Why Does My Vet Need to See my Dog (Again) for an Ear Problem?
Another Ear Infection?
On telephone: “Arnold’s ears are dirty. Can you ask the doctor if we can have the medicine that worked last time?”
As veterinary professionals, we hear this question every day. It’s almost hard not to snap back, “The doctor needs to see your dog to diagnose the problem and prescribe the correct medicine.” After all, it’s the right thing to say.
It sounds harsh to you, right? After all, your dog has had ear infections before. The doctor just looks in there and prescribes expensive medicine and you pay, again and again. How frustrating. Why can’t your veterinarian just let you have refills since the same medicine works every time, right? Sometimes, they do the “ear swab” test and charge even more money. Sometimes they change the medicine. It seems to result in the same thing: more money, temporary relief, the problem returns after the meds run out. Right? That certainly looks like what’s going on.
Would you like to know what’s going on from the veterinarian’s point of view?
Well, then. Read on.
When Is an Ear Infection Not Just an Ear Infection?
“Arnold’s ears are dirty. Can you ask the doctor if we can have the medicine that worked last time?”
Well, the infection is back, so it did not “work” last time.
Any medicine or ear cleaner dispensed could cause permanent deafness if the eardrum is not intact. I need to check those eardrums.
Why didn’t the medicine work last time?
Is there an underlying weakness like allergies, or hypothyroidism, or Cushing’s disease, or diabetes mellitus, or a tumor or polyp in the ear?
Is it the same infection or a new infection with a different organism?
Was the medicine applied effectively?
and finally, when was “last time” anyway? Last week, last month, last year?
An ear infection is not an ear infection when it is secondary to another problem, or it is persistent and difficult to cure.
What to Expect from an Appointment for Ear Problems
Expect 5 Key components of ear cure success from your veterinary team:
- Thorough, whole body physical examination, including and otoscopic examination of the ear canals. If there are underlying diseases and they are missed, your pet will continue to have ear problems.
- A diagnosis. Is it yeast, cocci, rods, polyp, tumor, insect stuck in there? What?
- Thorough ear canal cleaning, or instructions how to do it at home. (If the eardrum is intact and if the canal is open enough and not swollen shut.)
- Proper medication prescription. (In case you were wondering, almost all ear infections need topical physical medication, and pills may not help.)
- A recheck appointment.
“An ear canal filled with debris and wax will resist the instilled medication. The infection will hide under the protective film of wax and debris and continue to thrive. You need those ears cleaned. A thorough ear flushing, with or without anesthesia can often be the difference between success or failure of your treatment,” says Doc Truli.
Good luck with your unfortunate, yet common, ear infection problem. Follow your veterinarian’s advice. If your pet is seen more than twice for an ear infection, ask if the veterinarian if they think you should be testing for anything else, like thyroid problems or allergies. Keep your recheck and be sure the ears are examined thoroughly.