I don't really know where to begin because I don't know where this all started. My 2-year-old Shih Tzu has always had skin issues since she's been a baby. I have had to bathe her with a certain shampoo and conditioner her entire life and if I don't, she has serious itch attacks and nobody sleeps. FYI - she is near my side 24/7. The only time she goes outside is when she's with me on her leash and we're taking a walk. She's ridiculously pampered.
About 2-3 months ago, she punctured her cornea in her right eye and had to have eye surgery (this could be relevant). She had an E collar for over a month and I was not allowed to bathe her facial area at all (maybe the lack of bathing caused this?). As part of her recovery, she was on Prednisone which, as an added bonus, completely stopped her itching during the time she was taking it.
Anyway, I noticed about a week ago that she was getting itchy again and gave her a bath with her shampoo. I looked in her ears and they seemed a little more pink than normal so I pulled out her ear hairs. Afterward, I cleaned them with a special solution given to me by a vet. Within a day or two, her ears became quite red and swollen. I was thinking, "Oh great. We just paid $3,500.00 for eye surgery and now we get to go pay another $200 for an ear infection. I decided to give it a day or so to see if it was just from the hair plucking.
Within a day, her ears were still red and swollen and it almost looked as if there were some... thin blisters on her ear skin. I began giving her Benadryl at night. This stopped the itching altogether and within a day or two, the blisters and swelling went away, and her ears were just a little more pink than normal. I was feeling better because it seemed like things were going in the right direction and we were out of the woods so to speak. I kept up with the Benadryl just at night. Things seemed to be going great.
Today, I took a look at her ears again. The swelling was still down, the color a bit more pink than normal and it appeared as though the blisters (though gone) had almost lifted her top layer of skin from the insides of her ears. The skin texture was rough and when I gently rubbed it with my finger, huge flakes (not much smaller than my pinky nail) peeled off of her ear. Mind you, this was on both the inside of the leather ear flap as well as the inside of her ear - in both ears.
So, today, I gently removed the flakes from her ears thinking that I was helping by keeping her ears free of debris. I didn't scratch or anything, just picked up the flakes between my fingers (sorry to be gross but when it's your baby, it doesn't seem gross when you're helping them). A few hours later, I looked at her ears and they were bright red again. Not swollen, but pretty red. She's also been gently rubbing them with her paws since I messed with them. Not a digging, obsessive scratch or anything - just a soft rub. I think I should have just left her ears alone.
I am completely baffled. If it were an actual infection, I would think that Benadryl wouldn't be helping. To me, the fact that the Benadryl helps with the itching, etc. means that it's probably an allergy issue rather than an infection. Also, since the swelling and dark color subsided, I can't help but think that we're heading in the right direction toward healing. But what's up with this flaking? What is going on? Like I said, we just spent $3,500.00 on eye surgery. I love my little baby - however, she has been a vet bill a month since we've had her. She came to us (2 years ago) from a bad breeder. She had Giardia, ear mites, ticks, an ear infection, etc. After getting her spayed (while also fixing an umbilical hernia) her surgery site became infected... etc, etc, etc! Seriously, this has been the million dollar dog already and I'm just hesitant to take her in. Every time we see a vet, they want to do 40 different tests at $60 a pop. Let's face it - we're in a bad economy and vets, just like everyone are hurting. Tests bring in money... money that I don't have to give unless it is absolutely necessary! I am a responsible pet owner, but who can afford this??
Any advice or help would really be appreciated. Thank you so much!