Husbandry Snippets

All Ears!

Decker has some ear inflammation likely in association with a superficial skin infection. Right now, there’s no infection in the ear but he has had a couple of infections in that ear, his left, about four or five years ago so this is not our first rodeo.

When he first developed infection in that ear, we started from scratch building toward cooperative treatment.

You can view the playlist of those sessions here:

Link to playlist here.

Some background…

While we certainly practice ear-work off and on, when his ears are not painful, I probably have not done that enough.

On top of that, Decker’s comfort with being handled in the vet’s has deteriorated. Pre-COVID we did cooperative care for almost everything but car-park consultations and him being brought in without me for two years has caused his tolerance of being handled there, by others, to seriously dwindle.

This is not at all to suggest his vets have been handling him inappropriately. It doesn’t require that, and they would never do that. They are excellent.

But during that period of going in without me, Decker also experienced some really serious illnesses & injuries requiring very invasive care and him feeling crappy.
Over these lockdown periods he has had a number of seriously injured pads/feet that were painful, a very serious GI upset as a result of contaminated canal water, TTA surgery (knee replacement surgery) after an accident and foreign body/intussusception gut surgery.

Since we’ve been going back in with the dog during treatments and consults, he’s experienced a mystery neuro condition (that spontaneously resolved) & neuro exams at two different vets, a senior check up, and rat poison ingestion. You can imagine that with or without me, Decker is going to associate being in that building and around those people with feeling pretty bad and probably scared too.

He’s pretty resilient and will eat from a food-fist throughout all exams with the vet, is happily muzzled for treatments, we plan and discuss with the vet-team ahead of time, and we manage vet visits with minimal stress for all. Like I said, they’re excellent.

Aside from that, I do plenty of treatment at home, for example, administering Cytopoint every couple of months and vaccinating him. Thankfully, we have a solid history of cooperative care at home for these procedures and all runs smoothly.

In the last week or so, he showed some pain in relation to his left ear. Decker is very stoic so if he’s showing pain, it’s definitely hurting. Off to the vet we went and he ate from a food fist throughout his exam, was muzzled and tube fed, through the ear exam, and then played ball while we chatted about his treatment.

We’ve talked about having a vet-visit plan before here and that really helps to minimise stress and discomfort; see Vet Ready!

At home, we started with some steroid drops for both ears to bring down the inflammation and provide pain relief.

All Ears! 2022

Here we go again!

We just started back with drops in sore ears on Friday, and here’s our first session:

Clip link

The procedures established here are quite important; they are put in place and taught over multiple sessions, rather than all in one go. The idea is to provide multiple steps with an out at every stage, so he can say PAUSE or STOP at any time.

The procedure is predictable so he always knows what’s coming and is built little by little:

  1. the ear drops bottle
  2. a hand touch behaviour
  3. hand approaching the ear
  4. drops bottle touching inside of ear
  5. medication administered into ear canal

This gives the dog lots of opportunities to stop the procedure and he always knows what coming next.

The set up is also important:

  • the food source is positioned to line the dog up – this makes everything more efficient and clearer for the learner
  • we establish a strong ‘yippee response’ to the presence of, first, the closed ear drop bottle, and then the open ear drop bottle
  • strong positive associations with holding a hand-touch behaviour and if he moves his face, we stop the procedure – long held communication as part of our relationship
  • holding the hand touch makes something touch his ear – to countercondition you could add a range of sensations, building up to delivery of drops
  • warm the drops to body temperature before we start – I usually carry them around in my pocket for a little while

We have worked on this a lot more with the left ear and he is more familiar with the procedure to that ear. We started with the right ear, took our time and then went to the left ear, and back to the right ear. We are moving toward familiarity and comfort throughout.

Practicing the individual skills, strengthening the association between each part of the procedure with yummies separately, as well as making sure administering drops is filled with yummie foods to catch and chase, and always the opportunity to take a break.
Treatment is less scary and startling when we know that we can make it stop, if we feel the need.