Natural cure for cat’s ear infection – from pau d’ arco to Hepar Sulph

A natural cure for cat’s ear infection can become an effective means to end the constant shaking of the head and scratching of the ear that accompanies this common ear problem. Or it may alleviate the condition. While your feline will most likely dislike any remedy that comes in contact with their ultra-sensitive ears, it is important to seek out the safest and least threatening approaches to combating an ear infection.

Itchy ear
Itchy ear. Photo in public domain.
Two useful tags. Click either to see the articles: Toxic to cats | Dangers to cats

Caution, gentleness and working within your limits of knowledge are important when administering home treatments to your cat. When necessary, seek your veterinarian’s advice. Thanks.

Help please! — If you have personal experience of curing a cat’s ear infection using natural means please leave a comment to pass on your knowledge to others. Many thanks.


Note: Aug 2017 — there are 108 comments on this page. Please explore them. Some are insightful and others less so. First-hand experience is always useful.


Symptoms of Cat Ear Infection

A cat suffering an ear infection will often shake his head in an attempt to remove debris and fluid out of the ear, as well as scratch at their ears or the side of their face. The irritation in the ear may also drive a cat to rub their ears or head against carpeting or furniture. After a while, the ears appear red, irritated, and become painfully inflamed. An unpleasant odor develops, which is accompanied by ear discharge that is black, brown, or yellowish in color.

When a cat is battling a severe infection, they may lose their sense of balance or suffer “head tilt,” which is characterized by the persistent turn of the head that usually indicates an issue in with the middle or inner ear. Overall, ear infection in cats is quite uncomfortable because the ear canals are a very sensitive part of feline anatomy. When it comes to keeping an eye out for the symptoms associated with cat’s ear infection, keep in mind that the Persian breed seems more susceptible to ear infections than any other species of cat.

Cleaning Maru's ears
Cleaning Maru’s ears. Still from video.

RELATED: Are cat ear mites contagious to humans?

Causes of Cat’s Ear Infection

When it comes to cat’s ear infection, there are two common diagnoses a veterinarian may conclude: otitis externa (infection of the ear canal) and otitis media (infection of the middle ear). Otitis externa is typically caused by bacteria or related to the overproduction of yeast. Sometimes, an accumulation of wax in the ear; debris; faulty drainage of the ear; and matted hair in the canal is also behind an infection of the ear canal.

Otitis media is typically the result of an ear canal infection that has spread to the middle ear. Sometimes, inappropriate cleansing of the ear causes a rupture in the eardrum that leads to infection. Additionally, the spread of debris and ulceration are also behind the progression of a middle ear infection in cats.

The presence of mites can also cause infection to develop in a cat’s ear. The minuscule parasites are behind the overproduction of wax in the ear because of the irritation they initiate. The excess wax begins to clog the ear, eventually worsening cat ear infection symptoms. Ear mites also cause secondary infections in the ear that involves bacteria and fungus (in the form of yeast). Although a veterinarian visit may not reveal the immediate presence of mites – a noticeable ear infection caused by the irritating parasite is left behind.

Cat’s ear infection is rarely a condition that threatens the life of a feline, but the ear can only tolerate a certain level of inflammation before permanent damage becomes a result. When left untreated, a persistent problem may develop, which can become quite hard to reverse. Sometimes the ear canal will actually close when the infection has become advanced and chronic. While there are some medications that can decrease swollen tissues that allows the canal to open in some cats – others may require surgery to correct this problem. In the worse cases, hearing loss is an unfortunate outcome.

Using a Natural Cure for Cat’s Ear Infection

Traditionally, a veterinarian will prescribe cat antibiotics, antifungal medicines, or another drug on the market. However, many cats undergo a disruption in the normal makeup of the inside ear when taking such remedies. Sometimes, the simplest of ear infections can become a long-term issue when an adverse reaction to antibiotics takes place. Over the years, pet owners have become more interested in the results associated with the use of natural pet cures. As you scan the many natural cures for cat’s ear infection, you will find remedies that come in liquid, as well as tablet form.

