Ear cleaning can be successful (if your veterinary clients follow these tips!)

March 19, 2020
dvm360 Staff

Don’t let faulty ear cleaning be the reason your veterinary patients suffer from chronic ear disease.

cleaning dog's ear
kudrashka / stock.adobe.com

Cleaning the ears is an important and crucial step in the effective management of chronic ear disease in dogs and cats, says James Noxon, DVM, DACVIM.

Do your veterinary clients understand just how important it is? If not, run through Dr. Noxon’s handy list with them:

1. Cleaning removes debris, such as wax, that may cause irritation of the ear canal.

2. Cleaning removes debris that will block movement of medication into the horizontal canal and the self-cleansing mechanism.

3. Cleaning removes material that may interfere with the “self-cleansing” mechanism.

4. Cleaning may help to lower the burden of bacteria in the ear.

5. Cleaning removes debris (e.g. pus, biofilm) that can interfere with the activity of topical (and systemic) otic medications.

The cleaner you get the canal, the better the chances are that your topical medication will work, says Dr. Noxon. “Keep in mind that the efficacy of some topical medications—such as polymyxin B sulfates and some aminoglycosides—is dramatically reduced in the presence of a suppurative exudate,” he says. Starting with an ear cleaning works in everyone’s favor.

Of course, the type of ear cleaning you select is your choice. For mild cases, it may suffice to use a basic technique of filling the canal with cleanser, massaging the canal, then removing excess cleanser and debris with a cotton ball. Repeat this process until otoscopic exam confirms that most of the debris has, in fact, been removed, Dr. Noxon says.

Lastly, a good rule of thumb according to Dr. Noxon: Deep ear cleaning or flushing (under general anesthesia) is indicated if you cannot definitively visualize the tympanic membrane prior to treatment.