1.   Splitting of the ear tips

Patient dog waiting at the GSPCA for a home  (She has been spayed.)
Patient dog waiting at the GSPCA for a home (She has been spayed.)

Usually, an underlying infection or some other form of irritation (mange, foreign body stuck in the ear flap, horse fly bite, etc) can precipitate this condition which, as the name suggests, is a fissure (a split) on the tip of the ear.
Mostly dogs with long, drooping (hanging) ears, eg the Spaniels, Beagles, Dachshunds, etc, exhibit this ailment.  Because of the infection/irritation referred to above, the animal shakes its head with great force.  This, together with an intense scratching of the ear, leads to a crack developing on the ear tip.  Often there is a lot of bloody discharge accompanying the lesion. The ear, especially the tip, is covered with caked blood (which, of course, attracts biting flies).

If there is continuous haemorrhage, the treatment will be directed initially at stopping the blood flow.  If there is no great bleeding, but only the fissured ear tip, then a soothing cream could be applied.  If there is no serious split, there would be no need to use antibiotics.  Of course, whenever the skin is broken, screwworm flies are right there waiting to lay their eggs in the wounds.  (Out of the eggs, tissue-eating maggots evolve).  One can spray a thin film of an insect repellent (Blue Spray), or paste some Vaseline over the wound to stop the screwworm fly/horse fly attack.
Of course, the underlying cause has to be treated.  If the original condition is an Otitis externa (see next week’s Pet Corner), that has to be managed simultaneously with the treatment of the ear tip fissure.

2.   Oily ear
The dog’s body exudes an oily substance (sebum) which is used to give the hair gloss and sheen.  Sometimes there is an excessive amount of this secretion which builds up on the hair along the edge of the ear.  If you were to place the border of the affected ear between your fingers, you can actually feel the ‘grease.’ The hair along the edge is not strongly anchored in the skin and can quite easily fall out or be pulled out.

Since the real cause of this increased sebum secretion is not known, one just has to treat the greasy ear with a medicated shampoo or a specific commercial product.  One can also wipe off the ear with any grease-dissolving agent (a gentle household detergent, used for washing greasy wares, would work).

3.   Fungus infections of the ear
This is a difficult one.  In the case of bacterial infections of the ear, the symptoms show themselves pretty early and dramatically (redness, pus, pain, stench, discharge).  With yeast (fungus) ear infections the signs come along more insidiously.  There is a wax build-up (some people argue that there is firstly an excessive amount of wax production, then comes the fungus growth); there is no pus; not much pain; not much redness (inflammation).  For me, the main symptom is the smell; it is rancid.
I can tell you that fungal infections occur often after the ear has been treated for a long period with antibiotics against an original bacterial problem.  Moisture in the ear (aftermath of a bath) is also seen as a predisposing cause.

Treatment is geared towards killing the fungus, which is never a simple task.  Yeasts are obstinate.  I advise that the ear be cleaned thoroughly (removal of the wax), before antifungal creams/ointments are introduced under veterinary supervision.  Secondly, use the antifungal medication at least two weeks after the signs have subsided.  Recurrence of the condition is not infrequent.

Next week, we’ll delve into the ear canal (the middle ear) and see what sort of ailments we’ll encounter there.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead.  If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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