Easy on the Ears
With the range of ear care options available today, retailers can equip themselves with the knowledge and products to provide a solution to meet any customer’s needs.
When pet owners are caring for pet’s ears at home, their main goals are generally to minimize and prevent infections, provide good maintenance health care and reduce odor. Retailers can best guide them in how to do these things by knowing the products available, what the ingredients are and what those ingredients are meant to do.
Ear cleaners and other ear care products have been available for retail sale for many years, and most formulations include tried-and-true ingredients, but many more options are now on the market. Some provide the consumer with popular natural ingredients, and some are the result of newer opinions on ear care in veterinary medicine. Retailers can tailor their suggestions to fit each individual dog’s needs just by knowing a bit about the manufacturer’s intentions. It’s great to be able to tell your customers that the feedback on a product has been excellent; it’s better still to be able to explain why a product should be exactly what they are looking for.
One common ingredient is isopropyl alcohol, which aids in drying the ear. A drier environment is thought to provide less opportunity for bacteria, yeast, or fungus to grow, helping to prevent infections. However, if the ears are already red and sore, alcohol can sting, so many manufacturers offer alternatives. Some, like MiracleCorp’s Miracle Care line, offer both types of products.
“Ear problems are some of the most common complaints from pet parents,” says Carol Erisman, communications and marketing manager for MiracleCorp. “Dirty, smelly ears aren’t just annoying for pet owners; they’re dangerous and painful for dogs and cats. Miracle Care offers a complete system to help prevent and combat everyday ear issues.”
Miracle Care Natural Ear Cleaning Solutions line is formulated with natural herbs and essential oils and is designed for consumers seeking effective, natural alternatives. Formulated with apple cider vinegar, chamomile and marigold, the company’s Natural Ear Cleaner is a non-stinging, alcohol-free formula meant to prevent itchy, smelly ears and wax buildup.
Miracle Care suggests a three-step ear cleaning system. Miracle Care Ear Powder is used to help remove excess ear hair that can trap moisture, bacteria and odor in the ear canal. The second step is to use ear cleaner as directed; and the third is Ear Drying Crème, a unique liquid that dries to a powder, leaving a moisture barrier that helps keep the ear dry and reduces ear odors. Dogs that swim regularly often benefit from the Ear Drying Crème.
Earth Animal’s Clean Ears Herbal Ear Wash is another formulation that targets the consumer seeking a gentle, natural remedy for ear cleaning. The company’s ear care product uses a blend of herbs to remove discharge and reduce inflammation in and around the ears, as well as reduce wax buildup and odor. The herbal formulation’s primary properties act as an anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antiseptic and antifungal to soothe and comfort pain in the ear canal, as well as help defend against infections and inflammation.
“As a retailer, as well as a product developer, we often take a more holistic approach to creating and offering the best solution to our customer’s pets problems and encourage our retailers to do the same,” said Stephanie Volo, Earth Animal’s vice president of brand and communications. “Looking at things like the time of year and asking questions about the pet’s activities, their diet and the treats they eat gives the retailer a better idea of what may be causing the ear problem; therefore, they can suggest a more effective solution.”
ZYMOX products approach the problem from a different direction. At the center of all ZYMOX products is a combination of naturally occurring enzymes found in milk, the ZYMOX LP3 Enzyme System—lactoperoxidase, lactoferrin and lysozyme. These naturally occurring enzymes have potent antibacterial and antifungal properties to work effectively without antibiotics. ZYMOX has three products in the ear care line; an Ear Cleanser for dirty ears and Enzymatic Ear Solution—one with and one without hydrocortisone—for ear infections.
“Caring for a pet’s ears at home is an absolute necessity for many pets, especially for those dogs who are prone to infections, those who swim, or those with floppy ears,” says Deborah Brown, vice president of Pet King Brands, manufacturer of ZYMOX products. “Ear infections remain one of the top reasons pets are seen by a veterinarian, and for those pets with allergies, ear infections may plague them for life. Finding safe and effective products to help maintain a pet’s comfort becomes very important.”
Brown suggests creating a display of ear care products in a dedicated section and cross-merchandising with other products geared toward pets with allergies or sensitivities.
“Many retailers have found success placing a display of the ZYMOX products on a shelf in the ear care section, as well as placing a floor display near foods with limited ingredients, targeting pets with food sensitivities,” she says. “Many pets who have food allergies tend to have problematic ears as well.”
Vetericyn offers an Ear Rinse that also departs from the more common ingredient list for ear care products. Vetericyn contains hypochlorous (HOCl) technology which sets the stage for optimal healing conditions. It is safe, non-toxic and contains no antibiotics or steroids, and studies show HOCl has a wide range of antimicrobial activity. HOCl in Vetericyn does not sting or irritate tissue, so animals do not resist as much.
According to Dr. Mindy Mayfield Davis, technical services veterinarian for Vetericyn Animal Wellness, many experts are now moving away from trying to dry the ears. “The ears have a self-cleaning mechanism that helps remove wax and debris,” she says. “By over-drying the ears, we interfere with this mechanism.”
Geoff Hamby, director of marketing for Vetericyn Animal Wellness, suggests retailers educate their staff on the benefits of at-home ear care. Consumers will look to you as a source of good information about the products.
“Social media or store events work great for this,” says Hamby. “Use manufacturer resources: videos, pamphlets, blog posts, in-person events, etc., to learn more about the products in this category, as well as their benefits. For example, Vetericyn Animal Wellness has a technical services veterinarian on staff who answers retailer and customer questions.”
Pura Naturals Pet offers a product that speaks both to the consumer’s need for convenience and to their desire to use earth friendly products. The Pura-Tips Ear Cleansing System consists of 25 reusable (up to 10 times) bio-based foam tips and a cleaning serum. The plant-based tips are, according to Julie Creed, vice president of sales and marketing for Pura Naturals Pet, oliophilic to attract dirt and grime and hydrophobic to avoid retaining moisture and breeding bacteria.
There are many products available for at-home ear care, including ear mite medications, wipes, powders and cleansers, but retailers should also advise consumers to seek the advice of a veterinary medical professional if the issue is serious or not readily resolved by at-home treatment. PB
Carol Visser has been involved in the pet industry since 1982 in various capacities, including grooming in and owning a busy suburban shop, working as a product expert for PetEdge, teaching seminars and training dogs. She certified as a Master Groomer with NDGAA in 1990 and as a Certified Pet Dog Trainer in 2007, and she continues to enjoy learning about dogs and grooming at her small salon in rural Maine.