How to beat
ear infections

Here's the not-so-secret recipe for an ear cleaning solution
that will help to keep your dog's ears clean and infection free

Click here to go to our main Cocker Spaniel page

One of the most common Cocker Spaniel health issues is ear infections.  Because of the way the Cocker's ear hangs down over the ear canal, and because of the long hair on the ear, there isn't much ventilation in to the ear canal.  Things get warm and moist in there, and those are ideal conditions for infections to get started.

Lift up the ear and look inside the ear canal.  If the skin has a red tint to it, or if you smell a cheesy smell, or if you see any kind of discharge...  you've probably got an ear infection in there.

Ear infections can be very frustrating to treat!  Veterinarians typically respond to ear infections by prescribing drops or ointments to fight the infection.  My personal experience has been (and others from around the world have written to share similar stories) that these treatments are not only expensive, but have a low success rate.  We've had a lot better results using a very inexpensive home-made ear cleaning solution.  The recipe was given to us by the former Secretary of the Cocker Spaniel club of San Diego county...  and is an improved version of a recipe that's been used in the Cocker show world for decades.

So, if your veterinarian's treatment plan hasn't been working for you, try the following recipe.  My experience has been that a dog with an ear infection, if given this treatment daily, will show improvement within a few days, and will have the problem solved completely within about two weeks.  After that, you only need to use this stuff every week or two.  By the way...  once you've tried it and have seen how well it works, be sure to share the recipe with your vet so they will have a new weapon in their arsenal!

My inbox is full of positive comments about this homemade ear cleaner from people all around the world.  Here are just a few of the actual comments I've received from people who have written to thank me for sharing the recipe:

"What a life saver on the bank account.  I can't even add up all the money I've spent on ear products from the vet or animal supply stores.  Two of my Cocker's were on Otomax on and off year round.  We have not been to the vet in over 6 months since I started using your recipe.
THANK YOU, THANK YOU!
"   (from Fresno, California)

"Just wanted to say, THANK YOU for your recipe for dog ear cleaning.  Our 10 yr. old Black Cocker stayed in the Vets. office most of the time for about 7 years with ear infections.  So three years ago I got on the internet determined to find something that would help.  I came across your Web Site.  Koko hasn't had an ear infection since I started using your recipe.  In fact his Vet Doctor wanted the recipe for her dogs.  She started recommending your recipe to her dog owners who used the Vet Clinic where she works.  It really works. "   (location unknown)

"I have two parti colored cockers...  one female and one male.  We have had constant yeast infections with the female's ears since we got her at eight weeks of age.  Since I made the recipe and started using it 3 months ago, Cassie has not had one infection or any smell to her ears.  I cannot thank you enough for this information which you shared on your website.  I know my vet is missing the hundreds of dollars we have spent there for the last umpteen years!"  (from south Florida)

"Just a quick email to thank you for the ear cleaner recipe.  I do not currently own a Cocker Spaniel, but a very lively Jack Russell Terrier.  We have had a few rounds of problem ear infections with her and after several very expensive vet trips and medications I came across your website one late evening...  I'm so glad I did!  Not only did I enjoy your Cockers, but I finally solved my Hannah's ear problems in just a few short weeks using your ear cleaner recipe.  Thanks soooooo much!"  (location unknown)

"I have to write and give you a BIG THANK YOU for your recipe for dog ear cleaning.  My bloodhound mix has had a battle for 2 years.  She has been on Synotic drops, Baytril, ear ointments.  Nothing worked.  I came across your recipe and it worked great.  I just wanted you to know that.  My vet was in total amazement.  Her ears were bothering her so bad it was pitiful.  Again thank you!!!!"  (location unknown)

"Thank you so much for posting this on the web.  The vets have tried everything for our little guys ongoing ear infection.  Nothing worked.  I tried your cleaner and two weeks later his ears are clean and infection free!!!  I will recommend this to every dog owner I know!"  (location unknown)


Warning:  Do not use this ear cleaning solution on dogs with ruptured ear drums, or on dogs with open sores or wounds in the ear area.
An ear exam by a veterinarian is recommended prior to beginning treatment with this ear cleaning solution.

