Ask Seth: Irritated Dog Ears

AskSethI have a 4-year-old Mini Australian Shepherd. He has what the vet has called an allergy, and he continues to have problems scratching at his ears, shaking his head and "yawning" as if to clear his ears. He was on Benadryl tablets 2 times a day and a year ago was switched to Chlorophenarimine two times a day. They have recommended medicated ear wash and nothing seems to be more than a temporary calming. When it flares up, he has been on a very mild prednisone regimen for several days. His ears are always a nice pink color, very clean, and no debris or odor from the ears. I have not noticed any difference in reaction to foods, and he is a picky eater. Any ideas? 

I would start with a veterinarian checking the ears with an otoscope to make sure there is no foreign material in the ear canal, polyps, folds or tumors in the ear.  Sometimes the ear canal is not open enough to allow for the ears to dry up when exposed to air.  Chronic cases often have polyps or even a tumor that obstructs the ear canal, which can result in long-term infections.  When these infections are frequent, the skin in the ear becomes scarred and thickens, which further decreases the ear canal.

If your veterinarian is not producing your desired results, seek out a veterinary dermatologist; they see the most difficult cases of skin infections, including ears.  If they are unsuccessful, you can opt for a surgical removal of the ear canal.  This is called a total ear canal ablation. This is usually a last resort for the animals since it removes the ear canal and the ear is surgically closed. Dogs with this can still hear, just not as well. I have personally seen hundreds of dogs receive this surgery and cannot remember any adverse events in these cases.

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