When a brownish-pink wax fills the ear canal of your cat, chances are they are suffering a yeast infection that requires a thorough cleaning. Diluted white vinegar helps revitalize the chemical balance in the ears by removing unwanted dirt and debris. It is suggested to pour a small amount into the ear canal, massaging the area before gently wiping the inside of the ear using a cotton ball. Using vinegar is a once-a-day treatment that continues until the ear becomes better.

An herb called pau d’ arco is an inner bark natural cure for cat’s ear infection that originates in South America. This organic antibiotic works fast to eliminate fungi and bacteria. At the first sign of cat ear infection, mix equal parts of pau d’ arco tincture with mineral oil and place several drops into the ears of your cat. For a couple of days, the treatment is given two to three times per day.

When ear mites are the source of a cat ear infection, consider putting a few drops of almond oil or olive oil in each ear, which kills mites and allows the infection to gradually heal. This particular regimen is necessary for three to four weeks – using three to seven drops of oil each day. Sulphur tablets are also considered a well-known anti-parasitic used to treat ear mites in cats.

The Holistic Kitty recommends the following for ear mites (see comment):

I used tea tree oil for my kitties ear mites with great success! We continue to use it for routine cleaning also.

Important note: Don’t use tree oil. Please read this article instead – link. I have kept the quote and put a line through it to remind visitors and myself that we must all be careful when considering home treatments. This article was written years ago by another author. It has been updated by me. It is useful but contains warnings. Cat owners are rightly interested in home remedies but sometimes this is borne out of a desire to avoid veterinary costs. That is not necessarily a good reason.

RELATED: Veterinarian puts ear mites in his ear

To treat severe cases with a natural cure for cat’s ear infection when a loss of balance or head tilt surfaces, administer one tablet of gelsemium for three to four days (three times daily). Additional natural remedies for cat’s ear infection includes vitamin C (reduces inflammation), an all-natural diet (reduces wax and boosts immune system), and hepar sulph or graphites to treat discharges of pus and foul smells. These are both herbal, homeopathic medical remedies

Safe Administering of a Natural Cure for Cat’s Ear Infection

When using a natural cure for an infection in the ear, it is important to administer the remedy into the horizontal part of the ear canal. First, gently pull the ear flap straight up, holding it with one hand. Apply a small amount of the remedy into the vertical portion of the ear canal – making sure the ear flap is kept elevated. This position should be held long enough to allow the medication to run down the rest of the canal.

Place one finger in front of the ear flap at the base, as your thumb rests behind and at the base of the ear flap. Massage the ear canal between your finger and thumb until you hear a “squishing” sound, which indicates that the medication has reached the horizontal canal. After releasing the ear, your cat will probably shake his or her head. It is normal to see dissolved wax fall out of the ear when applicable.

Last, clean the outer part of the ear canal and the inside of the ear flap using a cotton ball (not a Q-Tip) that has been soaked in a bit of rubbing alcohol.

Two Homeopathic remedies mentioned

Hepar sulphuris calcareum (Hepar Sulph) is a mineral compound. It is prepared from the inner layer of calcium-rich oyster shells. This is mixed with flowers of sulphur and heated. It’s a combination of two homeopathic medicines: sulphur and calcarea carbonica. It means “liver of sulphur”. In humans it is used for several ailments. The video below may be helpful.

The homeopathic remedy graphites are used for long-term skin disorders in people.

Complementary Treatments

This is an addendum and not necessarily to do with infections. Naturopathic veterinarians believe that many ear problems are caused by immune disorders. Diet is important. Vets might check for food intolerance. Some vets will recommend vitamin D supplement for a cat going deaf. Vitamin A is said to help the cochlea function efficiently; a vet may recommend it with vitamin E.

Mild acidic herbal remedies may kill yeast. They may be useful for loosening ear wax. A vinegar/water mixture is sometimes recommended. Olive oil or almond oil may assist in clearing residual wax after an ear infection/infestation.

Marigold can be used for cleaning inflamed ear canals. Ginger is said to help reduce deafness by improving circulation to the ear. Warning: over use of topical herbal solutions can increase the possibility of an inflammatory sensitivity response.

Note: this article was written about 12 years ago by a guest writer who was very good and it has been updated several times since and republished. At least one of the changes was due to suggestions by visitors in the comments. Thank you.

Please remember that it is always advisable to consult with your veterinarian if for no other reason to seek another opinion. Some vets will be against ‘natural treatments’ while others may be more open-minded.

