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Inflammation of the external ear canal, both dogs and cats


It is one of the most common reasons why small animals (especially dogs) land up at the veterinarian. It is a very bad condition which, if left untreated, can seriously compromise the animal's quality of life.

Otitis externa is the medical term for inflammation of the external ear canal. The common signs are head shaking, scratching the base of the ear, pain (reluctance to be touched on the ears or head), swelling, redness, unpleasant smells, and sticky ear wax in the ear canal. Since as a pet parent it may sometimes be hard to identify, also symptoms can vary given severity, we suggest any slight discomfort you feel your pet is having, it is better to get it checked by your vet at the earliest.

Diagnosis may be made basis history and observation by veterinarian in case of simple cases, but may require further tests such as otoscopic examination, cytology and culture.

Otitis externa is a very common condition, but its cause is very complicated.

Otitis externa is a complex disease caused by a combination of factors, including

Primary causes (that have a direct effect and cause inflammation on the external ear canal) such as:

  • Allergy
  • Parasites
  • Autoimmune/immune-mediated
  • Endocrine disease
  • Epithelialization disorders
  • Foreign bodies
  • Glandular disorders
  • Fungal
  • Viral (distemper)
  • Miscellaneous

Perpetuating factors (that do not initiate inflammation but make it worse and prolonged even if the primary cause has been addressed) such as:

Why is it advised to immediately contact the vet in case you identify some symptoms? To avoid further complications:

When otitis recurs, the balance of the flora in the ear canal is disrupted, so bacteria and yeasts that live there multiply abnormally, causing an infection of various severity. In the event of recurrence, the lining of the canal tends to thicken (sometimes to the point of almost complete obstruction), causing poorer ventilation, favouring the abnormal multiplication of organisms, creating a vicious circle.

The later the condition is treated or the more chronic it becomes, the greater the risk of complications such as otitis media and sometimes surgery is required to treat.

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