The Reading Corner

How to beat ear infections


Here's the recipe for an ear cleaning solution that will help to keep your dog's ears clean and infection free.

One of the most common floppy-eared dog health issues is ear infections. Because of the way the ear hangs down over the ear canal, and because of all that long hair on the ear, there isn't much ventilation in to the ear canal. Things get moist in there, and it's easy for infections to get started.

Lift up the ear and look inside the ear canal. If the skin has a red tint to it, or if you smell a cheesy smell, or if you see any kind of discharge... you've probably got an ear infection in there.

Ear infections can be very frustrating to treat! Veterinarians typically respond to ear infections by prescribing drops or ointments to fight the infection. These treatments are not only expensive, but have a low success rate. We've had a lot better results using a very inexpensive home-made ear cleaning solution. 

If given this treatment daily, the ears will show improvement within a few days, and will have the problem solved completely within about two weeks. After that, you only need to use this stuff every week or two. 

Warning: Do not use this ear cleaning solution on dogs with ruptured ear drums, or on dogs with open sores or wounds in the ear area. An ear exam by a veterinarian is recommended prior to beginning treatment with this ear cleaning solution.

Here's what you need to buy:

the ingredients for ear cleaning solutionThe ingredients you'll need are white vinegar, powdered boric acid, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), and Betadine antiseptic solution. Generic versions of the Betadine are known as Povidone-Iodine, and those are fine, too. Just be sure not to use "Betadine Scrub", which is Betadine with a detergent added. What you want is "Betadine Solution" or generic "Povidone-Iodine Solution".

Our home-made ear cleaning solutionYou'll also need an empty bottle to store your ear cleaning solution in, and from which you will squirt the solution in to your dog's ear. We recommend use of a plastic bottle with a long applicator snout, and with markings on the outside that show fluid levels in ounces. This makes it very easy to measure the ingredients as you pour them in to the bottle. A great place to find these is at beauty supply stores, as they are commonly used for hair-coloring solutions.

What you see in the picture is the final product. Here are the directions for mixing the solution together. Be sure to follow them in the order listed... I'll spare you the explanation of the chemistry involved, but trust me... to get the boric acid to dissolve properly, you need to do it exactly like this:

Pour six ounces of isopropyl alcohol in to your applicator bottle. (This is where those ounce measuring lines on the outside of the bottle really come in handy.) Next, add one and a half teaspoons of boric acid powder. An easy way to do that is to measure the powder, dump it on to a piece of paper, fold the paper in half and use the paper as a funnel to get the powder in to the plastic applicator bottle. Be careful not to get any boric acid on your skin or clothing. If you do, wash it off immediately.

Shake the solution up really well, until the boric acid powder is fully dissolved. Next, add two ounces of white vinegar. Shake it up some more. Finally, add one teaspoon of the generic Betadine antiseptic, and shake it some more. The solution should take on coloring similar to ice tea. Be careful not to get any of the Betadine on your skin or clothing. If you do, wash it off immediately.

That's it! You're ready to move on to the hardest part now... getting your dog to let you squirt this stuff inside the ear canal.

Applying this in to your dog's ears is usually easiest if you have a two-person team... one to hold the dog still with the ear up and out of the way, and the other person to squirt the solution in to the ear. All you have to do is squirt it in there until you have completely filled the ear canal with cleaning solution. But don't let go of the dog quite yet. Fold the ear back down over the ear canal, and use your hand to rub things around so that the ear cleaning solution gets sloshed around inside there pretty well. Keep the dog still for a minute or so... because as soon as you let go, the dog's going to shake his head, and a lot of that cleaning solution is going to go flying out. If you get any of the ear cleaning solution on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.

If you don't have someone who can help you hold the dog while you apply the cleaning solution, an alternative is to use a grooming table with a noose. The noose will keep the dog's head immobilized enough for you to do the job yourself. external link

Apply the cleaning solution to your dog's ears daily until you start to see some improvement. Once things get better, you can cut back to once a week... and when you're fully satisfied with the condition of the ear you can go two weeks between treatments. The ear cleaning solution can be stored at room temperature and, as far as I know, does not go bad with time.

One little tip: your dog won't object to you squirting this stuff in his ear so much if you make sure the solution is warmed up to body temperature first. They hate it when you squirt cold liquid in their ears! Don't use the microwave oven to heat the solution up, though... it's too easy to accidentally overheat it. Just put the bottle in a sunny window sill for an hour or so, prior to use. Or warm the bottle in a pan of warm water like you would a baby bottle.


There's one other thing you should be doing to avoid ear infections in your floppy-eared dog. 

To improve air circulation to the ear canal, it's important to keep the hair trimmed around the ear so that it doesn't block off the flow of air to the ear. Shave the area around the entrance to the ear canal, as well as the underside of the ear that hangs down and covers the ear canal entrance. external link

Taking proper steps to avoid ear infections is an important duty for every floppy-eared dog owner. Keep in mind that severe ear infections can lead to deafness in your dog, and will cost you serious money at the vet... so make the effort now to prevent ear infections before they get out of hand.