Itchy Ears & Body – Where does it End?


First in a series
Poking my head into the reception room, my gaze fell on a nicely groomed Old English Sheepdog – my next patient. As I invited her and her person into the exam room I noticed a slight left head tilt. Her gait was normal, with no tendency to veer to one side. An ear infection seemed more likely than a neurologic cause but I would also check her teeth. Shaking the hand of my new client I was stuck by this lady’s quiet confidence. Her name was Miss Manners – really, that was her name.

We learn a lot about pets by watching them move. Thorough medicine means we miss nothing, including signs of even mild pain. I observe by trying to be inconspicuous, like a fly on the wall wearing a white coat.

“Chase” was 3 years old and had been suffering from an on-again, off-again left ear infection. Was she itchy? Oh yes, she’d been scratching pretty much everywhere for the past year, since their move to New Mexico.

I do my best work in good light, examining at chest level, even with a big dog. I explained that I would fetch nurse Amos to help me heft this big fuzzy girl onto the table. My well-dressed client stated courteously but unequivocally that she would help and hold her pet. Adopting my most inscrutable expression I lifted Chase’s front end (heavier because heads weigh more than rumps) while Miss Manners deftly managed the rear. Impressive.

An Old English Sheepdog is a gorgeous creature but masquerading as Cousin Itt carries real drawbacks. I parted the long silver and white hairs in several areas, noticing skin that was pink from inflammation and self-injury. We were only getting started.
Next week: Ears and rears?
An amendment to last week’s column: Aching joints were a likely factor in this elderly cat’s urinating outside her litter pan. There is an excellent new once-a-month injectable for arthritis pain in kitties called Solensia. Don’t wait for your senior cat to make her discomfort obvious. Talk to your veterinarian.
For help with behavior problems, you can sign-up for a Zoom Group Conference on my website,

Dr. Jeff Nichol is a residency-trained veterinary behaviorist. He provides consultations in-person and in groups by Zoom (505-792-5131). Each week he shares a blog and a video to help bring out the best in pets and their people. Sign up at no charge at Post pet behavioral or physical questions on or by US Post to 4000 Montgomery Blvd. NE, Albuq, NM 87109.