3 steps to ease itchy ears in your veterinary patients

3 steps to ease itchy ears in your veterinary patients

Otitis externa is a tricky condition that takes commitment to resolve. Help clients help their pets with this advice.
Jul 01, 2012
By dvm360.com staff

Scratching ears, shaking head, and that foul smell. How do our clients deal with this? The truth is, they need your help and guidance. You can ease their way with a few simple steps.

1. Manage expectations. First and foremost, you must teach clients that although otitis externa seems like a simple problem, it's not. Clients often visit seeking medication for the situation and don't expect to need follow-up care. The first line of education starts with the receptionist who answers the phone. The receptionist can, from the client's complaint, assess the need for an appointment and inform the client that the doctor will require a sample from the ear to distinguish the type of infection. Clients also need to know that there's an underlying cause for the ear problem—and that the doctor may need to perform additional tests to address the infection and its root cause and ultimately heal the infection. By discussing all of this before the office visit, we reset the way clients think so they understand otitis externa isn't a simple fix.

2. Offer how-to lessons. Showing the proper technique to clean the pet's ears is essential. Many clients use hydrogen peroxide and cotton-tipped applicators to clean their pets' ears. It's important to explain that clients should use proper ear cleaning solutions. Tell them that using cotton balls or makeup removal pads are safe and effective choices. Using the appropriate tools, they can get down and dirty to remove the debris from the ear canal and heal the infection.

Don't forget to show the anatomy of the pet's ears. You can demonstrate how it's almost impossible to injure the pet's ear if they use the recommended applicators and the proper cleaning and drying agent. Also be sure to demonstrate how to desensitize their anxious pet so they can perform the proper ear cleaning. For example, as a reward after an ear cleaning they might give a special treat that meets the parameters of the pet's diet—especially if it's on an elimination diet trial.

3. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Just as you do with any other presenting complaint, it's critical to customize your approach to match each client's needs and expectations. This includes offering the right education and communication before clients leave your practice. Today's technology has made this easier with text messaging, emails, and even snail mail and phone calls. The best way to ensure a happy client and a healthy pet is to follow up. Ask whether there are any problems, questions, or issues with using or applying the supplied medications. Be sure to find out whether clients have any additional concerns or questions that you didn't address during their visit. Let clients know that no question, no matter how silly it may sound, is a bad question. The question not asked could be the most important one. Clients may need to ask the same question over and over and receive multiple explanations before they understand. They need to know you're always available to help them. That's why it's critical to keep a constant line of communication open for the health and care of their beloved pets.

Ron Butler Jr. is a veterinary assistant at Dermatology for Animals in Gilbert, Ariz. Share your questions or comments at http://www.dvm360.com/community.