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September 1, 2015

So says Cheryl Lent, a stylist at Doggie Styles in Bloomington, Ind.

“Clients expect us to solve everything at one stop,” she said. “But cleaning once every six weeks is not enough ear care.”

Failing to keep a dog’s ears cleaned properly could lead to a trip to the vet. But don’t fear, there are a number of products on the market that can do the trick, safely and effectively.

Lent and her colleague, stylist Lori Wilkerson, talked with Pet Age about the best products for ear care – and advice on how to use them.

Keep Them Dry

Lent and Wilkerson both emphasized the importance of keeping water out of a dog’s ears during grooming. Leaving water in the ear canal, they said, increases the risk of infection.

To combat this, both recommended a drying powder. There are several options on the market, including medicated ear powders.

Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash & Dry for Dogs, for example, leaves the bottle as a liquid but changes into a drying powder once squirted into the ear. It serves to both prevent buildup and to sooth irritation.
Another option is Bio-Groom Ear Fresh, which contains a specific technology that grips to the hair in the ear canal, making removing with tweezers easier.

The Cleaning

Lent recommended a number of products for use during at-home maintenance.

Natural solutions, Lent said, are increasing in popularity because alcohol-based cleansers can cause dogs discomfort, making at-home cleaning difficult for both the dog owner and the dog. And natural solutions are gentler and aren’t usually accompanied by stinging, making them an increasingly preferred choice.

There are a number of products to choose from, including NaturVet Ear Wash with Tea Tree Oil for Pets and Burt’s Bees for Dogs Ear Cleaner.

Another natural cleaning solution is Dr. Harvey’s Herbal Ear Wash. The base of the product is witch hazel, but it also contains herbal extracts. It is designed to cleanse while soothing.

And then there’s Vet’s Best Ear Relief Wash & Dry for Dogs, which is a companion product to the Vet’s Best drying powder.

Wipes, Lent said, also are recommended.

“I like herbal ear care wipes,” she said. “They’re convenient, they smell good and they’re gentle.”

Lent feels wipes can be both fast and effective.

TrueBlue’s Super Easy Ear Wipes are just that — super easy. The pads are pre-moistened with the herbal cleaning solution, allowing the ears to be cleaned with a few easy swipes. The formula is detergent-free, hypoallergenic, pH-balanced and free from sulfates, parabens or artificial colors, and the wipes are biodegradable.

Earthbath Ear Wipes contain a witch hazel base along with plant extracts. These wipes also contain no parabens, phosphates, pthalates, DEA, synthetic dyes or perfumes, and are easy for clients to use for at-home, routine maintenance.

To Trim or Not To Trim

Wilkerson mentioned that the debate about dog ear hair — to trim, to pull, to leave alone — is unresolved between groomers, the vet community and pet owners.

The decision often is left to them, but Wilkerson said she wished that a clear set of guidelines would emerge.

“The vet community, the specialists and the non-specialists need to do more communication,” she said. “We have some vets that say absolutely do this and then guidelines that are different.”

Ultimately, though, she refers to the veterinarian community.

Wilkerson has concerns about air being able to circulate through a dog’s ear – and recommends products that can help.

“I recommend a snood, something to keep the ear canals open to let air be able to get down in there,” she said. “Or put the ears up with soft bands you can get for your hair.”

Wilkerson feels air flow helps prevent buildup and infection.

Because ear care can swiftly go from the aesthetic to the medical realm, the salon is poised to make product recommendations to customers to use at home for maintenance between appointments.

If a groomer notices a gunky buildup in the ear, it’s an opportunity to educate the dog owner on how to properly clean the dog’s ears and recommend a take-home product.

Be prepared to teach your client how to clean his or her dog’s ears with a specific product as a natural add-on to regular grooming services.

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