What are the common factors behind ear diseases and how do you treat the problem?


Video Otoscopy Small

Video Otoscopy

The ear canals are an extension of the skin and are often affected when there is a generalised skin disease, but in several cases, the ears are the only part of the skin affected.

Inflammation of the external ear canal is referred to as otitis externa and requires specialist treatment to resolve the problem and ensure that it doesn’t reoccur. Infections and ear diseases can be very uncomfortable for your pet and quite painful.


What are the primary causes of ear infections and diseases?

Ear mites and scabies mites are common causes of ear infections as are allergic skin diseases such as atopy and food allergies. Hormonal diseases such as hypothyroidism and keratinisation disorders are also primary causes of ear infections which alter the normal production of the skins outer most layer and hair. Tumours and foreign bodies such as grass seeds recognised causes of ear infections too.

What are the predisposing factors of ear infections and diseases?

Predisposing factors are those which do not directly cause otitis, but make it easier to develop. The common predisposing factors include excessively waxy ears, hairy ear canals and conformational features such as ears that hang loosely as opposed to ears that stand erect. This is due to increased humidity in the ear canal and excessive moisture from swimming. In certain breeds such as Sharpies, the ear canal is naturally very narrow with a tight ear flap which increases humidity and prevents natural clearing of wax. This type of breed is also more likely to be affected with the primary cause of otitis – atopy.

What are the perpetuating factors of ear infections?

Bacterial and yeast infections as well as pathological changes induced by the otitis are common perpetuating factors if not dealt with adequately. Two overlooked perpetuating causes are the failure to clear the horizontal ear canal of debris adequately and the development of middle ear disease otitis media.

How do we treat ear infections and diseases?

When presented with a case of otitis, we take samples from the affected ear to examine under a microscope. This is a very important part of the consultation as it allows us to identify the parasites and microorganisms that are present and gain definitive numbers.

If we cannot visualise the ear drum after cleaning the ear canal in the consulting room, we will advise either sedation or general anaesthesia to clean it. This is important for a couple of reasons. The first being that all licensed veterinary ear drops are contra-indicated if the ear drum is ruptured, because they can occasionally cause permanent deafness and can also affect the animal’s balance. Another being that failure to remove debris from the bottom of the ear canal can prevent successful resolution of the otitis.

We use a Storz Video Otoscope to clean your pet’s ears while they are under anaesthetic. This instrument allows us to see the ear canal in great detail and examine the ear drum for evidence of perforation. This type of procedure is very difficult with a hand held otoscope. A channel in the otoscope allows us to pass down either grasping forceps to remove debris and foreign bodies or flushing tubes and flexible curettes to clean the horizontal canal and the middle ear if the ear drum is ruptured.

If an ear condition is impossible to resolve by medical means and Video Otoscopy, we do offer surgery, including Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA). David has performed over 280 TECAs over the last 26 years and this has greatly improved the quality of life of the patients which have received this surgical procedure.  Click  here for more  information.

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Ceruminolith inside ear canal

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Ceruminolith after removal from canal

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Ceruminous Gland Adenomas

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Chronic Otitis Before Treatment

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Chronic Otitis After Treatment

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Ear Model showing a healthy ear canal

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Ear Model showing chronic
pathological change and middle
ear infection

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Feline Nasopharyngeal Polyp

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Video Otoscope

If you’ve noticed skin or ear problems in your pet, it’s vital that you contact specialised veterinary professionals before symptoms worsen. To book an appointment with our small animal skin and ear experts, simply call us on 01163 260402 or email us on dgb@dermvet.co.uk.