The Dog's Health>Ears>A Tale of Two Ears

A Tale of Two Ears

Perhaps one of the most talked about subjects with reference to the Shar Pei is EARS. Do they require ear re-sections? Do they require ear flushes? Do they require ear medication? Do they require antibiotics? Do they .. ?????

Most vets answers in the past have been YES. My answer is NO to ALL of the above. I was once a FIRST TIME Shar Pei owner. Naive, inexperienced, praying the breeder I bought my first Shar Pei from could help me with all my new buyer questions. My biggest disappointment was that my breeder was not there to help me out, and really didn't even care! So I was left to deal with SKIN, COAT, EARS, EYES all by myself and the assistance of a veterinarian not familiar with the breed.

The heartache was about to begin. Both my sister and I had Shar Pei. I do remember one thing I was told by a well-known, well-educated American breeder, who was also I would consider, a Shar Pei expert at that time. The last words out of the mouth of that breeder was "NEVER get a Shar Pei's ears flushed - so many have come away with broken ears drums and chronic ear problems". But, being new to the breed I "listened to my vet".

Lets start with ear flushes, antibiotics and then an ear re-section - I've been there and done it all. END RESULTS:- no improvement or just a slight improvement. So my research began:- to point out a few things that all affect their overall health, including ears and eyes.

  • This is a breed with lots of medium brown to dark brown chunks of smelly debris - a build up of wax, that some get a lot of and some don't.

  • This is a breed that is one of the oldest breeds in the world?? What went on with ears back then???

  • This is a breed that reacts to diet as a prime cause of allergies and wax build up.

  • This is a breed that reacts to stress and ear and eye maintenance increase as result of stress.

Experiencing the ear flushes and ear re-section first hand I realized that this was only a temporary solution and that all of the above would just repeat over and over again. I was now on an expedition of breed information and health research (not excluding my noted health background with people, what works and what doesn't).

Reading much of the breed info written by old time experts and breeders - some the first to be in the breed - I started to adopt their ear cleaning methods, coupled with my own research and common sense.

My first step was to wait for another droopy ear and shaking head. Then I decided to let nature takes it's course and leave the ear alone. So untouched, I discovered that my Shar Pei had the capability of letting its own immune system take care of the infection, pending infection or moisture build up due to seasonal change. Whatever the reason that particular ear acted up, it was duly noted - IT CLEARED UP ON ITS OWN. (Took about 2 weeks.)

After watching this with every Shar Pei I had and was to own in the future, many of my dogs now NEVER even require ear cleaning of any type anymore and for the ones that do, it is only a surface wipe of the inside of ear flap.

Interesting yes, truthful yes, do I recommend it? Yes. Over the years it has been observed that the minute the ears are touched by way of flushing or over-cleaning, the ear maintenance becomes chronic and yeast is a constant battle. By instructing my puppy buyers to leave the ears alone and let nature build up its own defense mechanism to fight back naturally, it has also been observed that this has been the most successful approach to ear maintenance in the breed.

How bad does it or can it get? It can get very smelly - with lots of bacteria and yeast discharge. If we keep taking away what the body is to fight and battle, how is the body to build up any type of natural defense and bring it to a controllable level within their own body immunity. By interfering it is more likely to be worse the next time around and a resistance to many of the ear ointments, antibiotics etc. may build up.

Many of the old time breeders have also adopted the "leave the ears alone method" with the same results. When there is a wax plug in the ears sometimes I will see my adults take their toenails (which are naturally long) and pick these chunks out. It is safe to just clean the inner ear flap with an oil alcohol solution of choice. I know for a fact if for some reason there were no more humans left on this planet, my dog's ears would be fine - would yours?
If and I say IF, a dog has, or is a candidate for Familial Shar Pei Fever, Swollen Hock Syndrome, Amyloidosis or a condition that is an immune system problem, I feel ears will be right there in the thick of it. And if the ears of the Shar Pei do not clear up on their own, then I would again, put it in the category of "NOT FOR BREEDING" for my experience now tells me by way of my dozen dogs here, that ears of a healthy Shar Pei require very little maintenance.

It certainly is not a matter of bloodlines or pedigrees here, but common sense. And if it IS a "genetic" thing - which is not out of the question - then why are breeders breeding dogs that require heavy duty ear maintenance? To me this is no better than breeding dogs with skin problems etc. Do you syringe your ears and clean them the way many clean a Shar Pei's ears? If you did, believe you me, you would have chronic ear problems also! Again, this is my experience and opinion and it will be left at what works best for the breeder and buyer. The end result rests with what procedures the owner is comfortable with following, or not following.

Again some food for thought, and if one does note that after the onset of an ear infection, and left untouched, it starts to clear up on its own, you have gained new knowledge, if is does not start to clear up between 1 - 2 weeks, you have lost nothing in returning to the ways of modern day medicine. One all natural hint to cleaning up ears - add Yogurt or Acidophilus to the diet and switch diets completely, the closer to an all natural diet, the cleaner the ears!

This article is meant to be informative and contains opinions based on my research and involvement with Shar Pei for the last 16 years. This article is not meant to replace or deter anyone from following their veterinarian's advice or another breeder's opinion. These opinions are copyright of Shar Pei Canadiana (C) 1999. Vicky McBeth.

(This article was edited and reprinted with the permission of the author.)