She can hear me now

By Mir
December 29, 2009

I promised you a tale of Licorice’s ears. It’s JUST as exciting as it sounds.

It comes as a huge shock, I’m sure, that I am something of a nervous dog-mommy. I am, after all, a nervous mom in general. I worry. I fret. If there was a giant LED chaser display in my head it would constantly stream MAH PRESHUS BAYBEEEEEES!!! (In red, natch.) The safety and comfort of my children is a constant preoccupation for me.

So back when we brought Licorice home, she had a pretty severe double ear infection, among other things. I quickly unloaded the month’s earnings at my local vet’s office as we went in for appointment after appointment to check on her recovery. First it was 14 days treatment, then 7 more, then “just one more week,” and finally she was proclaimed healed.

In the meantime, we cracked joke after joke about how Licorice fit into our family just fine on account of her food allergies and delicate disposition.

The thing is, once she was switched over to allergen-free food, everything was supposed to get better. Her skin issues, her ear infections—once her diet was improved, health would follow. And it did, for the most part. Her fur grew in lush and thick, she stopped chewing up her paws, and her ears cleared up. It was a miracle of EXPENSIVE PUPPY FOOD. Hooray!

But Licorice has floppy ears, and what I didn’t know about dogs is that those with floppy ears are particularly prone to ear troubles. That makes no sense to me, because it seems to ME that the floppy ears should PROTECT her ears from bad stuff. Like, say, the flap of ear hanging down over the actual ear canal prevents insects and aliens from getting in there, right? But no, that’s not how it works. Floppy ears create a nice warm breeding ground for bacteria and yeast.

And so it came to pass that my dog was the picture of health, but her ears remained somewhat troublesome. Do you know how to tell if your dog has a ear infection? See if you can identify the tell-tale signs:
A) The dog scratches at her ears and/or rubs her head on the carpet incessantly.
B) The dog’s ears appear to be red and/or inflamed.
C) Lifting the ear flap and sniffing reveals a yeasty scent.
D) All of the above and P.S. OMG EWWWWWW YEASTY EARFLAPS.

If you answered D, you win a cookie, and also the right to ask my dog if she ever has that not-so-fresh feeling.

This yeast thing is insidious, and yes, my preshus diddykins is prone to yeasty ears, the poor delicate princess. I have special ear wash I use on her and oohhh boy is that her MOST FAVORITE THING EVER, right up there with, oh, I don’t know, being violated by a Great Dane. She sees me pick up the bottle of ear wash and she DISAPPEARS. I find her again and put her on the kitchen counter and drip ear wash into her ears and then shove my arm in there up to the elbow to clean out the gunk, and she glances at me sideways, all, “I THOUGHT WE WERE FRIENDS” and horrified and stuff. Sure, I give her a piece of pepperoni afterward (pro tip: in the canine world, friendship can be rebought with a single piece of pepperoni, always), but SHE DOES NOT LIKE IT, SAM I AM.

Generally if her ears seem to be getting bad, I can clean them out a little more often and she’ll be okay. But that last week before Christmas she just didn’t seem to be getting better, so I admitted defeat and took her back to the vet.

It turns out that in addition to having floppy ears, Licorice is also one of those breeds that has a hair plug that grows down INTO the ear canal. The vet was of the opinion that Licorice’s current ear troubles might be entirely due to the fact that, as it happened, her ear canals were full of fur that her negligent owner hadn’t tended to by having her regularly groomed.

[Shall we take a break here for some self-flagellation? Let’s! But, see, it’s been COLD. So I didn’t want to get her coat clipped lest she be CHILLY! And I suck. So.]

The vet asked if I was planning to have her groomed soon and I of course told her I was taking her in the following week, but she commented that she’d give me the ear medicine, sure, but it wasn’t going to WORK unless the hair was removed and the medicine could really get down in there. So she told me that I could wait until I had her groomed or I could allow her to remove the hair now, so that the meds would work right away. I said that’s fine, please remove the hair now.

And then I asked how she removes the hair, expecting that she had special scissors or something.

The vet turned back around with a pair of flat-nose pliers. “Oh, we just yank it out,” she said.

I sat down in a chair in the corner and steeled myself for Licorice to yelp and cry. But the vet quickly YANKED OUT all of the hair growing inside her ears, and although Licorice gave her the sideways WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS TO ME look, she didn’t cry. The vet swears it doesn’t hurt that much.

Apparently it’s the doggie equivalent of getting a wax job. You wouldn’t do it voluntarily or anything, but it’s over quickly and in the end you have a nice, smooth, hairless… um, ear.

