All right...this is really old, but I've been meaning to post this for a while. I've just never sat down and put everything together. As some of you know, Loki had an ear infection at the end of last year. Here's some info on the whole process behind that--what it looks like, information you should have to prepare for a vet visit for your beardie, etc. Hopefully this can help someone out there prepare if you have a similar incident in the future. [Insert obligatory "I am not a vet" here.] PICTURES OF INFECTED EAR: Warning--most of these pictures are not terribly graphic, but the fourth image down does show the bloody ear drum after surgery, so you may want to scroll down quickly if you are especially queasy about that stuff. (It's really nothing terrible, just thought I'd offer fair warning to the particularly faint of heart.) The first thing I noticed was a slight swelling of the tympanic membrane (eardrum). Upon closer inspection, I saw a small piece of retained shed in his ear. I removed the shed cap and looked in the ear drum. I did not see any pus or abnormality behind the ear drum (It was clear like normal.) and thought that mild irritation from water getting trapped in the stuck shed was the only issue I was dealing with. I decided to take some vinegar to the ear to see if that would help, but the very next day I could see a yellowish, cheesy buildup behind the membrane and knew he needed to go to the veterinarian for an inner ear infection/aural abscess. The following is what a normal bearded dragon's ear should look like. Note how the eardrum is flat and you can vaguely distinguish different bones behind the membrane. (Side diagram of a lizard's ear if anyone wants to compare: http://accessscience.com/loadBinary.aspx?filename=208600FG0040.gif.) The next two pictures are what the infected ear looked like. You can clearly see the swollen ear drum, and you can no longer see anything clearly behind the membrane due to the yellowish caseous buildup behind it. IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: With further reading, I learned that reptiles do not really get outer ear infections as they do not have an actual outer ear canal. If you notice any swelling of the tympanic membrane at all, even if you aren't sure if there is a buildup of pus, please take your reptile to an experienced herp vet as soon as you can. Also, please be aware that an aural abscess is not only inconvenient and likely uncomfortable for the animal, but if left untreated can actually be life-threatening. If the infection is left without treatment, it can easily spread farther along the eustachian tubes and into the jaw area. The more the infection spreads, the more painful it is going to be for your reptile to eat normally. Eventually they will refuse to eat altogether. Trust me, it is much easier and less expensive in the long run to treat an animal sooner rather than later. Obviously an animal that is in minimal to no pain and is active and eating will recover much more quickly than an animal that is in more pain, is lethargic, and has a loss of appetite. TREATMENT: The first thing the vet will need to do is remove the pus from behind the eardrum. Loki was anaesthetized, and then the vet made a small incision in the ear drum, and removed the material from behind it. He took a sample of the infected material to find out exactly what kind of infection we were dealing with. In the meantime, he prescribed an intramuscular antibiotic injection. (The drug Loki was prescribed was amikacin, a strong antibiotic effective against a variety of bacterial infections, including the kind that his sample tested as. Obviously your vet may choose to use a different drug; this is just an example of what treatment may look like.) In removing the pus from the ear, he also found an abnormal growth within the ear canal (which may have actually attributed to the cause of the ear infection). He took a biopsy of this to make sure it was non-malignant. Thankfully it was. This is the ear after surgery. Not pretty at all. Thankfully (for my sanity), Loki was completely unfazed by the whole ordeal. Finally, this is the ear today (seven months later). It has taken a few cleanings and it is still a little abnormal—there is still some dead tissue flaking away and the membrane itself is not as “neat” looking as a regular one should be. It will probably never return to normal because of scar tissue from where the cut was made. However, the swelling is gone and you can see there is no longer the yellowish white pus behind the eardrum. (Sorry, you can't see all that very well in the picture.) Well, as you can see, everything turned out all right in the end. But the main thing I want people to realize is that this all happened despite perfect husbandry practices. Perfect temperatures and humidity. Perfect diet. Safe and sanitary cage. There was absolutely nothing done wrong that led to this issue. Accidents happen; be prepared for when they do. You can do everything right and still end up dropping over $400 on one vet visit. Budget accordingly. Have savings set aside for medical emergencies, regardless of how good you think you are at preventing commonly occuring problems. Of course, prevention is the best way to fight illness. But even with all of the prevention in the world, there are still some things you can't prevent from happening. Also, make sure you find a veterinarian near you that is experienced with reptiles. You can start by looking at http://herpvetconnection.com/. You can also call around and ask if vets near you treat exotics. I would do a quick google on said vets to try and find one with positive feedback from fellow herp owners. Stores near you that carry exotic animals may also be able to refer you to someone, but avoid asking major chain retail stores for references. That's going to be all for today. I'll update at some point in the near future with some tips on going to the vet well prepared, as well.