Whole Dog Journal Tips September 30, 2014

(Holistic Remedies tip #7) - Pellitol Ointment

Nine years ago, we described a smoky-smelling pink ointment that worked wonders for seriously infected ears: Pellitol. Pellitol contained zinc oxide, calamine, bismuth subgalate, bismuth subnitrate, resorcinol, echinacea fluid extract, and juniper tar. These ingredients are both disinfecting and adhesive, so that as the ointment gradually dried and shrank (a process lasting several days), it healed ulcers, dried pus and debris, and reduced bacterial growth. In addition to being effective, this apply-it-and-leave-it approach spared patients the discomfort of repeated ear-cleaning treatments.

We learned about Pellitol from holistic veterinarian Stacy Hershman of Hastings-on-Hudson, New York, who became interested in ear infections while working as a veterinary technician in her teens. "This is a subject that isn't covered much in vet school," she told us. "I learned about treating ear infections from the veterinarians I worked with over the years. Because they all had different techniques, I saw dozens of different treatments, and I kept track of what worked and what didn't."

Chronic ear infections are the bane of long-eared dogs, swimming dogs, recently vaccinated puppies, old dogs, dogs with an abundance of ear wax, and dogs with allergies, thyroid imbalances, or immune system disorders. In other words, they are among the most common recurring canine problems.

Dr. Hershman's maintenance program for healthy ears involves gentle cleaning with cotton balls, cotton swabs, and room-temperature green tea or an alcohol-free acidic ear cleaner. Mild ear inflammation can be treated with careful flushing.

But if the infection is serious, she takes a different approach. When she began her veterinary practice, Dr. Hershman met dogs who wouldn't let anyone touch their ears. "I knew that nothing I'd learned in vet school was going to help them," she says, "so I thought back to all the treatments I'd seen over the years. The one that seemed most effective was a combination of boric acid and a thick, old-fashioned ointment that looks like pink toothpaste. I couldn't remember its name, but I never forgot how it smelled - really peculiar, like burnt embers."

The ointment was Pellitol, and as soon as she tracked it down, Dr. Hershman combined it with boric acid. "Like the ear powders I learned about from groomers," she explains, "boric acid dries and acidifies the ear. Yeast and bacteria are opportunistic organisms that die in a dry, acidic environment. They thrive where it's moist, dark, and alkaline."

Because boric acid is toxic (note warnings on the label), it should not be inhaled or swallowed. Shielding the face is important and usually requires a helper, someone who can hold the dog's head steady while protecting the eyes, nose, and mouth.

Experimenting with her own dogs and dogs at the animal shelter where she volunteered, Dr. Hershman placed two or three pinches of boric acid powder in each infected ear unless it was ulcerated, bleeding, or painful. "Being acidic," she explained, "boric acid might irritate open wounds. In that case, I would use the Pellitol alone. Otherwise, a pinch or two of boric acid was an effective preliminary treatment."

After applying boric acid, she would fill the ear with Pellitol and let it work. Within a week, the dried ointment would fall out of the dog's ear, leaving it cleaner and far less inflamed.

For more alternative and holistic remedies for your dog, purchase and download the ebook Holistic Remedies from The Whole Dog Journal.