We met Truman and his dad, a very nice older gentleman, today. Truman is a 7 year old, neutered male, 133lb Rottweiler.
Truman’s dad had used the services of his previous Indianapolis veterinary clinic for over 20 years. During that time, he had gone through four different doctors, each of whom left the practice without explanation. He said he came to us, seeking stability, and was impressed by our positive reviews on Angie’s List, where we maintain an “A” rating and have won their Super Service Award for four years in a row.
Dad warned us, that through all four of his previous veterinarians, each time he visited the veterinary clinic, he was asked to muzzle and restrain Truman, while the doctor gave an injectable sedative in the dog’s rump. Then, and only then, could anyone examine Truman, who was thought to be very aggressive. And today, poor Truman had a very painful ear infection, oh no!
Dad had struggled through this scenario about every six months or so since Truman was a young dog, because of recurring ear infections. Apparently, each time after Truman got his semi-annual sedative shot, technicians would carry his sleepy body to the hospital’s treatment room, where a veterinarian would flush out whichever ear, or ears, was infected, and instill a thick paste that contained antibiotics, antifungals, and steroids. The paste would remain in the ear for several days, and Truman would be right as rain in about a week.
Except that six months later, Truman would get another ear infection. Then back into the clinic, he and dad would go.
It was always expensive, and it was traumatic, both physically and emotionally. Truman’s dad was clearly nervous, and obviously not very happy about having to repeat this ordeal today, especially not at a clinic, and with a doctor, who was brand new to him, but he knew he had to tough it out for Truman’s sake.
Visibly shaken telling this story, Truman’s dad stood slack-jawed as I explained to him that no, we never (well, almost never) sedate pets for exams at Leo’s Pet Care. We’ve just found 99% of the time, it’s simply not necessary.
Truman approached me when I knelt and offered him treats, and though he didn’t eat any of them, he sniffed at them, and welcomed a gentle scratch on the cheek. He seemed to be a curious fellow, hesitant, anxious, but not obviously aggressive.
We quietly instructed dad to put a muzzle on Truman for everyone’s safety – we’re not fools, we still frequently muzzle scared pets – and had dad lead Truman on to our pneumatic lift exam table. Muzzled Truman jumped up onto the table readily. Then we had dad stand at the front of the table where Truman could see him, my assistant stood across from me and gave Truman a big ol’ hug, and I flipped the switch to lift Truman to eye level, so I could complete a better physical exam. It’s been my experience, that I can do a much more thorough physical exam when I can get over, around, and most importantly, underneath a pet, to have a look in and around every nook and cranny, instead of crawling around on the floor.
Still stunned, dad watched amazed as Truman not only tolerated the lift, and my exam, but seemed to enjoy the attention. Yes, he had his muzzle on, and gave us a low growl once, but nothing out of the ordinary for a nervous dog. I took note of his quivering rear leg, and how much he was leaning on my assistant, and interpreted these as signs of anxiety that I was very familiar with. My assistant and I, and dad, all spoke reassuring words, and patted Truman on his head and stroked along his shoulders, comforting our poor, nervous patient (and his poor, nervous dad).
Was Truman scared? Obviously. Aggressive? Not even a little bit.
We then took a swab of Truman’s ear to determine if the infection was caused by yeast, or bacteria, and I taught dad how to use our prescription ear flush and some cotton balls, to clean the pus, wax, and debris out of his ear. (Read this blog if you’d like to learn more about how to treat a dog with an ear infection).
I showed dad that the infection extended on to the inside of the ear flap, and that medication would need to be applied not only inside the deep ear canal, but also to the inner ear flap as well. Truman stood still through all of this, like a champ, and let us do what we needed to do.
Dad admitted that he had never seen the inside of Truman’s ear flap. To his knowledge, looking there was not something that Truman would ever allow – yet here he was, not just allowing it, but apparently enjoying it.
Truman leaned, groaning, into my hand as I squished the ear cleaner into and around his ear, obviously happy to have someone finally scratch his itch.
After a thorough manual ear cleaning, I squeezed a glob of medicated ear goo into the ear, massaged some onto the flap, lowered Truman to the floor, took his muzzle off, and gave him treats for being such a good boy. This time, he ate the treats.
Then we told dad to repeat the cleaning every 24 hours, with his son’s help restraining if possible, and using the muzzle he already owned if he thought it was necessary, and to repeat the medicated cream every 12 hours, and to come back in 7 days for a recheck exam – or in 3 days, if he wished, if he wanted to bring his son along to learn how to clean the ears as well. Learning is fun!
It turns out, Truman’s dad had been taught over and over again, for at least 7 years – maybe even 20 years! – to fear veterinary treatment, and told that he was utterly incapable of treating his own dog.
We proved that 20 years of conditioning incorrect, in just 15 minutes.
Truman butt-waggled his way up to the lobby, dad clasping his small bag of ear flush and ear cream and antibiotics and anti-inflammatory tablets, with a new found confidence that he could, in fact, take care of his furry family member all on his own. Seeing the joy on that man’s face was like watching my son Leo learn how to ride his bike for the first time.
Our whole staff has been buzzing with confidence all day now, feeling like we’ve changed how that man will relate to his dog, forever.
It’s our belief that once this infection is cleared up, if Truman’s dad stays on top of ear cleanings regularly, he may never again get to this level of infection. Regular ear cleanings will allow dad to monitor Truman’s ear condition for the rest of his life, allowing him to act at the first sign of infection instead of days or weeks into the problem. More importantly, cleaning Truman’s ears out regularly will give dad and dog regular opportunities for training, and bonding.
And may the love they share, and their mutual trust, continue to grow.