(CN: animal in pain)

I’m going insane right now. My dog has yet another set of ear infections. He’s had itchy skin and the ear shakes since he was about 6 months old. For a while he was doing well - we switched his food for a grain-free variety and he wasn’t waking us up by itching or head shaking all night or yelping when something brushed his ears, but they were still inflamed and full of gunk. Our vet shot down our allergy theory and diagnosed him with yeast infections in both ears and on his skin. She gave us (expensive) medicine to put in his ears daily and a topical foam for his skin (none of which we could afford).

Those 3 weeks of twice-daily ear medicine dosing were hell. He would scream and flail and dig at his ears for hours after each application. During that time I legitimately thought about just running away and leaving my spouse with him. I couldn’t handle him being in pain while everything we were doing to try to help was making it more unbearable for him. I was a crying wreck. The worst part? It didn’t seem to help long-term. In 6 months he was right back to the inflamed gunky ears. The vet did a professional cleaning and “ear packing” with antifungal stuff. It didn’t work, so they did it again three months later. After that, we couldn’t afford to take him back to the vet; we had borrowed $1500 from my spouse’s parent to pay the vet bills and we couldn’t justify borrowing more when the treatments weren’t working.

Now, after 2.5 years of just dealing with the inflammation and dosing him with Benadryl to lower the inflammation so we can clean his ears every week, the really bad infections have popped back up again. I am fucking devastated.

I can’t go through another 3 weeks of hell, where I feel like everything I do is hurting him. I can’t afford the $600 vet bill for the professional ear cleaning and packing followed by the 3 weeks of expensive treatment. I can’t afford a prescription of Apoquel (which our vet had given us samples of last time and was a miracle for the itching and scratching). I can’t afford the ingredients for a 12 week elimination diet to determine if it even is a food allergy. I can’t afford the skin or blood test needed to see what he’s allergic to if it isn’t his food. Spouse is disabled, we’re on food stamps, and our budget is already stretched from the $50 bag of food we buy for him that was so great for him for so long.

We’re going to the vet this week to get his vaccine boosters and I’m dreading the look she’ll give us when she looks at him ears. How can I say “I can’t afford it,” and not be a terrible dog owner? It’s almost to the point where I want to rehome him with someone who is rich and can afford to take care of him, but he’s my spouses’ service dog so obviously that’s not an option. I feel like such a horrible person.

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So, after all that text, has anyone here ever dealt with pet allergy issues? Any home remedies or things that worked for you? Resources for low-cost vet care organizations? Foods I should look into? We’ve tried a bunch of novel proteins before we found that the Blue Buffalo grain free stuff works but any recommendations would be appreciated.

Picture for your troubles: