OTITIS (ear infections) is an inflammation of the ear. It may involve the outer ear – otitis externa, middle ear – otitis media, and/or the inner ear – otitis interna. Although usually not life-threatening, ear infections are often very painful for your pet. In some pets ear infections tend to recur after treatment. Chronic infection causes the ear canal tissue to become thick and rough. This can severely impair hearing and may lead to deafness.
Ear parasites (mites), bacterial or yeast infection, matted hair in the ear canal, allergy, foreign objects, injury and moisture retained in the ear can all cause Otitis. Over-the-counter ear cleaners can cause or aggravate infection when ears do not drain and dry properly after cleaning. Chronic infection may require surgery.
Pets with Otitis may shake their heads, or rub their ear against the floor. They often scratch excessively at the ear canal opening. Inside, the ear is sometimes red, and a foul-smelling discharge may be present. Head tilting and poor coordination can be a result of inner ear infection.
The type of ear infection must be determined by microscopic examination of the ear discharge in addition to visual inspection of the ear canal and ear drum with an otoscope. A bacterial culture to identify disease causing organisms may also be necessary. When severe inflammation is present, anesthesia may be required to properly examine and treat the ear.
Treatment varies with the type of infection and length of time it has been present. Antibiotics and other medications may be required. Long-term treatment may be necessary to control chronic infections.
Following examination and treatment your veterinarian will usually prescribe medication, and an ear cleanser to remove excess moisture, waxy exudate and foreign debris from the external ear canal. Inappropriate cleansing can cause significant harm. Infection usually recurs if medication is withdrawn prematurely or is not administered as directed.
Don’t gamble with your pet’s health! Clean ears and administer medication according to instructions.