About Cleaning A Dog's
Could the "ear
cleaner" applications be
contributing to your dog's ear troubles?
Important tips to consider before you clean
your dog's ears.
There are few problems in dogs that are as common as those associated
with the ears. Learn about the correct way to clean a dog's ears
and how to treat a few common ear disorders. In many cases of
otitis (inflammation of the ears) the underlying problem has not been
identified... and you, the dog's owner, has not been shown just how to
correctly apply medications or clean the ears. Read on...
Can you tell me why I have to go back to the veterinarian
about twice a year, every year, to get all sorts of ridiculously
expensive topical medications and ear cleaners and shots and pills for
my dogs' ear problems?
Why isn't there something that will cure ear
problems and be done with it? I'm about ready to give up.
| Answer: dog ear
cleaners... how to clean ears... ear
can't count the times I have heard your exact words over the past 45
years of small animal practice. I believe I, and some of my
fellow veterinarians, sometimes have not fully explained exactly what
is going on in your individual dog's ear environment and why the otitis
reoccurs. When we identify the Why it reoccurs we can then work
on how to prevent flare-ups. Treatment will work best if it is
customized for your unique dog or cat.
Reoccurring otitis can be primary or
secondary. A primary reason would be genetic driven anatomy such
as excessive sebum production onto the skin of the external ear
surfaces, deep or crooked ear canals, folds of ear tissue obstructing
normal aeration and drying of the the deep canal areas. These
cases may need surgical intervention to excise the abnormal folds and
to remove the vertical portion of the ear canal via a lateral ear canal
Ear cleaner otitis is assumed to be present when the ear tissues
are inflammed and irritated but visibly "clean" and do not
have a buildup of wax and debris. If the pet owner repeatedly
applies ear cleaner and the signs of discomfort, reddened tissues and
swelling persist, use of the ear cleaner should be stopped.
When the ear cleaner use is stopped and the
ear tissue inflammation (redness, itchiness, pain) ceases, an ear
cleaner sensitivity is likely. Only use an ear cleaner when
visible waxy debris buildup is present.
Secondary causes of chronic otitis are those induced by environment,
diet, allergy and immune competence. The end result of these
secondary causes will be itchy, inflamed, ulcerative and infected
tissues. If the secondary cause is not eliminated, no
matter what you do to clean or disinfect the ear, the signs of otitis
will return. So getting at the
cause of the otitis is mandatory for efficient control of the
reoccurring problem. Your veterinarian may need to do bacterial
culturing, biopsies, microscopic analyses of surface debris, allergy
testing and dietary upgrades. As well, chronic otitis
problems can result from using ear cleaners if the cleaner initiates an
allergic sensitivity in the very tissues it is being used to treat!
If the ear tissues are clean (no waxy debris
seen, no dark debris buildup) and are simply reddened and itchy or
painful, ear cleaner is not indicated and shouldn't be used.
It is interesting to keep in mind that the
dog's external ear anatomy and ear canal configuration constitutes a
perfect incubator of microbes! Bacteria, yeast, and fungi love
the extra oily secretions from affected dermal lining on which these
organisms thrive. The ear environment is dark, moist, retains
moisture and is difficult for us humans to inspect and wipe clean.
If debris and dark, waxy buildup gradually return after the ear skin
surfaces have been cleaned, and no infection is present, occasional use
of simple alcohol dampened cotton balls
to dissolve and remove the wax may be an ideal way to swab away any
debris or oily buildup.
Most dogs never need to have their ears
cleaned. Most dogs with hairs in their external ear tissues and
canals never need to have the hairs plucked. Unless debris is
present such as dirt, wax, shed hair, oily secretions or foreign
material in the external ear structures no ear cleaning needs to be
done. Many ear problems are caused by inflammation of ear tissues
resulting from allergy, anatomical predispositions, contact with
irritants such as pollens, house dust, or lake/pond water containing
algae, microorganisms, plant material and suspended particles.