Conventional treatments

It is useful to briefly mention conventional treatments which includes veterinarians using antibiotics, anti-inflammatories and antiparasitic ear drops. They might also use lotions to control external ear infections. Middle ear infections are normally treated with oral antibiotics and sometimes decongestants. Sometimes the cat’s balance is affected which indicates anti-emetic drugs as a treatment. Severe external ear disease may require syringing of the cat’s ears under deep sedation or even a general anaesthetic.

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118 thoughts on “Natural cure for cat’s ear infection – from pau d’ arco to Hepar Sulph”

  1. my cat is only 2 years old and he has orange liquid coming from his ear. he always wonders outside and I’ve seen him lose his balance. he is not as energetic as always and he always sits in a corner and rests. i’m a new pet owner and I don’t know what to do! please help me!!!

    Reply
  2. I have a feral cat with a constant, extreme head tilt. He does have a little presence of ear mites, but I’ve seen much worse in other ferals in the past without this effect. I recently lost my job, so I have no money for the vet, but would really like to help him. I haven’t really noticed any other symptoms except he lays around alot and is slow to run from me like the others because of his condition. Any suggestions? It’s either try out an educated home remedy or watch him suffer, which is killing me. Please respond soon. Thanks.

    Reply
    • Hi Gina, I can understand how you feel. It is quite possibly feline vestibular disorder. This is the page:

      https://pictures-of-cats.org/feline-vestibular-disorder.html

      I have seen this in a breeding cat in a high class cattery. He was OK. He looked odd etc but some causes are painless such as Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome – unknown cause. I think the key is whether he shows signs of discomfort or pain. If that is the case a vet is the only solution. If he seems comfortable but has this extreme head tilt it may well be Idiopathic Vestibular Syndrome and he will be OK.

      The obvious solution is a vet. But I understand your predicament very well. We can’t cure the world’s cat illnesses.

      Ear mites are distressing for a cat so they need dealing with too. Head tile can also be caused by an inner ear infection. I don’t know but there might be a link. Good luck to you both and to your feral cat a big kiss.

      Reply
  3. My cat recently had an ear infection and it was a very worrying time for me! I had to get a couple of different medications and afterwards things got better for him but it was a scary couple of days!

    Reply
  4. I noticed for the past couple of days that my cat lost coordination and could not for the life of me figure out what was wrong..I came across this site and looked at the info and others comments..all i can say is thank you! Because her ears had so much wax built up and had to take a pair of tweezers(i know not good to use but) i could not see her ear canal and took the tweezers and got what was at the top i did not damage her ear or even touch it afterwards we put a couple of drops of h2o2 in her ears and massaged it when she shook her ears more wax came out and she is doing better but will take a few days to get her bearings back to normal. thanks!!!!! 🙂

    Reply
    • I am pleased, Mercy, that you seem to have fixed the problem. The inner ear controls balance so perhaps your cat’s problem was balance rather than coordination. I would, however, advise that you take your cat to the vet because it impossible for a cat owner to clean a cat’s ears properly and safely. There may other issues that need looking at.

      Thanks for visiting and sharing.

      Reply
      • I simply MUST respond to your statement that it is impossible for an owner to clean a cat’s ears safely. I don’t know if that is true, but I take exception to the implication that it IS safe for a vet to clean the cat’s ears.

        Something has happened to veterinary practice in recent years and it isn’t good. I see more incompetence every year, more reliance on a one size fits all approach (usually defined by sales of pharmaceuticals) and less of any attempt to think critically about my cat’s health issues; and now my cat has suffered what appears to be permanent damage due to that incompetence. I hope you can take the time to read this comment because I would really like to hear your thoughts about what happened to my cat at that “safe’ vet visit.

        Two weeks ago yesterday I took my cat in for a nail trim and rabies booster. While there I mentioned that she tends to press her ear hard against the brush on one side every time I brush her. Upon exam, the vet said she has a build up of wax in that ear and it should be cleaned. No microscopic exam of the dark waxy material was done. Until that time my cat was apparently perfectly healthy. There were no bad odors around her ear, she wasn’t scratching there or shaking her head; there was nothing running out of the ear, and her personality, temperature and appetite were completely normal.