Licorice’s latest ear infection seems to be clearing up nicely, now, and right now she’s being groomed while I sit in a nearby coffee shop. Soon my princess will be healthy and pretty once again.

And yes, I do have some pepperoni in my purse.


  1. Randi

    Poor Licorice. Poor your checks! We’ve been really fortunate in that we pick very low maintenance dogs. The most expensive thing to happen was when our oldest dog (wolf/australian shepherd mix) ate a rock that didn’t come out. A $550 surgery later and he’s still trying to chew rocks (which causes us to yell and scream at him).

    We also don’t get our dogs groomed – we can’t afford it! I think it’s a thing up here, though, because very few people I know actually have their dogs groomed. If Duke or the boys get a burdock in their tail (the bane of my existence, surely), we just pull them out or snip them out carefully.

    And you haven’t lived until you’ve had to pull out porcupine quills from your dogs nose (hint: clip the quills first, as they are filled with pockets of air and cutting the quills releases the air and makes them a heck of a lot easier to get out of a doggie snout).

  2. Sharon

    YEs, floppy ear dogs. I spent a fortune on ear wash over the years. Now I have a nice German Shepherd whose ears stick way up and it stays nice and dry in there!

  3. Jamie

    Wow, the thought of just pulling the hair out makes me cringe, and I get regular bikini waxes during the swimming season (yes, TMI, sorry!). We had an Akita-Chow mix dog that also got the nasty ear. My husband had to clean them out with the ear wash and q-tips to remove the gunk. It smelled so foul! Hope the trauma to you both subsides quickly!

  4. Flea

    So no grooming, really. Just a good ear waxing will do. Awesome. And you can’t fix what you don’t know to fix.

  5. Tracy

    Are you kidding…just yank it out!!! Poor, poor Licorice. OUCH!

  6. Kristie

    I have a 110 lb Rottweiler who has bad ears. Except after much trial and tribulation the vet has come to the conclusion that he may or may not have a food allerty but most certainly has some kind of environmental allergy. Yay. His ears are always gross and I have taken to flushing his ears myself with 50/50 vinegar and water solution. The vinegar is an acid which is supposed to attack the nasty yeast while calming the inflamation. He hates getting his ears done with the intensity of heat from a thousand suns and I am the only person who can get near his ears without being introduced to the baring of his teeth. *sigh* Unfortunately when I approach him with the intention of giving him some lovins he drops the the floor and braces himself for the ear violation. It kills me when he does this. :0(

  7. Katie in MA

    Pepperoni in your purse. Love it! Just like the good ol’ days when you would never be caught without some cheerios! :)

  8. heather

    I get that same incredulous reaction whenever I start pulling hair out of dog’s ears during an appointment. But it must not hurt because no dog has ever been upset enough to even threaten to bite me and some of them will gnaw your arm off if you even look like you are thinking about cutting their toe nails. Yep, that four years of vet school prepared me to give dogs smooth and silky ear canals! LOL.

  9. Anna Marie

    Hairplugs in her ears? Apparently you’ve adopted a 90 year-old man as a pet!

    Glad she’s doing better. Pepperoni for everyone!

  10. JennyM

    I feel you. Our big Cliffy the Cancer Dog gets the Nasty Ear if we don’t keep them cleaned. Fortunately he doesn’t have the hair issue, just big floppy ears that don’t let any fresh air down in there. He knows the sound of the gauze package being opened. After I open the package, you hear a moment of silence, followed by the sound of a 120-lb hound trying to tiptoe up the stairs, unobtrusivelike.

    I clipped his toenails a couple of weekends ago and managed to draw blood. Twice! He sat there bleeding onto the carpet and looking at me sadly, like, “Have I not suffered enough? And now this?”

    So I had to kill myself.

  11. Sara

    If your vet ever suggests Licorice get a Brazillian so that you don’t need to worry about having her glands squeezed, I think I might consider switching vets. That’s probably not a look you want for your li’l pup. Heh.

  12. dad

    Remind me not to go to your vet to have my ear hair trimmed.

  13. Groovecatmom

    Well, I would normally take this opportunity to think to myself how superior cats are to dogs, because they don’t have floppy ears that need hair removal, but our perky-eared kitten still gets unknown gunk in there left over from a wicked case of ear mites from the shelter…and so I really do use the ear cleaner stuff for her. She doesn’t seem to mind, and how cute is a wet-headed kitten?