Repeatedly treating reoccurring "ear
infections" often fails to cure the problem permanently because the
infections (usually bacteria and yeast organisms) are secondary
outcomes from another, primary cause. If we don't discover the
cause of the organisms' overgrowth we will be never fully correct the
ear problems. Learn
Information about ear cleaners and ear drying agents
Some of the data
below is derived from Plumb's Veterinary Handbook, 5th Edition,
2005, Donald C. Plumb, Pharm.D.; pp.1204-1205
Huge selection of prescription and
non-prescription medications for your pets
the ingredients, otic preparations are useful as cleaners,
antiseptics, astringents, flushes, antibacterial, antifungal,
antiyeast, antipruritic, antinflammatory and antiparasitic
actions. It s vital to choose the correct product and to use it
according to label instructions (some must be diluted before
use). Resolving and managing a pet's ear disorder depends upon a
correct diagnosis first and secondarily upon treating with the
| Ear cleaners should
be used only
when large amounts of free debris
have built up on the ear tissues.
| Ear tissue
is a result of long term inflammation
from allergy, infection, or irritants.
| Chronic yeast
infections are often mistaken
for allergic otitis and if not treated properly
will create long term problems.
Basic principles of ear health
care and ear cleaning in dogs
| A cotton ball moistened
with rubbing alcohol, which is a true solvent for dissolving wax and
oil and an antiseptic, can make an excellent ear cleaning tool.
Hydrogen peroxide is useful for clearing away dead cells and pus but
won't dissolve oily or waxy debris and shouldn't be applied to newly
Clippers are used to trim
away hair and debris from the external
ear tissues prior to ear cleaning
| The external ear tissues are encrusted
with dried wax, oil, dead cells and dried pus. Ear cleaner is
applied and gently massaged to loosen waxy debris.
|| Do not use cloth rags, gauze or other
rough-surfaced material to wipe away debris and cleaner. After
gentle (GENTLE!) massaging
of the ear tissues the cleaner is rinsed away with warm water.
| The ear tissues are gently wiped
clean and dry with cotton or kleenex. A Q-tip can be used
cautiously to wipe in folds or the opening to the deep ear canal.
|| The external ear tissues are
now clean and dry... inflammation
is controlled with appropriate medications. Now that the tissues
are clean ear cleaner may not be needed again as long as you
daily wipe away any new debris or wax.
| Do not use alcohol
or hydrogen peroxide to clean ear or skin tissues where active healing
is occurring. Peroxide and alcohol may damage newly formed skin
cells. For swabbing away oily or waxy buildup, alcohol in cotton
swabs works much better than peroxide
| Do not use "ear cleaners"
in ears that do not need cleaning. Over-use of "ear cleaners" can
cause irritation in normal tissues and even trigger a contact
sensitivity to ingredients in the cleaning solution. Learn more...
| Moisture is our
enemy. The reason is that micro-organisms require moisture
to thrive and reproduce! (That's why freeze-dried products don't
spoil very quickly.) Wetness in the ear canal or on the surface
of the external ear tissues permits normal organisms to overgrow and
ear cleaning products evaporate very slowly which keeps the skin
surfaces moist thereby promoting yeast and bacterial reproduction.
Many ear cleaners, and a few medications, can sensitize the skin
surfaces of the ears creating inflammation, itching and even a contact
allergy situation. Learn more...
| Most dogs have no ill
effects from occasional contact with water on their ear tissues or ear
canals from swimming, bathing or being out in the rain.
Persistent moisture, however, will eventually promote organism
| Ear problems do occur in
dogs whose ears (pinnas) have been cropped.
| If the dog's diet
isn't of high quality, all sorts of minor ear problems will definitely
be magnified. Resistance to infection, optimal sebum production
by the skin's oil (sebaceous) glands, and strength and vitality of
every cell in the body is impacted by a poor diet. Learn more...
| Nutritional supplements
such as fatty acids and vitamins can assist optimal nutritional intake
but are not necessarily required if the main diet is a high quality
| "Plucking the ears"...
pulling the hairs out of the ear canal and external ear area is usually
not required if the dog has no ear problems. Hair removal may be
indicated if an infection is present. Hair in the canals by
itself, though, does not cause ear infections.
| If an infection does
occur in the ear canal, hairs provide a much greater surface area fon
which organisms thrive. The hairs often trap oil and wax
secretions. Hair, wax, oil and debris in the ear canal will
prevent proper drying of the ear canal surfaces and then may need to be
removed to assist in resolving the ear canal infection.
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