Q. One of my pet's ears seems very irritated. What I can use to clean it with?
JESSICA L DESROSIERS
A. Ear Irritation can be caused by a number of things ranging from allergies, ear infections or even mites. Dirty ears can also cause irritation and problems. Knowing the type of problem is best for figuring out how to treat it.
For plain dirty ears that do not have any odor, redness or leakage of discharge/debris, a simple over the counter canine ear cleaner can be used. Gently soak some cotton balls or a washcloth with the cleaner, and then use these to wipe out the flap of the ear and opening to the ear. Do NOT use Q-tips as these can become stuck or lodged in the curve of the ear canal and may cause injury to the ear drum.
If the ear is bright red or itchy without any dirt or debris in it, it may indicate an allergy. Sometimes an allergy medication can help provide relief in this situation. Your vet can give you the correct dosages of an over the counter allergy medication to use, or may recommend one specifically for dogs.
For infections and mites, changes to the ear such as bad smell or lots of debris and discharge, flecks of black or brown debris, or scabs and sores in the ear may be present. In these cases, it is best to have your vet take a sample of the ear debris to test for mites or infection. Your vet can then give you an ointment that is placed and left in the ear between ear cleanings. Most vets will then recommend cleaning the ears twice daily and then leaving in the ointment after for a period of ten days.
Ear mites ARE contagious to other pets, so if your dog does have them, it is best to treat any other pets in the house at the same time to prevent the mites from spreading around continuously.