Here's what you need to buy:

the ingredients for ear cleaning solution
If you'd like a copy of the recipe that you can print out
click here

The ingredients you'll need are white vinegar, powdered boric acid, isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol), and Betadine antiseptic solution.  Generic versions of the Betadine are known as Povidone-Iodine, and those are fine, too.  Just be sure not to use "Betadine Scrub", which is Betadine with a detergent added.  What you want is "Betadine Solution" or generic "Povidone-Iodine Solution".

The first time we looked for the boric acid and the Betadine, we had no clue where to find it...  but our local Pharmacist was happy to point us in the right direction.  They used to keep boric acid in stock out in the pharmacy section of drug stores and you could buy it "over the counter".  Recently, it's gotten a little harder to get after the regulations got tightened regarding selling it...  since boric acid can be used to manufacture illegal drugs.  These days, you usually won't find it just sitting out on the shelf of your local drug store.  You usually do have to ask the pharmacist for it.  If you have any trouble finding it locally, you can buy boric acid powder at Amazon.com

Our home-made ear cleaning solution You'll also need an empty bottle to store your ear cleaning solution in, and from which you will squirt the solution in to your dog's ear.  We recommend use of a plastic bottle with a long applicator snout, and with markings on the outside that show fluid levels in ounces.  This makes it very easy to measure the ingredients as you pour them in to the bottle.  A great place to find these is at beauty supply stores, as they are commonly used for hair-coloring solutions.  You can also buy the applicator bottles at Amazon.com if you can not find it locally.

What you see in the picture to the right is our final product.  Here are the directions for mixing the solution together.  Be sure to follow them in the order listed...  I'll spare you the explanation of the chemistry involved, but trust me...  to get the boric acid to dissolve properly, you need to do it exactly like this:

Pour six ounces of isopropyl alcohol in to your applicator bottle.  (This is where those ounce measuring lines on the outside of the bottle really come in handy.)  Next, add one and a half teaspoons of boric acid powder.  An easy way to do that is to measure the powder, dump it on to a piece of paper, fold the paper in half and use the paper as a funnel to get the powder in to the plastic applicator bottle.  Be careful not to get any boric acid on your skin or clothing.  If you do, wash it off immediately.

Shake the solution up really well, until the boric acid powder is fully dissolved.  Next, add two ounces of white vinegar.  Shake it up some more.  Finally, add one teaspoon of the generic Betadine antiseptic, and shake it some more.  The solution should take on coloring similar to ice tea.  Be careful not to get any of the Betadine on your skin or clothing.  If you do, wash it off immediately.

That's it!  You're ready to move on to the hardest part now...  getting your Cocker to let you squirt this stuff inside the ear canal.

One thing to keep in mind is that the ear cleaner contains Betadine, which is orange-colored and will stain carpet, furniture, etc.  So, you should apply the ear cleaner to your dog outdoors or in your garage or in your bathtub...  somewhere where nothing important can get stained when the dog shakes his head and the ear cleaning solution is flung in to the air.

Applying this in to your Cocker's ears can be done by one person, but it's easier if you have a two-person team...  one to hold the dog still with the ear up and out of the way, and the other person to squirt the solution in to the ear.  All you have to do is squirt it in there until you have completely filled the ear canal with cleaning solution.  But don't let go of the dog quite yet.  Fold the ear back down over the ear canal, and use your hand to rub things around so that the ear cleaning solution gets sloshed around inside there pretty well.  Keep the dog still for a minute or so...  because as soon as you let go, the dog's going to shake his head, and a lot of that cleaning solution is going to go flying out.  If you get any of the ear cleaning solution on your skin, wash it off as soon as possible.

grooming table If you don't have someone who can help you hold the dog while you apply the cleaning solution, an alternative is to use a grooming table with a noose, similar to what they would use at a professional dog groomer.  The noose will keep the dog's head immobilized enough for you to do the job yourself.

Apply the cleaning solution to your dog's ears daily until you start to see some improvement.  Once things get better, you can cut back to once a week...  and when you're fully satisfied with the condition of the ear you can go two weeks between treatments.  The ear cleaning solution can be stored at room temperature and, as far as I know, does not go bad with time.

One little tip:  your dog won't object to you squirting this stuff in his ear so much if you make sure the solution is warmed up to body temperature first.  They hate it when you squirt cold liquid in their ears!  Don't use the microwave oven to heat the solution up, though...  it's too easy to accidentally overheat it.  Just put the bottle in a sunny window sill for an hour or so, prior to use.  Or warm the bottle in a pan of warm water like you would a baby bottle.

