In our last installment, we brought up the issue of being up at the cottage, with the dog’s irritated ears threatening the poor creature’s sanity, and the nearest vet 3 hours away…
Fear not, all is not lost: there is something that you can do!
EAR CLEANING IS YOUR BEST FRIEND.
Do yourself a favour and get a REAL dog ear cleaner. Vinegar does acidify the ear, which does have a disinfecting effect in a NON-inflamed ear, but when there is inflammation this is like lemon juice in a paper cut. Hydrogen peroxide is disinfecting, but the heat and bubbles down the ear are disconcerting to a dog. And both are water based – this means not only do they not dissolve waxy material, but you just added more moisture to the ear (see note on the “incubator” effect in the previous blog!).
A veterinary ear cleaner is not water-based, and does not have stinging alcohol like a lot of the pet store ear cleaners. It is propylene glycol based – an inert substance that displaces the water out of the ear, then works its way out to leave a DRY surface. Veterinary ear cleaners do have acidifying agents, that sting less than vinegar. And many of them have wax-softening agents, handy if you are trying to shift a “bean” of ear wax. It will soften up the wax so that what does not come out today will come with tomorrow’s cleaning.
Cleaning technique: this is best taught by demonstration, so while you are at home base, go to your vet’s office to get educated! For a summary:
- Pull the ear flap up, out and back to open up the ear canal. The “out” part is important – you want the ear canal to gape, not get squashed flat.
- FILL UP the ear canal with the cleaner fluid. You should be able to see a “pond” of it welling back up to the ear opening.
- Massage the vertical canal – this is the part that is tricky to get right, and where demonstration and hand-over-hand really helps. You want to have that tube of cartilage up between your thumb and fingers, getting really compressed so that the fluid makes a vigourous “squishing” noise. This not only breaks up what is under your fingers in the vertical canal, it gives you back-and-forth pumping action to flush the horizontal canal. You need to work the cartilage! Pinching the skin over the ear tube is not helping you at all.
- Let your dog have a good shake to bring the fluid back to the surface (do NOT wear your good clothes for this!!)
- NOW is the appropriate time to use your finger tip: use a cotton-ball or cloth over your finger, and wipe up whatever came to the surface with a scooping motion. DO NOT go sticking cotton swabs into the ear! If you want to use a Q-tip to get into some of the crevices of the ear flap, lay the Q-tip FLAT to the ear so that it can not jam down the canal if the dog suddenly moves his head.
Coming next: The Long Haul – I Never Want to Have to Deal With This Again