Get second opinion on dog’s ear troubles

Pete Keesling

Q: Our dog’s name is Trouble and he has bad ears. He’s been treated at least 10 times with different medications, including eardrops, ointments, pills, etc. Now our vet says he has both a bacterial and a yeast infection that will never go away. The vet wants to do surgery and we think this might be a bad idea. What do you think?
A:
I think scheduling surgery would be a bad idea. Chronic ear infections (called otitis) are all too common in some dogs. They occur for many different reasons, and some otitis cases can be extremely difficult to clear. Bacterial and yeast infections, even allergies are common. But anatomical problems can also contribute to chronic ear trouble.
But before talking surgery, it’s important to know exactly what’s causing Trouble’s otitis. There are tests that his vet probably did during one of your many visits to the clinic. Perhaps the most important of these is a laboratory culture of a deep ear canal swab. Many of the bacteria that cause deep ear infections are resistant to commonly-used antibiotics. The only way to determine which antibiotic will be effective is to culture the material from down in the lower canal. A bacterial sensitivity test can then help indicate which medications might be effective. Even then, complete control of ear infections can be difficult.
Sometimes the best approach is to see a specialist. Veterinarians with special training in internal medicine or dermatology oftentimes find an answer faster than a general practitioner. These specialists see cases like Trouble’s more often than your vet, and they know which tests and treatments will be best for him.
Ten visits to the vet tells me that Trouble’s ear troubles have been resistant to all the different medications you’ve given him. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he needs surgery. Expensive surgery sometimes fails to clear the problem; it’s not always the best treatment. Before you allow your vet to put your pooch “under the knife”, take your dog to a specialist for a second opinion. You’ll have a better chance to clear up his chronic ear problems.
Q:
Our puppy, Mort, had a round lump on his cheek last month. It grew to be about as big as a small pea. We thought it was a tumor, and had an appointment to see the vet this week. But now the lump is gone. It disappeared! Are there tumors that can go away like that? Could it move inside under his skin?
A:
Yes, there are certain benign tumors that can spontaneously regress or disappear. In young dogs, histiocytomas sometimes show up on the face. With time, some of these will wither away, though there are a few that remain for so long that surgical removal becomes necessary. Another, less-common tumor that may suddenly regress is a papilloma (yes, dogs occasionally get warts!). Papillomas and histiocytomas don’t migrate into the body, so it’s good news that the lump disappeared. You probably don’t have to worry too much about Mort if his little spot is completely gone. But just the same, I’d take him in to have his vet check him over, just to make sure that there’s absolutely nothing left of that lump you saw on his cheek.
Q:
Is sea water good for disinfecting a cut? I too our lab for a hike in the hills yesterday and she has a small cut on her front leg that looks a little infected. I started to treat it with our own antibiotic ointment, but she licks that right off. Would it help her heal if I took her to the ocean for a swim?
A:
Great idea, if she doesn’t mind the cold water. Most labs love water, and the salt in the oceanwater will, indeed, help to disinfect that little cut. But keep an eye on that lesion. If it continues to drain remain open, there might be a small sliver of wood or something else in it. If so, you’ll need some help getting it out of there.

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