Dear Doc: Ear Health

Dear Doc:
My pet gets ear infections constantly. Is there a natural way to keep him from getting them in the first place?

I am not a veterinarian and suggest that you seek health care advice for your pet from one. I can comment on medicine for humans. Ear pain can originate from many causes. Swimmer's ear is common and conventionally treated with antibiotic ear drops. Dietary issues may also cause ear discomfort and inflammation. Frequently, one of the first symptoms of food sensitivity is manifested by ear pain. The patient may receive an antibiotic treatment, and the issue goes unresolved and may get worse. Children are particularly susceptible to ear problems because the skull has not developed sufficiently to allow proper drainage of the region. Always consider the anatomy of the individual. Ears are a passage for a variety of external pathogens and inflammatory substances. Sometimes the best medicine is prevention that includes good hygiene and good diet.

A good diagnosis is the best place to start. Examination of the ear by an appropriate health practitioner should determine the cause and lead to a therapy which can resolve the issues. For swimmer's ear, I recommend earplugs to prevent water from entering and irritating the external canal. If this is not prevented, a very nice treatment consists of irrigating the external ear, drying with a hair dryer on low heat, and placing Mullein oil, Calendula oil, and/ or Hypericum oil, individually or in combination into the external canal of the ear. There are ear irrigation kits available in most pharmacies. Do not use real cold or hot water during irrigation. You can induce vomiting and vertigo. The water needs to be close to the body temperature. Certainly, if there is any possibility of foreign objects or insects, please have a health practitioner perform an otoscopic exam. An ear specialist may be required to remove it.

Ear wax and common dirt are another source of irritation. Ear wax serves as a trap for foreign objects and material from entering the external canal. Over time and due to poor hygiene, wax can build up and cause irritation. Again, a health practitioner with an otoscope can view the situation to provide advice.

Diet sensitivity is a very common and a major factor of ear disorders. Many patients may suffer from inflammtion and pain. The culprit is not a microbe. It is an immune response to an allergen. Testing is one method of confirmation. However, there are simpler and cheaper means to establish this issue. Dietary rotation of foods/ formulas will promote health and a resolution of the symptoms. Perform some label reading of dietary formulas. Wheat and diary are found in most factory formulas. While you may think the ear issue is an infection, infections can arise more easily with a compromised immune system. A low tech (and low cost) approach is to decrease the immue burden (by changing diet), and see if the patient's health improves. There are many food stuff products on the market. They make claims of being healthy and good. You should be the judge of this, not the manufacturer. Years ago, studies proved a relationship between smoke in the environment and the development of ear infections. You may also want to consider the overall environmental conditions of this patient as well.

To recap, diet and hygiene are keys to prevention. Consider reading labels and rotating the diet and monitoring the body's response. A modified diet rotation needs to be several weeks to be conclusive. Remove milk and dairy for three weeks to see if there is a positive response. If not, then try wheat for three weeks. Practice some good hygiene externally and internally. Seek the advice of a health practitioner for issues that do not rapidly resolve.

Thank you for the questions and keep them coming!

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