Cathy’s much-loved elderly Sharpei, Milicent, died of old age just a month ago, and Cathy was devastated. She had no intention of getting another dog so quickly, but circumstances stepped in that nudged her in the direction of Zelda.
A friend of a friend of a friend heard about an accidental litter of cross-bred puppies with an unusual mix: a Sharpei father and a Lurcher mother. Sharpeis are a rare breed, and cross-bred puppies of this type are almost unheard of. When Cathy heard that the pups had been born just a few miles from her own birth place, in County Wexford, she felt that it was somehow meant to be. She visited the litter of pups, and decided at once that Zelda was the one for her. The pup settled into her home at once, getting on well with Cathy’s family of five dogs and three cats. (Strangely, Zelda spent her first few days sniffing around Cathy’s house, seeking out and gathering all Milicent’s old toys, but leaving the other dogs’ toys alone. This has given Cathy even more of a sense of a connection between her beloved Milicent and the lively new arrival.
Cathy brought Zelda to see me for her first health check, and there was one issue that bothered her: the puppy had haloes of hair loss around both eyes. What could be causing this?
When I examined her, I could find nothing wrong with her eyes: as a cross bred dog, Zelda has a far healthier physique than a pedigree Sharpei. Many Sharpeis have problems with over-wrinkly skin, leading to inturned eyelids that need surgical correction. Zelda’s Lurcher mother means that her eyes are perfect. There was no obvious reason for the balding areas around them.
I went on to give Zelda a detailed examination all over, and when I used an otoscope to examine her ears, I found something significant: she had ear mites. These are ant-like creatures that hide deep inside dogs’ ears, causing itchiness. They are common in puppies.
I gave Cathy some ointment to apply to the ears, and to be doubly sure, I treated Zelda with a “spot-on” product that will help to kill the mites. Zelda has to come back to see me for her final vaccination in a fortnight, so I will check her ears again: the mites should have vanished by then.
While I am hoping that my treatment will solve the problem, ear mites can be surprisingly difficult to eradicate. Ear drops are effective at killing adult ear mites, it’s far more difficult to kill ear mite eggs. The only way to get rid of them is to wait until the ear mite eggs hatch out into young adults, and then to kill them with the ear drops. In practice, this means that a long course of ear drops needs to be given. My recommendation for Zelda was to apply the drops twice daily for five days, then twice a week for a full two weeks. This allows enough time for the all mite eggs to hatch out, and then for the young adults to be killed.
There’s another issue with ear mites: when a pup like Zelda moves into a household full of other dogs and cats, it’s common for cross infection to take place, with the older residents picking up ear mites from the new arrival. Ear mites cross the species barrier, affecting both dogs and cats. In some cases, it’s necessary to put ear drops into every animal in the house to ensure that ear mites are fully eradicated.
I suspect that the ear mites may also be the cause of the baldness around her eyes. Itchy ears often make puppies scratch their heads and rub their faces along the ground. When they do this, they sometimes end up with sore eyes as a side effect.
So with luck, when I see this lovely pup again, not only will she have healthy clean ears, but with a little luck, the balding haloes around her eyes should have disappeared.