Friday tip of the day – Ear Infections

October 19, 2012 at 1:02 am Leave a comment

One of the most common and often frustrating problems that we see in dogs and sometimes cats are ear infections.  The medical term is otitis.  Ear infections in people usually occur at or inside the eardrum called otitis media.  In dogs and cats most infections occur in the canal on the outside of the eardrum called otitis externa.

Otitis externa can occur in any pet causing itchy, red, and foul smelling ears with dark brown or yellow discharge.  Ear infections are very itchy and painful and pets will paw or scratch at their ears, shake their head, or even rub the floor or furniture with their ears.  At times the scratching will cause sores inside the ear flap (pinna) or on the side of the face causing a hot spot like infection.

Although any pet is susceptible to ear infection, pets with allergies (either food or environmental), thyroid disease, parasites like ear mites, or growths in the canal are much more likely to have infection.  A complete physical exam and exam of a swab from the material in the ear canal is necessary to identify the organism as well as any underlying illness that can make otitis more likely to occur.  In most cases the infection responds very quickly to the appropriate medication and after 7-10 days may completely resolve.  I always recommend a follow-up exam and swab to make sure the infection is gone.

In cases where the infection does not resolve as expected, the pet may have chronic otitis.  Chronic otitis is very frustrating as regular treatment either does not completely clear the infection, or the infection reoccurs very quickly after treatment.  With chronic or long lasting inflammation in the ear the tissues lining the canal become thickened leading to narrowing or even closure of the canal.  This makes it difficult or even impossible to treat topically with medicines.  In the worst cases of chronic otitis externa medical therapy is not very effective and surgery may be needed to open the ear canal or actually remove the diseased tissue.

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Entry filed under: Dogs, Guest Posts. Tags: , , .

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