks for the much needed help, I just had to spend alot on him at the vet for what they said were "needed" vaccs. and other expenses so really can't spend any more on overcharged meds!

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 5 weeks ago from State College Pa Author

Aw poor pup. Yes give it a try. Certainly can't hurt. Make sure you use it as directed even when symptoms start to disappear keep using it. Let me know how it goes! I totally get the expense. My golden gets the infections all the time and it's a staple at my house. Once you get ur pups ear better trying keeping it maintained with a once a week ear cleaner. There are tons of them but I use the zymox brand since it works well imo.

sheppiemom3 6 days ago

i have a major problem with my dog. he has an ear infection for the last 3 months. we been to the vet several times and nothing has worked. the last ear drops that went in his ear we used osurnia. i think i spelled that right, he's had 2 applications and still he's walking with his head to his side and shaking his head. the vet did a few swabs and he has an inner and middle ear infection. i have spend way over a 100 easy on him and nothing is working. he's been on steroids, antibiotics, ear drops, and back on steroids. i feel so bad for my boy. i try and clean his ear and he screams. plz, if anyone can give me advise it would be much appreciated. i have tried vinegar and water, i have tried may drops. the vet said allergies, but he doesn't bite his paws, he doesn't itch. plz help anyone.

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 6 days ago from State College Pa Author

Sheppiemom... I'm sorry to hear,about your pup and his ear infection I am not a vet so cannot give,any advice for the infection. Have you tried zymox? Since nothing else has worked maybe it is worth a try? BEST OF LUCK.

sheppiemom3 5 days ago

I can't put anything in his ear till the middle of January. Once you use Osurnia you can't put anything in the Ear for 45 days. :( I did buy Zymox but can't use it yet. Thanks for responding back.

John 33 hours ago

We made up the home remedy solution but the proportions make a much larger amount than needed. Do you have any sense of shelf life for the betadine, boric acid, vinegar, alcohol solution? Thanks.

Travis 32 hours ago

Hi I used the Zymox with 1.0 cortizone a good while back about a month ago and it seems it cleared it up about 99%. All the pink color went away and he started feeling much better after the first couple of days (His was minor). It seemed to be cured but then I noticed at night and sometimes in a.m. he would scratch his ears but not for long and then that was it then he seemed to be fine. He's been doing it ever since every single night or in the morning sometimes both but just for about 30 seconds then he stops and goes to sleep. He seems fine all day..Do you think its good idea to use the Zymox without hydrocortizone this time . Last time I used it for about a week but I may have skipped a day or two at the end. after I noticed him scratching at night a little I conitnued with Zymox till the bottle is just about empty. Not sure if I should order another but with out the Hydrocortizone ? where to find ? Bought my last bottle from amazon. Thanks

LesleesBits profile image

LesleesBits 9 hours ago from State College Pa Author

Travis.. skipping a day or two probably didn't help. Some of those yeast infections are stubborn. I see no harm in using the one without hydrocortisone. The manufacturer does suggest using the product a bit longer for stubborn infections.

John, no sorry I have no definite answer for shelf life. I can't imagine it wouldn't be similar to products that were used to make it. Had my solution for quite a while and it seemed to Continue to work. Sorry I can't be more helpful..

Travis 5 hours ago

Ok Thanks!

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