        The ear cleaning was done by the tech and involved some sort of solution in a white squeeze bottle, gauze pads and non-sterile cotton swabs. For at least 8 -10 minutes, VERY vigorous — so much so that I heard my cat cry out twice and she lost control of her bowels. After the ear cleaning she immediately had unequal pupil dilation, with the pupil of the eye on the “cleaned” side of her head quite constricted compared to the other eye. Her head was tilted to that side too and she was extremely subdued.

        Upon arrival at home she could not walk, kept falling over and staggering. She hid immediately in a 5 inch wide space behind a cabinet and stayed there. Later we discovered she couldn’t eat or drink, or blink or even close her eye. We returned to the vet the next day and were told it was probably a result of the ear cleaning and not to worry that it would “resolve” itself quickly. We were reassured that none of the symptoms were related to her rabies booster (Purevax, 1 yr, the one with the distemper, and URI vaccines included). She received sub cutaneous fluids and we went home.

        She continued to hide and was clearly unable to eat or drink despite an obvious interest in doing so. She began to raise her head and snap at the air involuntarily, followed by involuntary and excessive licking of her lips and sort of smacking them, and started walking with a “list” or inclination to the right, not quite in circles, but definitely tending that way.

        The cleaning happened on a Monday. By Thursday she was hiding less but still had the head tilt, the pupil constriction etc, but regained the ability to eat, so we were encouraged. Then came Friday night when we noticed a foul smelling rusty looking goo coming from her ear. We took her to the ER at the local vet school where they confirmed her neuro deficits and prescribed marbofloxacin and drops called Keto-Tris(?). The vet refused to look in her ear, saying it would be too traumatic. She took swabs, found bacteria, sent specimens off to determine which antibiotic would be best, but said to use the marbofloxacin and the Keto wash in the mean time. We looked up marbofloxacin online and discovered that it might be dangerous for our cat, so just applied the ear wash until we could see another vet on Tuesday. The odor in the ear improved and the cat could eat and drink, showed more interest in being petted etc, but still had the head tilt, stagger, constricted pupil etc. The vet we saw on Tuesday is a dermatologist and she explained that probably the tech ruptured the ear drum during cleaning and that now my cat has a raging infection in her middle ear. She offered a video otoscopy (?)procedure and said that she would re-rupture the ear drum in order to clean out the infection that probably had spread to the middle ear. We declined, choosing instead to try an antibiotic approach first. She prescribed an antibiotic made for cats, called Veraflox to use while we waited for the results of the culture done at the vet school. Two days later the results came in and confirmed two different kinds of staph, one of which is slightly resistant, but she said the Veraflox was appropriate. We’ve been giving the Veraflox for a week and the cat is much improved, but still has no blink reflex on that side, still cannot close her eye all the way, still has uneven pupils with the affected pupil still often quite a bit smaller, still has a slight but noticeable head tilt. She’s eating and drinking well, and playing some, but gives out easily and sleeps for hours — unusual for her at age 4 yrs. I’ve also been giving her a probiotic made for children by Nature’s Way, about an eighth of a teaspoon or less in a dab of butter, once a day. However, she is shaking her head more now and I can still detect an odor from that ear, and occasionally when petting her my hand gets wet from whatever is running out of the ear. It doesn’t smell as bad, more like mildly dirty socks instead of that dead tissue smell she had before, but it still smells like something is wrong in there. I had to discontinue the Keto-Tris because she feels enough better that I can no longer restrain her by myself, so she is getting just the Veraflox in her food and no topical treatment at all. I’m almost afraid to say it, but I think I notice her flattening her opposite ear now, as if something is bothering her in that ear as well. I have no idea if that means anything.

