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Monday, August 4, 2014

Safe Homemade Dog Ear Wash

I have two dogs, Chunk and Duke.

Here's Chunk, my 3 year old Yorkie-Poo
Here's Duke, my 8 year old Chocolate Lab/
Sussex Spaniel mix.

I WUV them with all my heart, and they're the closest thing I have to children for now.  I give them better quality food than I eat myself, and I do everything I can to make sure they are healthy and happy.  Duke, being part spaniel, has some nasty ears sometimes. It's just the nature of a spaniel; they need their ears cleaned rather often. I bought this stuff, and every few weeks I squirt in a few drops, rub his ears a bit, and call it good. I also do this for Chunk about once a month. I do his haircuts myself, and so I don't pluck the hair out of the inside of his ears (I feel like it's mean, that's gotta hurt!), so I just trim it very short instead of hurting him.  I also use cleaner for good measure to prevent infection.  I decided today to look at the label of this cleaner, and after I tell you all the awful things I discovered about the ear cleaner, I'm going to give you a recipe to make some that's safe and all natural.

Here's the stuff I've been using.

Let's look at the ingredients of the store-bought product:

The first ingredients are water, denatured alcohol, corn oil, and glycerin.  Those are harmless, but then it starts to get bad:

Next on the list is PEG-40 Sorbitan Peroleate.  This is added as a surfectant/foaming agent.  Now, I'm actually really against the idea that people shouldn't consume what they can't pronounce, because the chemical name for anything is sometimes hard to pronounce. This chemical, however, seems rather unnecessary and is associated with organ toxicity. Honestly, it's not horrible, but why bother if it's just for foam?

The next ingredient is Tocopherol, which is basically vitamin E.  

The next ingredient--and one that concerns me--is Diazolidinyl Urea.  The EWG describes this chemical as a "formaldehyde releaser" in cosmetic products. Basically, it adds formaldehyde to the product. No thanks!

Next is Sodium Benzoate, another preservative, which is associated with cancer and organ toxicity.

And next, surprise!  It's another preservative!  Phenoxyethanol, in addition to organ toxicity concerns, can be very irritating to skin, eyes, and lungs. I really don't feel good about that fact that I've been putting this into my doggies' ears. 

Potassium Sorbate is yet another preservative found in this stuff!  Oh my goodness, how much do you really need to add to alcohol and oil so it doesn't go bad?!

The last ingredient?  Fragrance.  I love perfume as much as the next person, but to put it into my dog's body?  How unnecessary!  Especially when studies have shown just how bad they can be for people, I imagine they cannot be good for my furbabies.  Here's a great article about fragrances and the possible harm they can cause. 

Now for the safer and more natural recipe:


Apple Cider Vinegar (I always use Bragg's)
Vegetable Glycerin  (alternatively, you can use olive oil)
Witch Hazel

Empty 6 ounce bottle, preferable with a squirt lid.  I used the bottle that my store bought ear cleaner came in,
since it had a nice tip for squirting the product into the dogs' ears.

The recipe is quite simple, just add 1/4 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1/4 cup of witch hazel, and1 tablespoon of glycerin into your empty bottle.  There will be a little bit of space left, and I just added a bit of warm water to fill it up, but that is optional.  That's it!  Put the lid on and go.  However, since, if you're reading my blog post still, you probably want to know why I chose these ingredients and not others.

Other ingredients I could have used include tea tree oil, which is a go-to for anything antibacterial for me, but since it is very toxic to dogs and the ears' eustachian tubes can drain into the throat, I would rather not risk accidentally poisoning my dog, even if it is a very slim chance that such a small amount would hurt them--but I'm not willing to risk it.

Others also have used borax, but this is another relatively safe ingredient that is harmful to dogs if swallowed. 

As for the ingredients I did use, here's why:  I used apple cider vinegar because of its cleaning properties, as well as antifungal properties. Dogs are prone to yeast infections in their ears, so apple cider vinegar is a natural solution to that. 

Next, the witch hazel.  Besides the fact that it's cheap as heck, it helps heal irritation and inflammation, and it cleans.  It is also extremely safe.  As an added bonus, if you buy the dollar bottle at Dollar Tree, that bottle would be perfect to use for this ear cleaner recipe!  

Finally the vegetable glycerin.  I wanted to use something to soothe the skin of my doggies' ears after I just basically annihilated any bacteria with vinegar (which can be pretty irritating stuff in itself), so I opted to use glycerin. It's a natural ingredient, and it is very soothing to skin without getting too goopy.  Olive oil is a substitute you can use in this recipe instead of glycerin, but I think it will be a bit messier and greasy, and I was worried that my dog may rub his ear on the furniture and then I'd have an oil stain. Glycerin won't do that. 

Here's how to use the solution:
Make sure you are outside with your dog when you use this stuff, they will shake their head to get the excess out of their ears!  I fold back one of my dog's ears and put 5-6 drops into Chunk's ear, and more for Duke's ear. I fold the ear back down and rub it in a circular motion. I then keep my hand on the dog's ear so he does not start to shake the cleaner and ear gunk all over me, and then I repeat the process on the other ear. You may need more solution, you may need less. With this stuff, since there's no harsh chemicals, you can probably use a lot more and not have trouble. Anyway, at this point, keep your hands on the dog's ears and get ready to back away quickly, because the dog WILL shake his head and get stuff all over you.  You may not want to wear nice clothes while doing this. It's not a messy process, really, but if the dog happens to shake too close to you, you're at least going to end up stinking like vinegar. And possibly dog earwax.

So, here it is, my new and safer dog ear cleaning solution.  I trust that the vinegar itself is enough of a preservative that I don't need any formaldehyde, haha..  I hope it works for you, too, and please feel free to post suggestions in the comments!

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