CARE OF THE POODLE EAR (or any other drop-eared hairy dog)
by Grace L. Blair, M.D.
who do it. This is just my own method developed over 20+ years of caring for Standard Poodles who have very hairy
canals and long ear leathers. Many of my dogs have done field work, tracking, and obedience in all kinds of weather.
The Poodle ear canal is deep and dark and frequently the hair in the canal grows similar to the thickness and speed of
that on the body. At the bottom of the canal is the ear drum, and great care must be taken to not damage the drum.
The ear canal glands make wax to protect the delicate tissues. Because of the hair, the covering by the long and
heavy ear leathers, and the wax the ear is subject to infections, mites, ticks, and grass awns such as foxtails.
Principles of care:
Because infections, mites, ticks, etc., thrive in dark, moist , warm environments then the way to prevent such
problems is to provide a light, dry, clean environment in the ears. Some dogs seem to have very little ear canal hair
which makes ear care easier. My dogs grow hair in the ear canal at an astonishing rate. Therefore, this hair needs to
be removed at least on a monthly basis. I use a well lighted area and place the dog on it's side on a grooming table
and pull the hair out with a hemostat. These instruments can be obtained from most grooming supply services. After
the hair is carefully removed I clean the ear with a mild antiseptic solution. Some people prefer rubbing alcohol, but
that can be quite irritating to a sensitive ear canal. The solution is gently swabbed out using cotton balls. I then follow
up with instillation of a drying agent, many of which are on the market. My current favorite is made by Veterinarian's
Best and is called: Ear Relief Wash and Ear Relief Dry. These can be obtained from KV Vet supply at 1-800-423-
8211. Many people swear by use of white vinegar diluted with water in 1:4 mixture. Others use Epiotic or any of the
better cleansing agents.
Warning: A severe infection may result in ear drum perforation. NEVER put a cleanser or medications in an ear that
may have an open ear drum without the consultation of your veterinarian. Many agents that are safe to use in an
inflamed canal can be VERY dangerous to put into the middle ear and deafness or worse can result.
Symptoms of a problem:
If your dog has a brown material in the ear, shakes its head regularly and even cries when the head is shaken then
suspect an infection or worse yet, a foxtail in the ear. The ear may smell bad as well. You may need veterinary help to
get the problem under control.
Treatment of infections:
If your dog has a mild infection it can usually be cleared up by cleansing the ear and putting a drying agent into the ear
twice a day for about a week. If there is hair in the canal you must remove it. If the problem is not resolved or gets
worse you will need to see your Veterinarian . If your dog has frank pus in the ear then you should immediately seek
veterinary help and not delay with the above series of steps.
Before any antibiotics, either systemically or topically, are used a culture must be taken to be sure that the antibiotic is
the correct one for that particular infection. Be VERY careful of what antibiotics are used as many can damage the
hearing of your dog. Be sure to discuss this with your veterinarian. Some of the topical drugs often induce allergies so
also discuss this with your veterinarian. Most of the "mycins" can quickly damage hearing.
Some dogs have multiple skin allergies, allergic diarrhea, flea allergies, and some even have frequent sneezing and
scratching. This type of dog frequently also has a chronic ear problem. The ear leathers may be red and itchy. There
may even be hives on the ears. If this is the case you need to find what your dog is allergic to, be it an environmental
problem or a food or they type of shampoo you are using on the dog, or a flea product. You may need the help of a
Veterinary Dermatologist. As long as your dog has a topical allergy problem you will not be able to clear up the irritated
Because the ear canal is dark and damp some dogs develop a chronic fungus infection. This should NOT be treated
with steroids, as it will make the fungus infection worse. Some veterinarians attempt to treat an allergic dermatitis with
steroids and this usually results in an overgrowth of fungus in the ear. The treatment of a fungus infection is dry, dry,
dry, and then perhaps a topical fungus medicine. Usually keeping the ear DRY and acidic will clear up the fungus
For the serious chronic ear infection
it may be necessary to put the dog on a rigorous program of twice a day cleansing with TRIS-EDTA solution mixed
with an antibiotic such as Baytril plus systemic antibiotic for as long as as six weeks. Your veterinarian may
recommend a short course of topical steroid drops to reduce the inflammation and swelling so that the dog will be
more comfortable until the infection gets under control. Another good topical ear drop that is in use has a combination
of antibiotic and silver such as "Baytril otic".
Swimming and bathing:
If your dog loves the water make sure that after every session of swimming you clean the ears and put a drying agent
into them. If you keep your dog with long thick ear hair, then you must be sure that the ear hair is also dry when you
put the drying agent into the ear canal. When I bathe my dogs I always pour dilute shampoo into the ear canals,
massage the ears and head and then rinse very well with the spray nozzle. I find that this REALLY cleans out the ears
and I have not had an ear infection since starting the routine of shampooing into the ear canals and then using the Ear
Relief Wash followed up by the Ear Relief Dry.
