Q. My dog has elephant ear or cauliflower ear. His ears are closing up to where I cannot get a Q-tip in to clean them. We are going through a hard time with money right now and I am trying everything to make his ears better. He is eating and does not act like he is in pain. Do you have any suggestions?
A. “Cauliflower ear” commonly refers to the narrowing of a dog’s ear canal as the cartilage lining the canal starts to proliferate. The cartilage usually grows in response to chronic irritation from ear infections or allergies.
Unfortunately, if the narrowed ear canal becomes infected or inflamed, it is very difficult to medicate or clean. The ultimate solution for dogs with this problem is a major surgery where the “cauliflower” cartilage is removed. Unfortunately, this may not be an option for many dog owners due to the cost.
To help keep the ear clean and minimize any infection, infuse a dilute solution of vinegar and water (1 part vinegar to 4 parts water) using a turkey baster. Attempt to repeatedly flush the solution into the ear without jamming the tip of the baster too far into the ear. Afterwards, use cotton balls to dry the ear canal as well as possible.
Avoid using a Q-tip when cleaning your dog’s ears. It can push debris further down into the canal, making the canal even harder to clean.
It would also be beneficial to have your veterinarian flush your dog’s ears occasionally. Using sedation and a flushing tube, cleaning solution can be instilled deep into the canal. This can help avoid an infected, narrowed ear canal that ultimately can only be treated with an expensive surgery.