Click here for a printer-friendly version of the recipe.  If you would prefer a version of the recipe which uses metric system measurements, use this version.

Watch me make a batch of the ear cleaner and apply it to the ears of one of my dogs in this segment from my 7-part video series on Cocker Spaniel Grooming:


Frequently asked questions about our homemade ear cleaning solution

Is it safe to use on my dog?
As long as the ear drum is intact and there are no open sores, scratches, punctures, or wounds in the dog's ear...   yes.  For example, if your dog has scratched his ears with his claws and broken the skin...  it would not be a good idea to use the ear cleaning solution until that wound has fully healed, because the alcohol would sting and the boric acid would have a path to the bloodstream.  Also, please be careful not to accidentally get any of the ear cleaning solution in to your dog's eyes.  If your dog's ear drum has ruptured or been punctured, the ear cleaning solution would be very bad for your dog.  Therefore, the safest thing to do would be to have your vet do an examination of your dog's ear first, before starting treatment with this ear cleaner...  to ensure the ear drum is intact and there are no open sores which would allow the ear cleaner to get in to the blood stream.

Boric acid is used in some roach killing products.  Can't it poison my dog?
Similar to the last answer...  as long as there are no sores, wounds, etc. in the ear...  the boric acid will not get in to the dog's system.  Yes, you don't want your dog licking or drinking this stuff...  but it's safe to use in the ear.  When he shakes his head and the ear cleaning solution goes flying everywhere, you might want to use a towel to wipe any off of his coat.

In the store I've seen isopropyl alcohol that is 70% alcohol, and I've also seen some that is 91% alcohol.  Which should I get
The lower the concentration of alcohol, the more diluted with water it is.  Water is bad inside dog ears...  so you want to get the highest alcohol concentration you can find.  I've heard of 99% isopropyl alcohol, although I've never seen it in my local stores.  I always buy 91% isopropyl alcohol from Rite Aid.

The products all say "not for internal use" yet you are asking me to insert these in my dogs ear!  Are you nuts?
It's like the difference between putting soap in your mouth and in your belly button.  As long as the ear drum is intact, the ear canal is a sealed cavity.  The ear cleaning solution goes in, it gets squished around, and then the dog shakes his head and all the ear cleaning solution comes out.

Should I use a cotton ball, q-tip, Kleenex, etc. to clean out my dog's ear?
If there is a lot of "gunk" inside the ear...  yes, feel free to use something to help clean all that stuff out of there.  Once you've done this for a few days in a row, you'll get all the big stuff out of there and the flushing action of the ear cleaning solution will do the rest.

My Veterinarian has recommended a total ablation of the ear.  Will the ear cleaning solution help?
If your dog has had a severe ear infection for so long that the ear has calcified and sealed itself closed, you've probably waited too long to start using the ear cleaning solution.  If the ear canal has sealed itself closed, the ear cleaning solution won't be able to get inside to work.  However, there's no harm in trying.  You can try using the ear cleaning solution and using cotton balls and q-tips to clear out some of the major crud inside the ear.  Over time, you might be able to clean things out to the point that the ear canal opens up.  It's worth a try.  You wouldn't really be risking much to put the surgery off for a month and see if daily cleaning with our ear cleaning solution can accomplish anything.  I did once get an email from someone who successfully cleared things up inside the ear to the point that their vet agreed that surgery was no longer needed.

Is this only for dogs that have a full-blown ear infection in progress, or can I use it on a healthy dog to prevent him from ever getting an ear infection?
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  Use it once every one or two weeks to prevent your dog from getting an ear infection.  On dogs that are currently experiencing an ear infection, use it daily.

I've been using the ear cleaning solution for several weeks, but my dog STILL has an ear infection.  Now what?
While the ear cleaning solution will successfully eliminate ear infections in many dogs, there is the occasional serious infection that requires professional veterinary treatment.  We used this ear cleaning solution on all of our dogs for many years, and it worked great except for in one really bad infection that ended up requiring antibiotics to beat.  After the vet put that one dog on antibiotics, the ear cleaning solution has kept infections from ever coming back in that dog.

The measurements in the recipe are in ounces.  Can you convert that to metric measurements for me?
One ounce equals 30 ml.  So, that's 180 ml of alcohol, and 60 ml of vinegar.  For the boric acid, 1/2 tablespoon equals 7.5 ml.  For the betadine, 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml.

