If you're thinking "What's that smell?" too often these days, it could be time to check your dog's ears. Floppy-eared dogs are most susceptible to chronic ear infections and problems because of the anaerobic nature of their ears. Their ears are dark, moist places that get little air.
That Old Standby
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Vinegar seems to be the panacea that fixes everything from dirty windows to clogged coffeemakers. Add one more thing to the list—cleaning canine ears. For a gentle and effective homemade ear cleaner, start with a clean plastic bottle with a nozzle, the kind that comes with hair coloring products. Mix equal parts of white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, then add a few drops of rubbing alcohol. Dr. Lorraine Kassarjian, a South Florida veterinarian, developed this preparation and recommends it to all her clients. "I've had good results with it," says Dr. Kassarjian. "Just go easy on the alcohol because you don't need much and it could burn tender ears."
Vinegar and More
To pack a little more punch in the solution, you can add a few more ingredients. Again, you will need a suitable plastic bottle with a nozzle. To 6 ounces of apple cider vinegar add 1.5 teaspoons of boric acid. Shake until the powder is fully dissolved. Mix well. Add a teaspoon of Betadine, being careful not to spill any on yourself.
If you prefer a fragrant solution that's gentle and effective in breaking down waxy buildup, try an almond oil treatment. Place a few drops of almond oil in a shot glass. Immerse the glass in a cup of hot water. When the oil is comfortably warm, drop some into your dog's ear using a dropper or syringe. Allow the oil to travel down the ear canal, and massage the base of the ear. After a few minutes, wipe out the excess oil with a clean cloth. It's safe, gentle, effective and smells so good.
Several over-the-counter ear cleaners are available for dogs with chronic ear problems or sensitive ears and are available wherever pet supplies are sold. Xymox uses enzymatic action to clear away debris, inhibit bacteria, deodorize and aid in promoting ear health with routine use. Oxyfresh, Four Paws Anti-Itch Ear Wash and Halo's Herbal Ear Wash are all safe and gentle. Halo's has a witch hazel base and is made with a proprietary solution of herbal extracts. There are others, just check the labels and avoid any solutions with alcohol as a main ingredient.
Michelle A. Rivera is the author of many books and articles. She attended the University of Missouri Animal Cruelty School and is certified with the Florida Animal Control Association. She is the executive director of her own nonprofit, Animals 101, Inc. Rivera is an animal-assisted therapist, humane educator, former shelter manager, rescue volunteer coordinator, dog trainer and veterinary technician.