The Immune Compromised Dog:
If your dog has a chronic ear infection you may wish to also consider adding echinacea tablets to the "plan". It appears
that this natural herb stimulates the natural immune defenses to help ward off a chronic infection, especially if the dog
is stressed, has undergone recent immunizations, or has a compromised immune system. This herb is NOT
recommended for long term therapy...a plan of 2 weeks of the daily tablets then 2 weeks off has been suggested by
some veterinarians. IF your dog has allergies as the basis for the chronic ear irritation then echinacea may not be
advisable, as allergies can be a manifestation of TOO MUCH immune function rather than a suppressed immune
Comments from Mr. John Campbell, (Dubhne reg.):
My [dogs] (all seven of them) get the "treatment" every week: a look at their eyes (for signs of mattering, etc.), ears
(including removing ALL of the hair inside so that a deep cleaning can be done), teeth examined for tarter and/or
defects, and cleaned if needed, anal glands, baths and trims (at which time a good examination of the overall outsides
of the dogs is made) and a careful look at feet and toenails (toenails clipped, of course) is done. Some veterinarians
have the opinion that only they can do some of this maintenance, and, by the time that the average dog owner realizes
that there is a problem, it just reinforces their convictions. Preventative maintenance is a wonderful thing. (and results
in fewer vet bills)
Blue Power Ear Treatment:
gravely serious condition such as a RUPTURED EARDRUM or a foreign body in the ear channel. Treating the dogs
ear in this condition could do irreparable damage and lead to deafness. A simple swab and culture can reveal what
bacteria is there, or yeast or ear mites. PLEASE Be cautious, you're dealing with your pet's hearing!
16 Oz. Isopropyl Alcohol
4 Tablespoons Boric Acid Powder
16 Drops Gentian Violet Solution 1%
Mix together in alcohol bottle and shake well. You will also need to shake solution every time you use it to disperse the
Boric Acid Powder. To use, purchase the "Clairol" type plastic bottle to dispense solution to affected ears.
TREATMENT: Evaluate condition of ears before treating and if very inflamed and sore do not attempt to pull hair or
clean out ear at all. Wait until inflammation has subsided which will be about 2 days.
Shake the bottle each time before using. Flood the ear with solution (gently squirt bottle), massage gently to the count
of 60, wipe with a tissue. Flood again on first treatment, wipe with a tissue, and leave alone without massage. The dog
will shake out the excess which can be wiped with a tissue, the Gentian Violet does stain fabrics.
SCHEDULE OF TREATMENT
Treat 2x per day for the first week to two weeks depending upon severity of ears
Treat 1x per day for the next 1-2 weeks
Treat 1x per month (or even less frequently, depending on the dog)
All of these ingredients should be available at a pharmacy. The Boric Acid Powder soothes the ear. The Gentian Violet
Solution is an anti-infection agent. The solution appears to work well on any and all ear problems from mites to wax to
canker. After the second or third you can clean out the ear with a Q-tip or cotton balls. Their success rate for this
treatment is 95-99%. Those who do not succeed have usually not done the treatment long enough or have not been
regular about it.
Dogs on the verge of ear canal surgery have been returned to normal with only the regular follow-up treatment to keep
the ear healthy. If an infection seems to be remaining in the treated ear after the above course of treatment, you may
also have some Pseudomonas bacteria in the site. This can be eradicated by using a gentle flush of raw apple cider
vinegar and water (warm). Use 2 Tablespoons of vinegar to one cup of water, 2x per week.
They have found the Blue Power Solution to be effective for treating fungus-type infections on the feet and elsewhere
on the dog, for cuts on dogs or people, and for hot spots. You may find other uses for this simple anti-infective agent.
Remember it is for external use only and be careful not to get into the eyes.
Another very popular EAR TREATMENT: Domes Solution
1 tablet or 1 package (1 oz.) of Domes (Domeboro) powder
3 parts white vinegar (3 ozs.)
1 part alcohol (1 oz)
Combine ingredients, add enough water to make a pint. Use water that has been boiled at least 5 minutes, but cool
the water before making the solution. Pour some of this solution into the ear, rub gently, and swab with cotton.
The Standard Poodle has hair that grows in his ear. Some dogs grow more hair than others. This hair must
be removed... not some of it... all of it. If you take your dog to the groomers make sure the groomer is
removing all of it. You can do this yourself but make sure you first dust your fingers with ear powder so it is
easier to remove the hair. Do not remove all the hair at once or you can cause you dogs ears to bleed.
Bleeding ears can get infected which is what you are trying to avoid to begin with!
If your dog has a lot black or dark brown discharge from the ear or the ear smells bad go to your vet - your
dog has an ear infection.
Another symptom of an ear infection is the dog shaking his head all the time or holding his head to the side.
Make sure your vet does a proper visual exam and takes a swab of the ear. Some vets will prescribe
antibiotics instead of diagnosing the problem. If your vet gives you antibiotics and the problem isn't bacterial
but simply a yeast infection your dogs ears will get WORSE! Insist upon a proper assessment.