My own experience with ear “infection”
I learned the hard way about how serious ear inflammation can be after my Cockapoo, “Coco”, went deaf at age 9. Because of my ignorance, my dog had to live more than half his life without the benefit of hearing voice commands, approaching cars and growling food-possessive dogs, one of which picked him up and shook him like a stuffed toy when he was 13 years old. It was a painful daily reminder of how dependent our animals are on us to do the right things by them, and how unpleasant the consequences can be if we don’t.
Coco’s deafness happened rather suddenly, following a particularly severe bout of ear inflammation, one of many he’d suffered throughout his life. Like other dog owners, I had tried lots of different treatments – herbs, antibiotics, various ear drops, ear cleaning and topical ointments. The symptoms always returned, without fail, sometimes within weeks, sometimes months. I was confident I’d resolved the problem permanently each time the symptoms went away, but they only disappeared forever when I learned what the underlying cause was, and removed it.
What really causes ear “infection”?
Years of investigation into the true causes of human and canine disease allowed me to understand that the ear canal is just one of many secondary routes for the elimination of wastes that the body can employ when needed. When the primary organs of elimination are overburdened, the body can choose to allow wastes to continue to accumulate, or it can employ an alternative outbound avenue. The body always chooses the path of least harm, but that doesn’t mean collateral harm doesn’t sometimes still occur. As the exiting substances come into contact with tissues and nerve endings in the ear canal, for example, they cause irritation (experienced in humans and also dogs, perhaps, as tinnitus or ringing), inflammation, and, occasionally, nerve damage and consequent hearing loss. The true root cause of the damage is not the body’s actions, however, but the accumulation of wastes which forced the body into an emergency eliminative choice. Incidentally, this is what causes most human deafness as well.
Unfortunately, when the real underlying causes of disease are not understood, people look for scapegoats. In the Middle Ages, evil spirits were blamed. Although it might sound like sacrilege, the modern day equivalent of evil spirits is microscopic organisms. Specifically, in the case of ear inflammation, yeast, mites and bacteria are thought to be the primary culprits, with factors like moisture and genetic predisposition (i.e., floppy ears) contributing. However, none of these are the actual cause of the inflammation, they are just co-existent symptoms or, at most, minor contributing factors. Amazingly, mites, yeast and bacteria do dogs (and us) a favor when they appear in or on a location of the body where wastes have been deposited. It is their job to eat certain kinds of waste that would otherwise threaten to accumulate to such a level as to impair the body’s ability to function. They are the body’s trash collectors, there by explicit invitation and without whom life as we know it would not even be possible. Which of them show up is probably dependent on many variables, like the type of waste and its location. It’s true that moisture and floppy ears that don’t allow proper evaporation help create favorable circumstances. There’s a reason why nature never designed dog ears to be floppy and long! But, and it can’t be overemphasized given how much we hear the contrary — these factors are NOT the primary cause.
Inflammation has a purpose
Everyone knows that when healing is accomplished, inflammation goes away. It is perceived by medical practitioners, therefore, that forcing inflammation to stop will assist or hasten healing. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Fighting inflammation by means such as anti-inflammatory drugs or herbs not only does nothing to address the causes, it increases the body’s internal toxic burden. Inflammation is not a mistake, it is a life-preserving mechanism that brings increased blood, nutrients, fluids and healing energy (heat) to an afflicted area, accelerating the elimination of waste and suspending them in fluids to minimize harmful contact with tissues.
Is moisture a primary cause of ear inflammation?
Since it is thought that moisture in the ear canal is what makes the environment favorable to “invaders” like bacteria, dog owners are often advised to keep their dogs out of the water. But while this advice may control a secondary or even remote factor, it ignores the most important factor that determines whether an area is attractive to bacteria. Moisture is not as attractive to bacteria as FOOD. It may be true that yeast and bacteria prefer dark, warm, moist places, but they don’t go anywhere unless their food (waste!) is there. Treatments aimed only at getting rid of bacteria are missing the real problem and that’s why they never offer a permanent resolution. It’s like killing the flies buzzing around a garbage can instead of just hauling the garbage away and cleaning the can. Bacteria no more cause ear inflammation than flies cause garbage.
Does it help to clean the ears?
Likewise, common remedial approaches like topical treatments or cleaning of the affected area only remove deleterious substances from the internal surface of the ear canal. That’s like cleaning the garbage can and then putting the garbage back in. While this may offer slight temporary relief to the suffering dog, it carries the negative consequence of allowing the dog owner to delude himself that the real problem has been resolved. This is a mistake because it is not the wastes that lie on the surface that cause inflammation, it is those that have been deposited in the tissues and/or are circulating in the bloodstream of the affected area. These can only be addressed by cutting off the source of internal pollution, which is primarily dietary. External cleanliness is not the answer to the problem of chronic ear infection, and thinking so only allows the real causes to continue.
Removal of cause is the most effective way to deal with ear “infection”
To get to the root of my dog’s ear problems, I had to do a complete overhaul of the way I was feeding him, even though he was already on 100% raw food and had been for 8 years when he went deaf. The primary change was that I stopped feeding ground meats in favor of whole foods with consumable bones like game hens, chicken and turkey with fat removed. By far, overfeeding is the biggest culprit in ear inflammation, but even if a dog isn’t being overfed, if too much of the diet is composed of fat or non-foods (supplements), ear issues may be experienced, particularly as the dog approaches middle age when the ability to eliminate bodily wastes begins to diminish.
I also found that fasting my dog when I saw the symptoms first appearing was extremely effective. No matter what a dog is being fed, and no matter how emotionally difficult it may be to do, the kindest approach to most recurring health issues, including ear inflammation, is to withhold food for a day or two, or until symptoms subside. This almost always allows the body to catch up on its eliminative tasks and resolve recurrent ear inflammation. After the symptoms are gone, regular fasting days prevents recurrence. With certain dogs that are prone to ear issues, alternate day feeding (that is, feeding only every other day) works wonders at keeping the problem away.
These simple steps can keep the problem from getting worse
When you first notice your dog scratching his ears, these simple steps can keep the problem from getting worse, and even clear it up completely:
- Examine inside both ears for signs of inflammation (redness, swelling, bad smell). If you see them, immediately stop all feeding, including treats and nutritional supplements, for 24 hours.
- After the 24-hour fast, check inside the ears again for signs of improvement.
- If any sign of inflammation remains, continue to fast the dog until you see symptoms abate. Usually a couple days will do the trick but be prepared to go 3 or 4 if necessary. You should see gradual improvement each day, which will help you realize you’re doing the right thing. (If you’re new to fasting, educate yourself with books like “Fasting Can Save Your Life” by Herbert Shelton or “The Miracle of Fasting” by Paul Bragg. They’re about human fasting but the principles are the same, and apply even more to dogs, for whom fasting is an intrinsic primordial requirement for good health.)
- Make sure the dog always has fresh water available, and supervise him at all times to make sure he doesn’t get into trash or other inedibles while he’s fasting.
- Most importantly, review what you’ve been feeding with an eye to finding the cause of the problem. If you feed commercial food, upgrade or consider proper raw home-feeding. If you home-feed, drastically lower the dog’s fat consumption. Since overfeeding is the most common cause of ear inflammation, it will probably help to simply decrease your dog’s overall consumption, regardless of what you feed.