Your pet is miserable, and you only got three hours of sleep last night with the jingling, the whining, the head flinging, and the worry. Now you’re at the vet’s office for drops. Drops, drops, drops. Get to the drops already. Why does the doctor insist on… talking?


Drops do sometimes solve the problem. Sometimes they do not. If you want to keep coming back for the drops, again and again and again, go ahead and punch the “mute” button. But if you want what’s best for your pet and your pocketbook, you really need to take your eyes off the drops and listen to the doc.


Infections of the ear canal almost always involve microbes of the bacteria or fungus family. Not all drops kill all microbes. In some cases, the doctor will test debris from the inside of the ear to identify what families are present. That will help a lot when it’s time to select a medicine. In other cases, a culture will be ordered, and that further narrows down what medicine has the best chance of success. This takes a couple of days and costs more, but it saves you from spending money on medication that will eventually prove unable to clear the infection.


But the drops always work, you say. You’re looking at the drops again. Look at the doctor. Ear medication almost always has an anti-inflammatory component mixed into it that takes away the itch and pain. That starts working right away, before any germs have been killed by the germ-killing component. It feels great for your pet but fools you into thinking that the infection has already been cleared. Magic! Do not stop giving the drops when the ear starts feeling better; you have only succeeded in masking the infection. Follow the instructions on the bottle exactly. Make sure you return for the recheck appointment, too, because at home you can only see 20% of the ear canal—and it’s the least important 20%. All the ears feel and look better after getting the drop, but not all the infections are gone.


Why do they insist on putting that otoscope into the ear? The pets don’t like that in their painful, swollen ear canal! Well, the hidden part of the infection is one reason, but Doctor also needs to ensure that a foreign object, cancer, or broken ear drum is not present. Foreign objects and cancer are not treated with the almighty drop, and some drops are preferable if the ear drum has a tear.


Do these infections happen at the same time every year? That is not a coincidence. The germs of the ear infection do need to be killed, but they may have gotten a foothold there due to seasonal or dietary allergy. Ask your doctor if this could be the case, and whether you should try something different when ear infection season rolls around again. Maybe… MAYBE… you won’t even need the drop next year!


Dr M.S. Regan