I love a bad ear.
I suppose it would be more accurate to say I hate a bad ear, but either way the reward of making a bad ear into a good ear is priceless.
The Mississippi Gulf Coast, where I practice, is a place where many people make their home for a short period of time. With an Air Force Base (Keesler AFB, Biloxi), a Navy base (Naval Construction Battalion Center, Gulfport) and an aerospace center (NASA/Stennis Space Center) nearby some of our population is always on the move.
As a result I get to meet people from all over the country. Indeed, all over the world.
And I get to see how ears are treated by veterinarians from all over the world. Sometimes their methods differ from mine.
I have a saying, “Ninety-eight percent of ears are curable and future ear problems are preventible in that ninety-eight percent.”
“Curable” means the problem goes away and doesn’t come back within a reasonable amount of time.
“Preventible” means we can do things to make the time between relapses be quite long.
Here’s how we do that. The foundation is ear cleaning. Use the ear cleaner your pet’s doctor recommends. We use exclusively Malacetic Ear/Skin Cleanser by Dechra. Not only is it an excellent cleaner but it also acidifies the ear, lowering the pH so as to make re-infection more difficult. Here are the steps we use for cleaning ears:
Clean the outer portion of the ear. Put one drop of Ear Cleanser on a Q-tip and thoroughly clean the outer parts of the ear, all the nooks and crannies and the first part of the ear canal, AS FAR DOWN AS YOU CAN SEE. DON’T GO FARTHER THAN YOU CAN SEE. Don’t re-use a dirty Q-tip end. Swap ends or get new Q-tips as needed.
Gently squirt Ear/Skin Cleanser into the ear canal until you see the cleaner filling the ear. Pull the pinna (flap of the ear) down over the ear canal and massage the ear canal for 5 minutes. The cleaning action of the Ear Cleaner will dissolve the discharge in the ear and the mechanical rubbing action will help break it loose and into smaller particles. Allow your pet to shake. This will sling the dislodged ear debris out. SOME of the material he slings out may contaminate the area we cleaned in step one, so now:
Repeat the first step, ensuring that no material is left on the ear flap that can fall back into the ear canal. Be sure to moisten your Q-tip with one drop of Ear Cleanser. We want the Q-tip to glide across the skin of the ear and we want that same low pH over the entire ear. Besides, discharge will stick to a moistened Q-tip better than a dry one.
Dry the ears: Twist a cotton ball into a “white tornado”, or funnel shape. Gently insert this into the ear canal to act as a wick absorb as much cleaner as possible. Repeat until dry. If your pet will tolerate gentle, cool blow-drying of the ears, that will help to dry them further.
Now commit yourself to a schedule. A normal ear canal should be dark, warm and dry. If an ear canal becomes dark, warm and moist, it becomes susceptible to infection. Clean your pets’ ears at least weekly, and after every bath, swim or any exposure to water. In other words, if Saturday is your regular ear cleaning day, but he jumps in a mud puddle on Monday and needs a bath, he gets another ear cleaning! If, on Wednesday he escapes from the yard and jumps in the neighbor’s pool to cool off, he gets another ear cleaning!
This is the foundation for prevention of future ear problems via cleaning. Tomorrow we will discuss the basics of treatment that will allow your pet to have the fewest possible ear problems in his lifetime.
See you tomorrow, Dr. Randolph.