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Pet Health And Fitness

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  • Inflammation of the external ear canal, both dogs and cats

PET HEALTH AND FITNESS

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

  1. 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
  2. Predisposing factors (that alter the local ear canal environment and create an increased risk for the disease) such as:
    • Excessive hair in the ear canal
    • Narrow ear canal
    • Masses in the ear canal
    • Frequent ear cleaning
    • Changes in external environmental temperature and humidity
  3. Perpetuating factors (that do not initiate inflammation but make it worse and prolonged even if the primary cause has been addressed) such as:
    • Particular microorganisms (some bacteria and fungus)
    • Middle ear infection

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.

PET HEALTH AND FITNESS

Pet Health and Care

What is the maintenance care like?

Depends on the situation of the ear. Some pets need almost no care, while some need more frequent care for example if your pet has one or more of the ‘Primary causes, Predisposing factors, or Perpetuating factors’ discussed above. General rule is that the ear canals should be kept dry and always ventilated (for example, one must prevent water from entering the ear canals during bathing). You can ask the vet for details about proper cleaning technique and frequency particularly for your pet.

What is the duration of treatment?

There isn’t a defined fixed period perse and depends, case to case but essentially treatment must continue until the infection is resolved. For most acute cases, this takes 2-4 weeks. Chronic cases it may take longer, like a few months to resolve and in some cases, a maintenance treatment must continue indefinitely. Your vet will be able to guide you the best in this case depending on severity and nature of the case.

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