Since I am generally the first to point out when something is not going right and when there is blatant and inexplicable incorrectness, allow me to emphasise how pleased I am with the Sunday Stabroek’s formatting of these series of articles on animal care/health.
The people, who every week put together the (sometimes) heavy subject matter in an eye-catching and readable way, are not only professional, but they prove that even popular science also has to be packaged properly before it can be welcomed by the reader.
Last week, I ended the article by saying that after every dog/cat fight, you should look at the ears for wounds. Believe me, even the simplest wound that has given rise to the oozing of some blood or serum, is enough to allow bacteria to invade and multiply. Blood/serum is like a nutritive broth, a growth stimulant for bacteria. Sometimes, the blood from a wounded ear flap can drop into the ear canal; all sorts of junk can then grow on that droplet of blood/serum. It behooves you, the pet protector, to institute measures which ensure that a simple wound does not evolve into a life-threatening septicaemia.
Now let’s look at one simple but important thing you can do at home to prevent ear ailments from developing. You can pull the hair with a tweezers from around the entrance to the ear canal, so that air can circulate properly. When I went to school (admittedly a long time ago), it was a standard procedure to yank (with speed and dexterity) hair from the ear canal entrance to promote good air circulation, and thus reduce the chance of an infection developing.
Well, over the years (and after much participation in refresher courses for practicing professionals), the great wisdom has emerged that the pulling of hair is not necessarily a good thing. You see, as you pull the hair out of the skin, small quantities of serum ooze out of the tiny holes that you have left behind. Bacteria can grow on that serum. Lord, forgive me. In the more than four and a half decades of veterinary practice, I must have precipitated several infections, especially in wire-haired dogs in general, and Poodles and Pompeks (small fluffy dogs) in particular.
I still believe in the clearing of the entrance to the ear canal by removing a thick bunch of hair there. However, now I smear some antibiotic ointment when I have finished the exercise. Of course, one can clip the hair surrounding the entrance to the ear canal, but such trimming is usually not enough, and the hair tends to grow back quickly. The ear hair plucking can be done by yourself at home with a tweezers – the same way you pluck out hairs from your own eyebrows.
Some pet owners I know do prefer the option of clipping the hair around the external ear canal orifice. Well that’s all fine and good, if there is not a thick, matted (foul smelling) wad of hair present. If the latter scenario exists, let your vet remove the hair. No ifs, no buts.
Application of ear medication
Let’s describe the application of ear drops or ointments (usually antibiotics) to the ear. This is not a great scientific undertaking. Hold the dog’s head still (you don’t want to damage the dog’s ear with the nozzle of the tube/bottle). Squeeze a bit (not too much, about a half-inch) of ointment into the opening of the ear canal. I prefer ear drops. The liquid reaches every place and distributes itself evenly. Four drops per ear are enough. Rub the base of the ear to disperse the drops/ointment. You should use the ointment/drops as your vet directs (two or three times daily). Clean the ear (as described last week) before each intervention.
Where puppies are concerned, you need not attempt any cleansing. The mother dog does everything perfectly. As the pups get older and their teeth sharper, there may be ear lesions created during play. None of the damage is so severe as to necessitate great antibiotic intervention. If there is an obvious infection (with oozing discharge), then you must contact your veterinarian immediately.
Cosmetic ear surgery
I have noticed recently that, here in Guyana, there seems to be an upsurge in requests from owners for veterinarians to “sculpt” what the owner (or the owner’s vanity) feels is necessary for the dog to look cuter. May I suggest that whosoever has this urge should abandon it, so as not to create an embarrassing situation when your vet pointedly refuses to agree to the request. Your dog is quite happy with the ears with which he was born. You cannot improve upon perfection.
Of course, if there is some abnormality/deformity which results in the ears creating a problem for the dog (eg the long ears of some breeds of hounds dragging on the ground and/or being stepped on), then you, in consultation with your vet, might consider a corrective (surgical) intervention.
Have a pleasant week.
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. We still have the free spay and neutering programme. Exploit it. 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.