  14. carmie

    Noooooooooooo I don’t wanna know! Just adopted a 9-week old collie mix whose ears are so long and so floppy that we can cover his eyes and nose with them. I forgot to ask the vet to check his ears today as he had been shaking his ears a lot, but I looked when we got home and they were a little red. Luckily no hair.

    Watch him for ear troubles. Thank you for this post!

  15. Mare

    My Chihuahua Piggy will allow me to clean her ears. She fusses a little, but not too badly. However, come near her with nail clippers and the end of the world has just begun.
    is a review of what we thought might be an easier solution to the nail problem. Oh, but were we wrong. Now I take her to the groomer because 5 bucks is a lot quicker, easier, and more comforting to both of us. I’m putting pepperoni in my pocket as we speak.

  16. Lori

    We have a golden retriever (floppy ears) and our vet just told us to use regular rubbing alcohol to clean his ears. He never minds the cleaning and I recently discovered that a humid climate also makes the ears get yeasty. We lived in a dry climate for years and his ears were never bad . . . 3 months after we moved his ears were gross, so I have to clean them regularly again. You’re a good mom all the way around!

  17. Nicki

    Great. Now you make me want to run right home and check on Bishop, who is, incidentally, a Great Dane. :) We didn’t have his ears clipped because it seemed inhumane, so with the floppy ears…I’m worried. Yeah. And I have so much spare time for new worries. This is why I should stick to cats.

  18. The Other Leanne

    The Husky From Hell, who was allergic to meat, grass and everything else, also had the stink-ear. The cat loved to stick his nose in because, “mmmm….bread….”, while I thought he just smelled like dirty socks.
    Anyway, the vet said to use a mixture of vinegar and tea-tree oil as an ear wash. Do you know how expensive tea-tree oil is?

  19. ellbee

    Our vet has been telling us for years to clean out our Weimeraner’s ears, and for years I’ve been ignoring him. (Which is hard, seeing as he’s my husband’s cousin and we see him ALL the time.) This last time, Cousin Vet sternly told me to clean the dog’s ears for real this time, goddammit, because if he (the dog, not the vet) GOT an ear infection, he’d spend all his time flapping his ears around, which can break the blood vessels and cause his ears to swell up like balloons. Which, ew. So I gave in, and now my dog hates me. Awesome.

  20. Karen

    Oh good GOD, in all my years of big and small and furry and short haired dog ownership, I have never heard of hair plugs in the ear canal or RIPPING THEM OUT??!?!?!?!?!…. (gasp) … but.. sounds like you both handled it as well as can be expected.. and by the way I have a Great Dane who wouldn’t dream of violating anything, let alone a dainty little Miss Licorice with ear/hair/plugs. Rottweilers are more likely.. I have one of those too.

    Happy New Year, Mir. (I’m impressed with the amicable ex dinner…. for all parties involved.)

  21. Noelle

    Poor doggie. I once had a mischevious doggy who got a stick stuck across the bridge of the top of his mouth. Had to take him to the vet to get it out – they had to sedate him and everything. The vet gave the stick to us in a baggie and we took it home – after all, it was now our $90 stick. What’s worse than paying $90 for a stick? Paying $180 – which almost happened 20 minutes after arriving home when the damn dog grabbed the stick containing baggie off the counter and laid down for a good chew.

  22. Lisa

    Noelle – whats worse that a $90.00 stick, you ask? A $2,700.00 eye – that doesn’t work! Our Lhasa got in a squabble with our (at the time) 14 year old mutt. The Lhasa is 9, and mean – always has been, Don’t understand it. She picks fights. Anyway – the Mutt had enough and bit back. The Lhasa’s damn eye popped out and rested on her cheek. I had to have my husband hold her while I drove crying to the vet (with one hand covering my peripheral vision of her in the passenger seat so I didn’t have to see her, it was horrible). Anyway – one surgery, six weeks in a cone, and she can’t even see out of it. It’s just a buggy ugly eye. And she’s still mean! Ewww, still grosses me out and it’s been two years.

  23. eileen in calif.

    ok, here is the nasty ear solution, ready? get another dog, one the same size or a bit bigger. we have an aussie/border collie mix who has nasty ears (hers are not floppy either), after years of ear wash which she looovveeesss, not; we found a dog wandering down the street in a rain coat, took her in, found her dad who decided she would be happier with us (so not part of the story, heh) tarrah, the new one LIVES to lick and clean Libby’s ears. have not had to clean libby’s ears in 3 years! I swear Libby gets this little silly smile on her face while tarrah burrows in. kinda gross, but better than the kleenix and wash routine.

