Dogs' ear infections are sometimes caused by allergies or by trapped wax, dirt and moisture. Boric acid, mixed with water and other carriers, can help keep ears clean and dry enough to prevent infection. However, ears that are already infected, which means you see signs of swelling, redness, irritation, brown or yellow discharge, or smell a foul odor, should not be treated at home. Infected ears can sometimes involve damage to the ear drums, and some ear cleaning solutions can permanently damage dogs' ears. The only way you'll know an ear cleaner, homemade or commercial, is safe is if your veterinarian says it is.
Boric acid serves double duty as an ear cleaning solution, both breaking down waxy debris and drying the skin. Debris trapped in your dog's ear, along with excessive moisture, encourages bacterial and fungal growth, which in turn leads to ear infections. Removing the buildup and reducing the moisture is key to preventing ear infections. Boric acid dries the ear just enough to be helpful, but not so much that it causes skin irritation.
Glycerin softens the skin in your dog's ear without adding moisture and also serves as an excellent carrier that coats the ear with the boric acid solution. Mix together 2 tablespoons boric acid and 1 tablespoon glycerin. If your dog's ear is red, inflamed or tender, do not use this solution.
The acid in vinegar works in concert with boric acid to soften and remove the wax buildup that traps dirt and moisture in your dog's ears. Mix together 1/4 cup vinegar (white or apple cider), 1/4 cup purified water, 2 tablespoons boric acid and 1 tablespoon witch hazel. The boric acid, water and vinegar will do the cleaning, while the witch hazel soothes the skin.
You can mix about 1/2 cup water and 2 tablespoons boric acid for an ear cleanser without any carriers or additives. Alternatively, you can use mineral, olive, tea tree or vitamin E oil to clean your dog's ears, or you can mix a small amount of boric acid with the oil before cleaning. If moisture is a serious problem, such as with Labrador retrievers who swim frequently, talk to you vet about effective ways of keeping your dog's ears dry.
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