All Ears

Getting familiar with the various ear care remedies and products on the market can be the key to effectively marketing, promoting and selling them to pet owners.


Dogs’ ears produce wax, just as humans ear do; and dirt can adhere to it. Canine ears are also exposed to moisture, whether from swimming, being outdoors in varied weather, or from having a hanging ear (especially with thick ear leathers and hair) that holds moisture in. These factors can lead to odor, excess matter in the ears and even infections.

Ear care products are designed to combat these common issues. Ear formulas may include ingredients that clean or dry ears, combat infection or a combination of the three. Understanding these components and their effects can help retailers sell these products and offer sound advice to customers.

Bio-Groom has been providing the pet care industry with gentle, effective grooming products since 1971. Bio-Groom Ear Care Cleaner and Ear Care Pads both contain salicylic acid and boric acid. The term “acid” does not mean harsh; both ingredients are safe and gentle. Boric acid is antiseptic, antibacterial, and helps to dry the ear. Salicylic acid is antiseptic and helps dissolve wax. Both create an environment in which bacteria cannot thrive. Neither product will leave an oily residue, and both leave the ears clean and sweet smelling. Ear Care Pads are made of 100-percent cotton and are pre-saturated with cleaner, making them convenient to use.

However, Bio-Groom understands that convenience is also important to retailers. The company offers an ear-care retail display with the cleaner and pads, plus Bio-Groom ear powder and ear mite treatment.

Many consumers are looking for products that contain natural ingredients. Opie & Dixie works hard to be a “Pet & Planet friendly brand,” as stated in the company’s tag line. “Whenever possible, I prefer to use natural remedies, such as essential oils, rather than medicated or chemically laden ones,” says Debbie Guardian, the company’s founder.  “What I like about our ear wash is that it’s non-medicated and free of chemicals and synthetics, yet it’s antiseptic, antibacterial and antifungal simply because of the essential oils it contains.”

Ingredients such as spearmint, peppermint, lemon eucalyptus and tea tree oil offer a variety of benefits, she explains. “Tea tree oil is probably the ingredient you’re most familiar with—it’s sort of a wonder-drug that is antibacterial, antimicrobial, antiseptic, antiviral, anti-inflammatory and stimulating, and it has been used for years to disinfect, relieve pain and heal,” Guardian adds. “I use tea tree for everything under the sun. The combination of these essential oils creates an effective ear wash that helps keep outer ears protected from common conditions such as parasites, bacteria and wax buildup.”

Another health-minded manufacturer, Earthbath, makes ear wipes for pets using plant extracts with gentle therapeutic and deodorizing properties. Witch hazel, a mild astringent, may help reduce swelling, repair broken skin and fight bacteria. Chamomile has anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, and marshmallow extract treats irritation and inflammation.

Many Vetericyn products, including the company’s Ear Rinse, contain hypochlorous acid as a main ingredient, which is an oxy chlorine compound, not bleach. According to Scott Van Winkle, vice president of sales and marketing, “Hypochlorous acid is used for chronic wound care and is unique in that while effective, it has the same safety profile as saline solution. It can be used on all types of tissues, from post-surgical to otic, because it does not affect healthy tissue. It doesn’t sting or irritate, as it has nothing caustic in it as most ear care does; it can’t be overused.”

Vetericyn’s Ear Rinse is ideal for daily or weekly maintenance cleaning, especially if the dog’s ears are already red or sore. “It relieves itching, burning, stinging and inflammation of the ear from many causes,” he adds.

Zymox has an entire line of pet products based on the company’s patented LP3 Enzyme System, including Ear Cleanser for maintenance cleaning and Ear Solution for affected ears. Deborah Brown, vice president of Pet King Brands, Inc., manufacturer of Zymox products, points out that retailers that offer over-the-counter solutions to ear problems are providing products that will be purchased often, as ear issues tend to be chronic. A pet with an ear infection is usually in pain, and the owner wants to provide immediate relief, which the retailer can help with.

“Pet owners want products which are easy to use because it is challenging to administer a product to a pet with a painful, inflamed ear,” Brown says. “Zymox is a once-a-day product that is incredibly easy to administer because the pet owner doesn’t have to pre-clean the ear. Most ear care products, such as topical antibiotics, require the ear be cleaned, and wax and infectious pus be removed, prior to applying. Zymox works differently because the formula interacts with the ’gunk,’ which serves as a catalyst to initiate the natural cleaning and healing process. Cleaning a painful ear is dreadful for most pet parents, and the pet can become non-compliant.”

Zymox uses its enzyme system in the regular maintenance or cleaning product, Zymox Ear Cleanser, as well, but it is in a lower concentration. “The enzymes work to split, starve and eliminate the offending microbe, regardless if it is bacterial or fungal (such as yeast),” she adds.  “It is incredibly powerful yet it is gentle and soothing to the pet.”

Carol Visser is a Nationally Certified Master Groomer and Certified Pet Dog Trainer. Formerly a pet product expert for PetEdge, she and her husband Glenn now own Two Canines Pet Services in Montville, Maine, which provides grooming, boarding, training and day care services to Waldo County.

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