Monday, February 15, 2010

Another allergy side effect

The term cauliflower ear isn’t all that rare — you’ve probably heard it used at some point in your life.
It’s most general use is in describing a human ear and usually, that human is a wrestler who has sustained some sort of trauma to the cartilage in his ear.
So, what is cauliflower ear and how does it apply to dogs?
Cauliflower ear appears as a sac of fluid in the dog’s outer ear. It can begin looking like a puffy spider bite but can get larger and larger, until you’re feeling quite sure that this requires the attention of a veterinarian.
This injury is the result of a trauma to the cartilage in the ear — hence why it’s most closely associated with wrestlers whose ears are at the risk of a lot different ways to be injured during a match.
The way it was explained to me is that the blood vessels, once broken, can put a lot of pressure on the blood vessels around the affected area, causing those blood vessels to rupture as well, which then causes the pocket to fill with more fluid and expand in size.
Left untreated, the ear can eventually become completely disfigured — as is the case with many wrestlers.
The disfigurement, of course, is where the term “cauliflower ear” comes from in the first place. Apparently, the disfigured ear can look a bit like cauliflower on a person. I personally have seen this on at least one person in my life and I have to admit, the term “cauliflower” is quite appropriate.
The medical term, at least for dogs, is “hematoma.”
Anyhow, wonder how a dog can get this type of injury? Think it’s probably something extreme? Think again.
My dog gave himself cauliflower ear by scratching.
Of course, it wasn’t your run-of-the-mill scratch. No, it was the type of persistent scratching that is caused by allergies.
As my regular readers already know, I’ve been dealing with a particularly bad bout of food allergies since the beginning of the new year. Allergies in dogs most often result in compulsive licking and scratching, which is exactly what Sensi went through, tearing up his skin and ripping out his hair in the process.
At first, it appeared this pocket of fluid in his ear was going to go away. After filling to be a little larger than a quarter on the inside of the ear, the fluid levels seemed to decrease and later seemed to almost disappear completely.
But then it filled up again. Who knows why — maybe he scratched the ear again or shook his head just hard enough to rupture those blood vessels again.
Either way, our luck wasn’t so good this time. The pocket continued to grow every day until it was clear that we’d have to get our veterinarian to operate.
Sensi went in for the operation today at Oxford Veterinary Hospital, where he’s been going for years now. I have to say, if anyone is having a hard time finding a good veterinarian, you might want to try this place. There are two doctors at the hospital; we see Dr. Stephen Steep. There are lots of things that make him a great veterinarian — the fact that he’s quite knowledgeable of animal behavior happens to be my favorite.
And no, just because someone is a veterinarian does not automatically mean they know animal behavior. I’ve come across lots of veterinarians who are very good at what they do but appear rather clueless when it comes to the behavior side of things.
Anyhow, they let me to stay to watch the procedure. There are different procedures to correct the problem, but the one Sensi had began with a incision straight down the center of the fluid pocket.
After the mostly-blood fluid mix drained, Dr. Steep began stitching the skin back to the cartilage. This, I’m sure, required some finesse. The incision was left open so the wound can continue to drain.
After it was done, the ear was wrapped up like a cone.
Sensi is still recuperating at the vet’s office and I’ll be heading in later today to pick him up. It sounds like there is a substantial amount of aftercare to ensure he heals well — the hardest of which might be getting him to leave his ear alone.
That may just be the topic of my next blog — is it possible to train a dog not to shake his head?

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