I have looked in every drug store in my town and can not find any boric acid.  Is there a substitute?
The boric acid is an important ingredient, so I suggest you use the recipe as written.  Because boric acid can be used in the manufacture of certain illegal drugs, most drug stores do not leave it just sitting out on the shelf with all their other products.  No prescription is required, but it is usually kept behind the counter.  Just ask your pharmacist for it.  I have a friend who works in a CVS pharmacy and she assures me that just about any drug store should be able to obtain boric acid powder for you.  Just ask the pharmacist for help.  Another option, of course, is to purchase the boric acid powder over the Internet...

I can't find one of those plastic applicator bottles with the long snout, like what you have pictured on your web page.  Any suggestions?
We got ours at a beauty supply store.  However, you can use just about any kind of container with a long tip that is small enough to squirt the solution inside the ear canal.  It ain't rocket science.  An ear dropper or an oral syringe from a drug store will work just fine.  We just happen to like the plastic applicator from the beauty supply store because it has markings on the side that show ounces...  so it becomes very easy to measure the ingredients when pouring them in to the bottle.  Another option, of course, is to purchase the applicator bottle over the Internet...

Can the Betadine be purchased online?
You can purchase anything online these days!  But you really should look in your local pharmacy...  I think you might be able to find it cheaper.  Here's a link to Betadine at Amazon.com, but I bet you could spend less locally by finding a smaller bottle.  You don't need much of it.  On the other hand, it's good to have some of this in your medicine cabinet...  for use in an emergency.  It's really good for sterilizing wounds...  kind of like if there were such a thing as industrial strength triple antibiotic ointment.

I see that the boric acid, the betadine, and the applicator bottle can be bought at Amazon.com.  How about the isopropyl alcohol and the vinegar?
It would probably be cheaper to buy them in your local grocery store or drug store.  However, if you're one of those people that lives out in the middle of nowhere, 100 miles from the nearest store, I can see where it would make sense to simply buy all the stuff online.  Here is the isopropyl alcohol and here is the vinegar at Amazon.com.

How did you come up with this recipe?
I am not the one that came up with it.  People think it's my recipe simply because I've been very enthusiastically spreading the word about it.  But the recipe originated with Jacquie Christy, the former Secretary of the Cocker Spaniel Club of San Diego county.  There's an ear cleaner recipe called the "blue powder treatment" (sometimes incorrectly known as the "blue POWER treatment") that has been in use in the Cocker world for decades.  Jacquie recognized that the blue powder treatment was somewhat effective but not fantastically effective...  and decided to do some experimentation at improving the recipe.  She modified the recipe to make it more chemically similar to a good feminine hygiene product, and the result is this very effective recipe which we have today.

Can I use this on other breeds of dogs besides Cocker Spaniels?
Of course.  No problem.

Can I use this on a cat?
I've never tried that, but I assume it would be just as effective on cats as on dogs.  But I would suggest you wear thick clothing!  I bet the cat will try to scratch you!


There's one other thing you should be doing to avoid ear infections in your Cocker Spaniel.

Joanna shows off her shaved ear To improve air circulation to the ear canal, it's important to keep the hair trimmed around the ear so that it doesn't block off the flow of air to the ear.  Shave the area around the entrance to the ear canal, as well as the underside of the ear that hangs down and covers the ear canal entrance.

In the picture on the left, I've lifted Joanna's ear up to show the areas that I've shaved.  (Isn't she a cutie?!?!)  Notice that the hair is shaved not only at the ear canal entrance, but also in all directions around it.

I go in to much more detail about how to shave around the ears in my 7-part video series on Cocker Spaniel grooming.  I also give a complete demonstration of how to make the homemade ear cleaner.  And, of course, the grooming videos show you everything you need to know in order to do all your own Cocker grooming...  which can save you all that money you're paying to professional dog groomers!  If you own a Cocker Spaniel, I definitely recommend that you watch these videos.  These videos used to only be available on DVD for $30, but now you canwatch them for free on YouTube.

Taking proper steps to avoid ear infections is an important duty for every Cocker Spaniel owner.  If you're not willing to do the work, you should not get a Cocker and get one of those breeds with the ears that stick up instead of hanging down!  Keep in mind that severe ear infections can lead to deafness in your dog, and will cost you serious money at the vet...  so make the effort now to prevent ear infections before they get out of hand.


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