Deformed ears by S. Kolijn
De Huaca Viringo
Deformed ears by S. KolijnTerug
August 2008, all rights reserved

A youngster with one deformed closed ear.

Deformed ears and closed ear canals

Why this article?

To start I want to emphasize that this article is not based in any way on any solid scientific research. It has solely been written from my own personal experience in order to share all I have learned with others. It should be noted that this is not the definite version. The final article will be written when firstly all scientific evidence concerning the involved genetics has been made available to me and secondly when all breeders are sincere in sharing their knowledge of this problem with each other and the general public.

In one of my litters two puppies were born with one-sided closed ear canals (CEC). At first I was deeply disappointed and very upset. I could not believe that, after all the research I have done in order to prevent it, this happened to me. In spite of every precaution I took for my choice of a male from Peru (whose background I carefully checked and who passed all possible healthtests) it still happened to us. However, after my initial disappointment, I realized that this was part of the hazards of breeding too and started with my research on this health problem to try and prevent something like that happening again.

Not alone

To my great surprise within a couple of weeks I learned that my situation was far from unique. In fact, there were many more breeders in the hairless breeds world (Chinese Crested, Xoloitzcuintle and Peruvian Hairless) who encountered the same problem. It amazed me as well that at the time I had my puppies there were 2(!) other hairless doglitters in Holland with the same or a related problem (one with closed ears and one with deformed ears and a smaller ear canal). I strongly believe that we can speak of a common problem in all our breeds.

At first the breeders I spoke with, thought that CEC or deformed ears were an anomaly of our hairless breeds only. But a Dutch specialist informed me he had seen a lot of closed ears in all different breeds (F.e. Cane Corso, Sharpei). Following my conversation with him, I spoke to two veterenarians who also saw coated dogs in their practice with the same problem. At this moment there is one Chinese Crested breeder I know of, who had a puppy with CEC (both ears) from a powderpuff x hairless mating. So this deformity is not exclusive only to the hairless dogbreeds.

To cull or not?

So there the pressing question remains: should puppies (or adult dogs) with this problem be left live or should they be culled? Some people and some breeders told me to cull every affected puppies. But after discussing this with several people, of which some having lived with deaf dogs, and a number of specialists and veteranarians we finally decided this puppies in spite of their handicap earn a good life too. But I am convinced it makes a huge difference if a dog is impaired on one side only or on both sides. A totally deaf dog may cause great difficulty living in a normal family because it needs very special care and special training.
For instance, a totally deaf dog in a family with small children could cause severe problems in daily life due to the fact that children can be very unpredictable in their movements and behaviour. Any dog can bite out of fear and hearing-impaired dogs therefore are no exception to this. One-sided impaired dogs are able to hear everything but they can have problems with detecting the direction of a sound and won’t be able to hear very well in very noisy surroundings. However, they don’t always look the right direction when called and they may be rather uncomfortable in noisy surroundings. Therefore it is the responsibity of a responsible breeder for placing a hearing-impaired dog in the right home and he or she must always warn the new owners for occuring problems.
Apart of the characteristics any breed and the character of the individual dog, this specific problem will also be taking in account by placing a dog.

This puppy has closed and deformed ears on both sides. His breeder and the new owner decided he deserved a happy family life as well.

CEC and health

The health of the dog is another important issue. I was concerned whether the dog would develop pain or inflammations later on in it’s life. One breeder told me she had two puppies with closed ears and after culling them, she had sent them for an autopsy.
The pathologist told her the puppies had a white fluid in their ears which could cause inflammations in the future.
However, I have spoken several breeders with puppies with CEC in the past and some of those dogs were older than seven years and none of them ever experienced any ear-related problems. None of them developed inflammations or any other problems.
I also spoke with a woman who operated two puppies with CEC. She found nothing even remotely resembled hearing organs under the closed skin.
We did a BAER test on all the puppies of the litter and had them also tested to see if there was anything under the closed skin that might detect sound. But there was no evidence of even rudimentary organs.

A puppy with a closed and deformed ear. One can see skintags on the ear and on the cheek.

It is the opinion of the aforementioned specialist and of one other specialist I spoke with that if there is nothing under the inner ear’s skin, there is also nothing that can be inflamed either.
By the time I finished this article my puppies are eight months old and doing perfectly all right. They do not have any other health issues apart from their closed ear.

Some experts suspect a relationship between their appearance and dogs suffering from CEC but there is no scientific evidence for that.
All CEC dogs that I know of have or had skintags. But, thankfully not all dogs with skintags have CEC. It is said that mating two dogs with skintags can produce puppies with CEC. However this is not a scientifically proven fact and there are a lot of healthy litters born from parents having skintags. But this issue is too important to ignore in the future when breeding.

In the past skintags where thought the be common in hairless dogs only. That’s not true.
Altough I never saw a coated hairless dog with skintags, according to some professional groomers there are other coated breeds which have a higher occurrence of skintags. F.e. Cocker Spaniels.

Skintags on a Cocker Spaniel.

I hope in the future there will be more evidence made available combining two dogs with skintags that might lead to CEC. If that is the case, I might be able to change the assumptions I make in this article to scientific facts.
In addition to this, I would be very happy if different stories and/or point of views about this issue would be send to me.

Related issues

There is very little known on the subject of deformed or closed ears. In my research I have found a few dogs with CEC who had littermates or family with a higher occurrence of malformities.
The malformities consisted of abnormalitys such as two different ears (a small and large ear), thick cartillage in one of the ears. They have smaller openings in the ears and of course, the skintags are present too. I also found that severe malformed puppies can have a relation to CEC as well as being born with a sharkhead.

A newborn puppy with a sharkhead (undeveloped underjaw). Born without ears. You can see a skintag on the place where his ear had to be.

It is painfully obvious that this puppy cannot live a normal happy life.
When breeders are open about this problems, even about this kind of puppies which usually are put to sleep after birth, we can record this and keep an eye on littermates and their parents and their offspring. This is necessary to obtain a healthier breed in the future.
Please note these things!

An ear with a thick cartillage in the middle. The opening of the outer ear is normal on the right side of the cartilage but closed on the left side. The affected ear is also smaller and different the other ear.

Breeding and CEC

For future of breeding I cannot emphasize enough that every breeder should be open and forward on this problem. I can only assume that both parents must be a carrier of this abnormality in order pass it on their offspring.
I know a couple of studdogs who gave CEC or related problems in one litter and never in another litter. However, we have to be very careful using these dogs for breedings because they are have proven to be carriers of CEC. Logically it follows that some of their offspring might be carriers as well.
Littermates of CEC affected dogs should be marked as carriers as well. They don’t have to be, but as long as we do not have the DNA markers available it will be safer to mark and treat them as carriers. One can use them in their breeding program, just as their parents, but only to possible safe dogs (only in lines where there is much known or linebreed dogs).
If we use (expected) carriers in our breeding program we might be able to breed this problem out of our breed. In future hopefully every mating we will produce less carriers in our offspring when mating expected carriers to (expected) safe dogs.
Needless to say we should never breed affected dogs.

Note: I want to thank all the people who helped me gather the information and give me their opinions.
I would be happy to hear any additional or new experiences or facts or to discuss my findings so far..
I do not use any names of dogs or breeders because many breeders didn’t want that. If anyone want his name in this article with his information I will be happy to comply.

This stunning lass doesn’t seem to have any trouble with her deaf ear at all. You can see the long skinmark on her cheek she already had at her birth (under)

Same dog, same ear...

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