Common diseases - Otitis

External otitis is a frequent disease of the ear in small animals. It consists of an acute or chronic inflammation of the ear canal and sometimes of the ear pinna.

If your dog or cat shakes its head frequently, scratches its ears or rubs them on the ground, if its ears are red, dirty and smell bad, they are perhaps the center of a problem called otitis. This disease can imply one or both ears simultaneously. Sometimes liquid discharges can be noticed. In severe cases, the animal can lean its head towards the side that is infected.

Some breeds are predisposed. Indeed, dogs with dropping ears (Cockers, Setters, Labradors), those that have a lot of hairs in the ear canal (Poodles for example), or those that produce a lot of sebum (Cockers) are more subject to develop otitis. Shar-Peis are also predisposed because of their narrow ear canal.

Factors responsible for external otitis are numerous and varied; foreign substances such as shampoo, inadequate medications, water entering the canal during swimming and foreign objects predispose to the occurrence of inflammation. Some parasites can also colonize the ear (ear mites). Allergy problems (food and others), hormonal imbalance and auto-immune diseases can still induce the occurrence of otitis. Finally, the presence of tumors in the ear canal can also cause this type of inflammation.

An otitis that is not treated can lead to severe complications. Bacteria and/or yeast multiplication can be seen with the occurrence of infection; proliferation of these microorganisms aggravates the inflammation of the affected ear. To cure otitis, it is necessary to treat the underlying causes and complications. Your veterinarian will do a cytology by taking a sample of the secretions to examine them under a microscope. When there is a bacterial infection, a culture with an antibiogram may be necessary. After having determined the otitis cause, your veterinarian will prescribe the appropriate treatment. He/she can show you how to clean the ears and how to apply the chosen ear medicine. If the bacterial otitis is severe and/or chronic, and/or if the presence of an otitis media is detected, systemic antibiotics may be indicated. It is also good to know that when the external ear is affected and it is not treated correctly, this can spread to the middle ear and to the internal ear; dogs and cats can then have loss of balance, and become deaf.

If you have doubts concerning the health of your pet's ears, consult your veterinarian!