1. How to clean ears at home: Ear infections can be prevented by keeping the ears very clean. Place a 1-2 inch layer of dish soap ( Joy, Ivory, Dawn, etc–any soap you use to hand wash dishes) in a 16 oz plastic spray bottle then fill it with warm tap water. While pulling the ear away from the head and up slightly, spray this heavy soap solution 20-30 times vigorously into the ear canal. No matter how much your pet objects you are really not seriously hurting them and it is extremely necessary to do. Massage the ear well and let the pet shake its head. Then use another spray bottle filled with only clean water to flush out the soap and debris. You may need to repeat this process 2-3 times in a row to get them clean. Do not worry about getting water in your pets ears as you must clean out the debris or the ear ointment will not work. When a dog shakes it head the ear is now 99% dry! Special NOTE: Some dogs with chronic ear infections will need cleaning 2-4 times a month. After each cleaning you should place prescription ear ointment (Otomax, Posatex, Otibiotic, Malotic, Triotic) in the ear. When done as maintenance, the ointment only needs to be put in the ears one time. The prescription ear ointment can be purchased as needed without bringing in your dog for an exam. A large 8oz bottle of ear ointment is available to purchase if you need it.
2. CAUSES of Ear Infections: Foreign bodies ( grass, shed hair), ear mites, allergies inflaming the ear skin, small polyps (growths). Anything that irritates the ear lining allows normally present bacteria or yeast to overgrow and cause infection.
The number 1 cause of ear infections is LOW GRADE SKIN ALLERGIES causing the skin of the ear canal to become inflamed and thus allowing any bacteria or fungus/yeast that is present to become a serious infection.
3. DIAGNOSIS of the type of infection: An ear swab of the infection is smeared on a microscope slide, stained and examined under the microscope to determine what type of infection (bacteria, yeast, or both)
4. TREATMENT for ear infections:
A. Ear cleaning is First: Ears filled with pus, yeast, hair, grass must be completely cleaned before treatment with ear ointment can begin. Otherwise, the ointment will not come in contact with the skin surface where the infection is happening. In over half of the cases this must be done under general anesthesia in order to use special instruments to grab and remove the debris in the ear canal. Occasionally, the ear drum is not intact and infection extends to the middle ear. In some rare instances, cleaning the debris from the middle ear results in partial or complete deafness. Most often this deafness is temporary ( 1 to 3 weeks).
B. Ear ointment (made of antibiotic/cortisone/antifungal) will need to be used once daily. Insert the tip of the tube deep in the ear canal and squeeze as your withdraw. Massage ear well to spread the ointment throughout the ear. It is not necessary to fill the ear canal each time or you will run out of it in 3-4 days.
C. Injections of cortisone with antibiotic are placed underneath the skin of the ear canal where it will calm down the pain and inflammation quickly. Results from this injection can occur in the first 24-48 hrs.
D. Oral antibiotics or Oral antifungals are dispensed depending upon the type of infection.
E. Ear mites: medication will be dispensed ( Revolution for cats and Cerumite/Eradimite for dogs ).
5. RECHECKING THE EAR: It is very important to recheck the ear in 14-21 days to make sure the infection is COMPLETELY gone. Current cost of this ear recheck exam is $15.
6. SURGICAL EARS: Ears that have been infected repeatedly may only be resolved surgically by a Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA)
TECA: This surgery totally removes the ear canal, ear drum remnants, and the middle ear. A TECA is indicated when the ear has been infected for so long that scar tissue and chronic infection has swollen the ear canal permanently shut. At this point, cleaning the ear canal and managing the ear problems is no longer possible. Once this surgery is done the ear flap remains but there is no longer a functional ear. Hearing will be lost permanently. Complications that can occur with a TECA surgery are: facial sagging on the affected side of the head along with drooling, dizziness, dry eye, and/or chronic draining infected tracts. While important to consider, complications are very unlikely and most often temporary. The benefits of a TECA surgery far outweigh any risk as this surgery will permanently remove the chronic pain associated with chronic ear infections.