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Avatar universal

Strange Ear Issue - Shih Tzu

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!
24 Responses
974371 tn?1424656729
Wow, what a story!  I can see you are at your wit's end and this dog has to be miserable.  Any mention of dermatomyocitis or some immune disorder?  I assume blood work and skin scrapings have been done?
Sounds like you are getting financially drained.  I am so sorry you bought from a bad breeder.  Did you happen to contact him/ her?
Is there any way you can seek another opinion?  Is there a Vet school within travel distance you could go to?  I would definitely check into that.
I don't know much about this breed.  If I were you, look up their National breed club on the Net.  They usually give a list of mostly reputable breeders.  Perhaps there is someone close to you.  I would try to contact them as they are definitely more breed specific and may be able to help you.
Feel sorry for you and the poor dog.  Maybe someone here has some insight but this does not sound like an easy fix and needs professional evaluation.
Please keep us posted and good luck.
Avatar universal
Thank you!

I'll definitely keep you posted.  The redness isn't so bad this morning and the swelling is down again so I think I'll probably wait 2 more days (when I get paid) to take her in again.  I didn't think to check vet schools.  I didn't even know you could bring a pet to one but that does make sense so thanks for the advice!

To top it all off, we're moving this week (so we can pay for the past eye surgery).  Stress, stress, STRESS!!
462827 tn?1333172552
Hi Ashley.....I'll try to help you, but I need more information:

What's the name of the Shampoo & Conditioner you use? How often do you bathe her?
What's the name of the special ear solution from your Vet? If there is no name, do you have an ingredients list?
What do you feed her & how long has she eaten it? Including treats, please.
Do you use a topical flea product? Are you in an area w/fleas? It's imperative to rule this out, first.....One flea can trigger a reaction if your dog is allergic to fleas!
Is all this seasonal or year round?
Do you use fabric softener on her linens?
Let me know & I'll get back with you.......Karla
Avatar universal
Hi, Karla!

For the shampoo and conditioner, I use products from Tropiclean.  I use the medicated oatmeal shampoo and their Oxymed medicated conditioner "ultra soothing."  Both contain oatmeal and salicylic acid.  I must use both.  If I just use the shampoo, she itches but if I use them both together as directed, we can usually sleep at night.

The ear solution for cleaning is called Epi-Otic by Virbac.  It says that the active ingredient is salicylic acid as well.

I don't use a topical flea product.  I know most would frown upon that, but she had a reaction to revolution as a puppy (when we had to give it for the ear mites she picked up from her breeder as a baby).  I haven't dared use anything else since.  I don't think we have fleas... we'd be able to see them, right?  I haven't seen any.

The itching is indeed year-round.

Yes, I have been using a fabric softener.  I didn't think about that - it might be causing problems.

I bathe her once every 2 or 3 weeks.  I'm afraid of doing it too often but not often enough.  This seems to be a pretty good balance for her.

The skin condition is obviously chronic... but do you think that's what's causing this bizarre ear problem?  I am afraid of going in and paying a vet to tell me that nothing's wrong... I'm also afraid of not going in when I should.  She's scratched a couple of times this morning, but nothing too crazy.  I just don't know what to do anymore!!


Thanks for any help you can give me!
Avatar universal

I forgot to add that I feed her a mixture of Bil Jac and Natural Balance's sweet potato and bison.  The problem is, she won't eat the Natural Balance (naturally, since it's allergy-friendly).  Also, my husband always sneaks her something from the table.  I could just about pop him on the head for it and I explain the associated problems but he gives into her all the time.  :-s
Avatar universal
Oh dear heavens what's wrong with me?  I am sorry I'm packing to move and I'm just very distracted right now.

We give her the Bil Jac "Little Jac" treats for when she goes to the bathroom and we also give her the sweet potato sticks with chicken wrapped around them once a a day.  Every now and again, she eats a DentaStick.

I'm sorry for all of the replies!
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