Here are some of the symptoms of ear vasculitis:
- Hair loss on the ear tips that then extends down the ear
- Skin lesions - reddish brown scabs sometimes in clusters
- Small tear on the ear tip that scabbed and sloughed off . (First thought is a nip from playing with another dog) Tears and dying skin can occur all along the ear tips and ear margins.
- Ears are not itchy
What exactly is ear vasculitis? It is a disease resulting in reduced blood flow which actually causes the skin on the affected ear to die and slough off. It also causes the hair follicle to die, resulting in alopecia (hair loss) on the ears. If left untreated, large areas of the dog’s ear margins can die and leave notched ears. Vasculitis can also attack the mouth, the face, the footpads and the tail. .
Fortunately, the condition can be caught early and you can keep the ears from becoming permanently disfigured. Ear vasculitis can also be a sign of systemic problems (i.e. auto-immune, bacterial, fungal, etc). If the blood work has all come back normal, then an ear biopsy will help indicate if there are any autoimmune changes.
Vet treatment can consist of a drug called pentoxyfylline, or a drug called dapsone, along with prednisone and ointment. Sometimes antibiotics are useful if sores have bacterial infected.
Your pet may exhibit lumps at the vaccine site, hair loss, ulcers, and scabs, darkening of the skin, and scarring with loss of hair. In addition to the vaccination site, lesions / ulcers can develop on the ear flaps, on the elbows and hocks, in the center of the footpads, lips, mouth, and scrotum. Scarring may be permanent. Some animals show other symptoms such as lethargy, decreased appetite, fever, muscle disease, joint inflammation, and swelling of extremities. Dogs do not usually seem ill, but may develop a fever. Symptoms can show up within weeks of the vaccination or they can take several months to develop.
Dogs with active lesion development and/or widespread disease may be treated with pentoxyfylline, a drug that is useful in small vessel vasculitis, or an ointment that will help suppress the inflammation in the affected areas.
Owners and veterinarians of dogs who have developed this type of reaction should review the vaccination protocol critically and try to reduce future vaccinations to the extent medically and legally possible. At the very least, vaccines from the same manufacturer should be avoided. It is also recommended that the location in which future vaccinations are administered should be changed to the rear leg, as far down on the leg as possible and should be given in the muscle rather than under the skin.