Copyrighted by Susan Dunivant
Many dogs are prone to ear tip trauma, particularly those with large or long, drooping ear tips, such as the Basset hound or even the Beagle. However, the Kerry Blue Terrier may also develop an irritation at the ear tip, which may then progress to infection. The usual itching which accompanies these infections may cause the dog to scratch the ear, shake it’s head or rub the ears which repeatedly opens the wound allowing further bacteria to enter. This quickly develops into a chronic condition, whereby the dog repeatedly re-injures the site, resulting in a progressive involvement of the ear.
A major causative factor which may begin this chronic condition resembles a waxy or sometimes a dry white dandruff-like scaly condition at the ear tips. The ear tip may also appear somewhat thickened and this very likely is the result of what appears to be an overgrowth of cells at the follicle base. Examined under the microscope (or even magnifying glass) one sees this white dandruff-like scale forms around the hair at the follicle base. This is what is sometimes referred to as a “scurf,” and develops on other animals besides dogs. “Scurf” is just a slang term for what is likely an overproduction of skin cells and/or oil around the follicle, which leads to a sort of waxy, dry folliculitis. This folliculitis may sometimes result in further itching or irritation of the ear tip, followed by a secondary bacterial infection, which aggravates the original condition. More quickly than seems possible the ear tips become bloodied from constant scratching and head shaking, and the condition accelerates into a chronic trauma induced wound situation as any closed lesions are constantly opened anew.
Treatment is very simple, and rarely requires any sort of oral antibiotics. Indeed, although the ear has a strong supply of blood, very evident by the way the dog has “painted” the walls while shaking it’s head, there are areas where the supply is not as plentiful. The ear tips are the thinnest part of the ear, with a small blood supplied covering of skin over rubbery ear cartilage. Therefore topical treatment is usually the most effective. Oral antibiotics may be necessary if the condition has progressed rapidly into a very bad wound, which has moved up on the ear into a better blood supply. However, be aware that allowing the condition to be unsuccessfully treated which results in this more serious progression will likely result in damage to the ear and cartilage…so early treatment is the best treatment, less costly in all respects.
The very first and critical treatment I recommend is to wash the wound twice daily with a betadine surgical scrub. You may be able to get this at your veterinarian or pharmacy. A very good source online may be found at:
The following instructions are VERY important to insure a successful treatment. The ear with a wound ,which is being repeatedly reopened by the dog, MUST be either pasted up, or taped to the head in such a way that the
As a “preventative” treatment for the waxy, folliculitis type scaling on ear tips you may do the following. When bathing your dog on a regular schedule simply use the betadine scrub to soap up the ear tips, rinse well and the problem should never occur. Using a “stripping knife” with long teeth, (a coarse knife for stripping out wire haired breeds) or a flea comb gently on the ear tips while soaping with the scrub helps remove stubborn scale…but be gentle, don’t set up an irritation by too rough handling of those tender ear tips! If you prefer not to soap up the ear tips with betadine, you might consider applying a few drops of betadine solution (no soaping agent) to each tip, then rinse. Betadine solution is also available at VetVax.
It has been my observation that ear tip “scurf” seems to occur seasonally, perhaps more in winter than in summer. Also, it’s seems more likely to occur if the hair is allowed to grow long on the ears between grooming, perhaps speeding the overproduction of follicle cells around the hair shaft. Regardless of whether the condition is seasonal, it will in most cases improve dramatically with a clean clipping of the ear, a few soapings with the scrub, prevention of re-injury and a regular regimen of maintenance care to insure continued ear health.
Cleaning the ears
In addition to the commercial products you could buy, below is another suggestion from s Kerry breeder, Gene Possidento. It was first published on the uskb-list @uskbtc.com email listasnd is published here with his permission.
asked me for this homemade ear cleaning solution. I have had great results with it. I have to special order the Gentian Violet locally.
Purple Stuff For Cleaning Dog’s Ears