Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Ear-Posting for the Latex Allergy Puppy

Newsflash:  Most ear posting methods use products that contain latex.  This can turn the reasonably simple experiences of cropped-ear puppyhood into a frustrating nightmare.  My current puppy has a latex allergy, and I've learned a few things while posting his ears.  I figured I'd share, so others with latex-allergy puppies don't have to go through the frustrating trial and error that I did.

1. Make your ear posts out of blue paper shop towels!
I know foam backer rod is easy and cheap, but it's terrible for puppies with sensitive skin and/or allergies. It's not absorbent, so any oil/wax/moisture doesn't get wicked away and will fester.  Shop towels are lightweight, clean, and absorbent.  In my experience, you can use regular tape to make the posts.  My "regular tape" is Kendall Covidien 2531C.  It does contain latex, but the layers of tape you use in making the posts will not actually touch the ear.

Take a shop towel and fold it in half.  For show crops, you may need to take two paper towels and trim the excess once the post is rolled.  Tightly roll it so it forms a tight cylinder.  Wrap regular tape diagonally (like stripes on a candy cane) up the length of the rolled towel, back and forth, about two and a half times.  This takes practice, so don't fee bad if the first few posts you make look like they were made by a drunk monkey.  This is what they should look like:

Next, using strong scissors, diagonally cut one end of each post.  This creates a wedged end that will end up going in the ear.  The "blue side" will be facing your dog's skull when you insert the post.  See photo below for a guide for where to cut.

2. Prepare the posts using latex-free tape.  ******UPDATE******  Buy Johnson & Johnson Zonas athletic tape.  It's latex free.  To create a sticky surface, start the tape at the top and then reverse its direction so the sticky side is showing.  Tightly "back-tape" so the entire post is covered in the sticky side of the latex free tape.

3. Insert the posts.
Your post should be as long as the ear. Make sure it fits before you start taping!  Work the post gently into the ear, as deep as you can.  This will not hurt your puppy - but you need to make sure the post is as deep as possible to prevent it popping out of the ear.

Insert the post by "rolling" it around and downward, while gently pulling up on the ear itself.  See photo below.  Remember, the "blue side" of the wedge should face inward toward the puppy's skull.  

4. Time to start taping!
Take a roughly 14" piece of the latex-free tape and cut a small slit in one end, so you can rip it into 1" tape.  The tape comes in 1.25" width only, so you need to get crafty!  You wrap from the back of the ear to the front, so the flap at the front of the ear is preserved.  This flap must remain folded over if you want the ears to stand.  Notice that you should bring the tape down to surround the bell, then up again. While you are taping the base, you still need to be stretching the ear upward while the post is gently being pushed downward.  Again, this takes practice. 


The tape should be somewhat loose.  Too tight, and you'll cut off circulation and kill the ear.  One the tape is completely wrapped around the base of the ear, squeeze the ear to tighten the tape to the ear.  This "squeeze method" gives the tape some room to shift and loosen if needed. 

This 14" piece of tape will only be enough to wrap the base of the ear. 

The rest of the ear can be taped with about a 12" strip of paper medical tape.  Any brand will work - paper tape is paper tape is paper tape.  I use the local grocery store brand because it's cheap and surprisingly sticky.  Paper tape is very thin, comes off easily, and is cheaper than the Zonas tape.  Wrap the ear in the same direction you wrapped with the Zonas tape, starting at the point where the Zonas tape ended.  Since latex-free tapes aren't as sticky, you need to wrap the entire ear, base to tip.  Otherwise, your posts will fall out within hours.

5. Reinforce the tape.  
This may or may not work with your puppy, depending on the severity of the latex allergy.  On my puppy, this works.  It may not work on yours, so keep a close eye on the post for any signs of an allergic reaction - swelling, wetness/sliminess, odor, etc.  Add one more later of regular tape at the base of the ear, overlapping the Zonas tape somewhat.  You want some of the regular tape to be in contact with your puppy's ear... preferably in the areas where there's hair for the tape to adhere - not skin.  Again - this may work, but it may not.  It works for my puppy, and keeps his posts in for several days as opposed to several hours.

6. OPTIONAL STEP: Reinforce the entire post.
After the base is reinforced, I generally cut a 5" strip of 4" wide vet wrap.  You can find this in the equine section of most farm stores, or online.  It goes by many names - Vet Wrap, Co Flex, Pet Flex, etc.  I wrap the ear semi-loosely in the same direction I wrapped the tape, then squeeze to tighten the vet wrap.  To secure the vet wrap even more, I run a single layer of regular tape on the top and bottom edges of the vet wrap.  

Here's a photo of the final product.  Note the zebra-stripe vet wrap, secured with regular tape.  The base is mostly Zonas, with a final layer of regular tape to keep it from coming apart too quickly.  (The posts do look a bit tight in this photo, but they're loose enough in "real life."  I feel around the posts frequently to make sure the ear can move around.  I usually don't bridge the ears unless there is a need for it, because I like my puppies to develop their muscles early on.  I woke Tab up for this photo, which is why he's holding his ears at a 10-and-2 position.  Normally his ears are straight up in posts.

This is by no means the only way to post ears on a puppy with a latex allergy.  This is simply the method that has worked for me after countless other methods have failed.  I will admit - even though I love posting ears, posting ears on a latex-allergic puppy is a pain in the tushie... and I can't wait until we're done.

If you ever need help with ears, feel free to contact me.  I generally need photos in order to identify problems, but I'll do my best to help!  

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