        I will talk to the dermatology vet again tomorrow about how to proceed. I probably will opt for a CT scan first, rather than subject my cat to the video otoscopy and ear drum rupturing procedure, in the hope that the CT scan will reveal enough so that we can avoid the surgery and eliminate some of the uncertainty about what needs to be done to heal her. While my cat’s health, safety and comfort are my primary concern, I admit that the financial aspects of the consequences of the “safe” ear cleaning are just brutal. I have now spent upwards of $900.00, and apparently, we are just getting started. The CT scan is quoted at “roughly” $2000.00, and the video otoscopy is a definite $800.00 barring complications. The disruption to my cat’s life and mine, the pain she has suffered, and the stress I have experienced, not to mention the vacation that was scheduled but had to be abandoned when this happened, have all taken a terrible toll on my cat, on me, and on my husband, who gave up his only vacation time to help with this. And we are still tied in knots with uncertainty about our cat’s condition. Meanwhile, the original vet just keeps chirping about how we “shouldn’t worry”, how she had another cat this happened to just last week, and a dog too, and how they are getting all better. I wonder what it will take for her to realize that they may be doing something wrong if so many of their patients experience this after ear cleaning.

        Online searches reveal that this is a rather common side effect of ear cleaning in dogs and cats, yet we were not warned of what could happen. I now trust NO VET at all and look forward to the time when my cat will be well enough that I never have to see a vet again. That was definitely the last ear cleaning and vaccine I will ever subject any animal to for the rest of my life, legal consequences be damned.

        As I said at the beginning of this post, something is VERY wrong with veterinary medicine, as evidenced by the fact that most vets seem to know about this problem, and are apparently comfortable with the neurological impairment which they risk visiting upon these animals for the sake of ear cleaning. It’s as if these people have lost their humanity, as if they see every animal as a lab animal and so what if the animal is permanently damaged or killed? And for the record, I am irrevocably opposed to seeing ANY animal that way, with that cavalier attitude. I respect all animal life and feel a reverence and respect for the sacred order of their bodies just as I do for human bodies. Until recently I believed that most vets felt the same way. Now I know better. And I know that the vet’s office is not necessarily a “safe” place. I’ve begun telling everyone I know about what happened lest their animal be damaged in a similar fashion. My finances are such that, with a struggle, I can at least buy more so-called “care” for my cat to try to see her through this. But, without exception, those I’ve told about this have all said that in their circumstances they would’ve had to euthanize their pets due to a lack of ability to pay for further treatment. Like I keep saying, something is VERY wrong with veterinary medicine nowadays.

        Reply
        • So glad you posted this. I have been my own kitty’s “vet” for a long time due to a lack of Holistic resources near me. As soon as I moved to the west coast with other options I made the mistake of trusting someone. All it took was one dose of antibiotics for him to get a seizure despite my verbal confirmation of his weaker immune system that I had been constantly trying to strengthen. Poor baby has had so much go wrong since then and I am working with homeopathy/diet to bring him back to good health. The first thing I can say is never vaccinate!! Never ever ever. And trace their bloodline back to what their diet should be: lions/tigers. That’s right raw food only! Ugh- all the medical professionals are vastly full of the wrong knowledge. Do your own research and I’ll be praying for your little fluff. 🙁

          Reply
        • I see this post is a few yrs old, so hoping you will find my reply. Your story is exactly my story! I am dealing with a very sick cat after the vet tech flushed and cleaned his ears. She was so rough and vigorous with the cleaning, I thought she’d kill him. And 4 weeks later, my cat is still suffering from what I KNOW is a ruptured eardrum. Can’t eat, leaking ear, etc. I have seen 2 different vets since. No one will acknowledge the damage done. I am desperate.

          Reply
  5. I have a rescue ragamuffin cat about 10 years old….he constantly scratches his ears and cries…then shakes his head….There is some creamy colored stuff here and there in his ears….but they are not red…can you advise what this might be?

    Reply
    • Well, ear mites cause a dark brown crumbly waxy discharge like coffee grounds. Do the ears smell foul? There may be a secondary bacterial infection that has cause puss, which is creamy colored. Also ear mites are white specks. If there are lots of them this may cause the wax to look creamy. I am just guessing.

      Mary Ann, the thing is this: if it is ear mites they cause intense irritation and knowing that I think you have to take your cat to a vet to get it looked at and fixed asap. Sorry, I realise you’d like a cheaper and easier fix but there rarely is one.

      Reply
        • Well done Mary Ann. It is the right thing to do. Ear infections and infestations are very distressing for a cat. It may be something that is easy to fix but when cats shake their heads and cry out it is not good.

          Reply
          • Just thought you might like to know…the vet says it is a very bad yeast infection….poor baby. He’s on Tresaderm for 14 days…hope that helps him.

            Reply

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