This sweet 10-year old Labrador (Lily’s her name) is in her own little version of doggie-hell.
This is a dog who was released from the service dog program, in part, because she hated (and I do mean hated) wearing her vest. Keep that little nugget in mind as you read.
She’s had an ear infection (our oh-so-mild winter means her allergies haven’t gone dormant) so I’ve been putting meds in twice a day. Monday I noticed that she had what looked like a giant marshmallow at the base of her ear. It was big, puffy, and looked awfully painful.
The next day, our veterinarian diagnosed it as an aural hematoma.
It’s surprising to me that with all the Labradors we’ve raised (we’re on our 11th service puppy, for goodness sake), we’ve never had a hematoma in the bunch.
I should backtrack a bit to tell you what a hematoma actually is. It’s a pocket of blood on the ear flap that was caused by some sort of trauma. It can come from rough play, shaking the head too hard (or too often), or even by being bumped by another dog. Who knows where Lily’s came from.
Guess how you fix a hematoma?
Let me give you a hint: it’s not (unfortunately) by slipping a needle into the ear and draining the blood out. Yeah. The poor hematoma-ed dog has to have surgery. Surprised the heck out of me when the dear veterinarian said “we’ll do the surgery today.” Surgery? Today? Gulp.
Get this: the ear has to be sort of split into two, kind of like a sandwich. There’s the bread — the outside part of the ear; then there’s the sandwich filling — the cartilage in the ear; and the other slice of bread — the opposite side of the outside of the ear. So they split that ear wide open (my stomach is tightening just thinking about it), drain all the blood and yuck out of it, then sew both flaps back down. And they can’t just leave it like that or else the blood and yucky stuff will just re-collect right there and the ear will be as big as it was before the surgery.
So they sort of quilt the ear back together — they stitch what I call baffles into the ear.
They pretty much just make lots of little stitches through the ear so there aren’t any big pockets that can fill up with blood.
Here’s the worst part for my squeenchy stomach: they also leave these little slits in the ear so that if any blood and yuck are still left (and oh my, are they ever), they’ve got some exits. So we have to scrub the scab off those little slits every single day for a week.
You know how you score a loaf of bread as it’s baking so you can have that cool top on your loaf of bread? That’s exactly what those slits in Lily’s ear remind me of. I can’t clean it. I just can’t. I make my husband do that. I can’t even look at it, who am I kidding?
So anyway, I tell you all of that just so you can suffer through it like I do everyday. Because that’s the kind of girl I am, I like to share. The real reason for this post is how I’m trying to help my tactile phobic (she hates anything touching her and would rather die than have medicine administered) dog get through this tactile-loaded situation.
I can’t slowly get Lily used to this process.
The medicine’s got to go in two times a day and that ear has to be scrubbed. She hates it, period. But here’s how I help her:
- I don’t call her to me to administer her meds or mess with those slits. That would completely ruin her “come when called” behavior. No dog will come to you voluntarily to have something yucky done to them. I simply go to her.
- I don’t sneak up on her. I let her know I’m coming and I show her that I have “the instruments.” I want her to feel safe and not have to worry every time I approach her if I’m hiding the syringes from her. She knows right away whether or not it’s time for the dreaded ear-treatments.
- I’m quick and efficient. I don’t drag it out. I get in, I get out. My telling her how much this doesn’t hurt and how sorry I am is lost on her. I’m doing her more of a favor by getting the process over as quickly as possible instead of apologizing to her
- I heavily reinforce her with high-value stuff. The past few treatments, the reinforcer has been Vienna Sausages (don’t judge). Tonight we’re opening a can of canned salmon. It doesn’t undo the horrors of being medicated, but I can tell you this: it looks like she really enjoys those treats at the end!
We’re in this ’til Tuesday, when we can drop back to messing with her just once a day. And then it’s just another week or so more, ’til Lily can get out of her doggie-hell.