  24. Heather Cook

    LOL I think that was your grossest post ever. :P

  25. Nelson's Mama

    For what it’s worth – Nelson has a standing every other Tuesday appointment! He stays in a puppy cut year ’round and has never had a problem with his ears.

    His groomer is very serious about her hemostat and ear powder!

  26. Brigitte

    EW! And yet, I laugh too. We had a cat that for all of her 16 years had some kind of ear mites or ear yeast issues and needed regular cleanings, and she knew that disappearing act quite well. We had to basically sit on her to put it in. I felt so awful for her, and yet listening to her complaints was kinda amusing. I’m a mean, mean perso.

  27. Ann Menk

    I can top the $90 stick – twice. We had two dogs – a lab and a shitzu. They got into a squabble and the shitzu’s eye prolapsed (that’s the polite way to say it popped out). After surgery and wearing a cone, it was found that the eye did not recover and then followup surgery was required to remove the eye. Of course this happened in December – Merry Christmas to me! I can’t even remember what that cost – I have blocked it out of my mind. The following November, the lab somehow swallowed a Superball she found in the yard. That one cost me $1,000 to have removed. She recovered well and when I picked her up from the vet, they asked me if I wanted the ball. Damn straight! I paid good money for that!

  28. No Drama Mama

    I think it’s time for some new Licorice pics!!!!!

  29. Melisa

    My min schnauzer gets his ears plucked every 8 weeks at the groomers. No ear problems yet **fingers crossed**.

  30. Nicole

    I completely feel your pain. I too lay awake at night worrying over my children and pets…a simple cold will throw me over the edge (and I’m a NURSE!! I really should know better!) I have two dogs, my little one, a Jack Russell cross, has diabetes, is on a special EXPENSIVE diet, complete with twice a day insulin injections. My larger boy, an Australian Shepard, has asthma, and requires daily puffers and ventolin when he has his “attacks.”
    The whole thing is nuts, and I have spent a fortune at the vets too…but hey, what is the alternative? I seriously like having those two pains around…

  31. Kathie

    Zymox. It’s saved my sanity in cleaning my dog’s ears. It’s like the super wonder crud eater!! It’s enzymatic, so it eats all the little nasty yeasty bacteria that grow in her ears…and it has cortizone in it, so it helps with the itching immediately. Of course, she hates it with a fiery passion and it takes two of us to do it….

    Now if I could only figure out why my australian shepherd has lost his complete undercoat down to the skin….

  32. Therese

    My Weimeraner also hides when the ear cleaner stuff appears. Like you can’t see 95 pounds of big dog behind that woodstove? My large man children lay on him, and I do the deed.

  33. Lulu

    I swear I read your first sentence as “I promised you a taste of Licorice’s ears.”
    Which now, after reading the whole post? Urk.

  34. Ingrid

    Our Golden is prone to hot spots, and after her first kennel experience this summer, came home with a double ear infection. I don’t know what it is about that poor dog, but the yeasties love her!

  35. ChristieNY

    having flashbacks to the first time we brought our goldendoodle to the vet and learning about the ear-hair plucking and seeing that big plier contraption come out! eeeek! what a relief that he didn’t seem to mind much, scared the life outta me though!

    we have to bring him in for a weight check every couple of months (so we can buy the right dose of preventative heartworm & flea/tick meds) and our wonderful doc clips his nails and pulls out his ear hair. i always bring treats in my purse when we go so he’ll still love me! ;)

  36. Erika

    Man, I’m so glad that my beagles don’t have ear problems.

  37. JoJo

    I have 4 kittybabies as I like to call them. This past summer started off with two of them getting their vaccs, $500.00, then one cat hit by car but lived $350.00 but now indoors on canned cat food for eternity. Add another “free” cat that started off female that was really male with urinary tract infection the caused spraying all over the house for weeks before we knew what had happened and now on the special cat food and a 3 1/2 week stay at the vet well $2000 later plus another $1000 absorbed by the vet because lets just say at that point it was the cat or heat for the house. All four cats are alive and we have heat thank God because it is only 2 degrees out today.

  38. Lori B

    Oh, this brings back disgusting memories of my sweet Lhasa that is no longer with us. She had the worst ears! I would pluck the hair out, use the ear wash and dig out the nastiest stuff you’ve ever seen. GAH! But we loved her and were so sad when she went to doggy heaven. We are now ready for another fur baby and plan to get one in the spring. Thanks for reminding me about the ears. Will choose wisely.

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