The Yorkshire Vet: Taking a 'suck it and see' approach to troubled bull terriers and spaniels

Storm’s sore mammary area was looking very much better when I saw her for a follow up at Thirsk the other week. Everyone was delighted, because the abnormal swelling had shown some hallmarks of cancer and, if things hadn’t improved, a biopsy had been on the cards, possibly followed by major surgery. Now, the swelling had subsided and the area had returned to normal. As a consequence, the mood within the consultation room lifted significantly.

“It must have simply been an infection,” I concluded, before shifting my attention to another body part, also with an inflamed appearance, but not quite so worrisome.

“Her ears are very pink,” I commented. “Are they always like that?”

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

“Yes, our other dog sucks them!” replied her owner, to my surprise, “She puts the whole ear in her mouth and sucks away. She does it for ages and Storm doesn’t seem to mind. I think she likes it! The problem is that the sucking leaves them both sopping wet and very droopy.”

Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.
Julian Norton, The Yorkshire Vet.

I raised my eyebrows as I summoned up the image of a bull terrier with soggy, drooping ears, probably even more down cast in demeanour than normal. Storm’s owner continued, “Yes, we think she must not have had a mother when she was a little puppy and this dramatic ear-sucking might offer some sort of comfort. A bit like a baby with a dummy.”

It sounded plausible and reminded me of an amazing Jack Russell Terrier called Paddy, who belonged to my grandparents. This little rough-coated dog and I were great pals when I was a young lad. Paddy was a tough character, adept at controlling the rat population at my grandfather’s smallholding. He would scrap with his sister regularly and woe betide anyone who might dare to take a bone from him after Sunday lunch. But he was also a softie. Like Storm’s canine friend, Paddy had also lost his mum when he was very small, and this had led to an odd habit. If anyone sat in an armchair, he would jump up and nestle into the space between their body and arm. Then, with great care and sensitivity, he would put the crook of the arm in his mouth and gently suck on the sensitive flesh, chomping rhythmically until he fell asleep. Most of the adults in the household and extended family found this irksome- if nothing else, it made your jumper as soggy as Storm’s ears. But for me, an animal-loving seven-year-old, it was lovely, and it cemented the relationship between a boy and a dog. This was unusual behaviour, for sure, and nobody could offer any sensible explanation, except possibly the fact that puppy Paddy hadn’t had a mother from whom to suckle.

By bizarre coincidence, I saw another similar case at my practice in Wetherby. The notes next to the appointment on the computer always give a clue as to the nature of the problem, though their brevity can be misleading. The spaniel in question was suffering from a swollen vulva. This is not uncommon, mainly because this part of the body swells when a bitch is in season. I expected the consultation would be simple.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

But when questioned more closely, the spaniel had been spayed, and consequently had not been in season for several years. I scratched my head and lifted the tail to peer at the swelling to look for clues. My furrowed brow must have given away the fact that I was struggling to come up with an answer. Luckily, the owner came up with a suggestion (rendering me somewhat redundant):

“I did have an idea. Our other dog does sometimes suck on that area. I know it sounds odd, but could that be the reason?”

The Country Post newsletter - bringing you all the latest on rural life and farming across Yorkshire. Sign up today

Comment Guidelines

National World encourages reader discussion on our stories. User feedback, insights and back-and-forth exchanges add a rich layer of context to reporting. Please review our Community Guidelines before commenting.