Otitis are frequent encountered among pets: 7 to 16% of dogs and +/- 4% of cats suffer this complaint. The first symptoms (redness, shaking of the head, scratching.) often pass unobserved by the owner. However, it is necessary to react to such symptoms.
Commonly, otitis externa is the sign of an underlying cause such as
- an allergy (canine atopic dermatitis and or adverse food reaction)
- a hormonal anomaly
- an anatomical defect (stenotic ear canal)
- an inappropriate treatment programme.
These factors are very frequent reason for consultation in veterinary dermatology. It’s a fact that a well-enacted localised treatment is often sufficient to resolve the symptoms. However, some cases can turn into a true nightmare and It is not uncommon to have to treat old, painful and malodorous otitis for several years ! The primary indications to search for are multiple. Among these, the most frequent are:
- Parasitic otitis due to Otodectes Cynotis
- Allergic otitis (food allergy, contact allergy, canine atopic dermatitis)
- Otitis with foreign body (grass fragment)
- Otitis associated with tumor of the wall of the external auditory duct or polyp (particularly in cats)
Of the complications which can occur and attract the owner's attention, the most frequent are:
- Bacteria (Staphylococci, Streptococci, Pseudomonas.)
- Yeasts (Malassezia, Candida.)
- Attacks of the middle ear (rupture of the eardrum and progression of the infection into the middle ear)
- Attacks of the internal ear that sometimes result in strange symptoms such as: head leaning, nystagmus (repeated horizontal or vertical eye movements), loss of balance.
To achieve good treatment it is of course essential to have good diagnosis via an organized and logical work programme. It is recommended to achieve the following:
- A good examination of the External Ear Canal (EEC). This examination sometimes requires sedation or your pet with a general anesthesia because the pain would otherwise be too great. The simple otoscope permits a primary examination; however, the video-otoscope (endoscopy of the EEC) is distinctly more precise. It affords a perfect visualization of the partition of the CAE and also of the eardrum. Some tumors can be biopsied (sampled to determine their exact nature), foreign bodies can be withdrawn with precision and cleaning can be performed under permanent controlled conditions. In addition, your vet can show you the state of your pets ear on a TV screen
- A cytology that consists of appropriating (with the help of a cotton bud) cells, wax or pus to analyze under the microscope. The examination results can be analised immediately at the clinic. Local flora (bacteria, yeasts) must be identified in order to correctly adapt the treatment
- A sample withdrawal for laboratory analysis will be performed if the cytology justifies it. This permits accurate identification of any bacterium responsible for the pus and hence identifies the most efficient antibiotic programme
- Medical imagery: X-ray, Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) and the CT scanner can be useful techniques for identifying any obstructions of the CAE because the otoscope sometimes does not fit into some auditory ducts. These techniques permit clear observation of ear bullae that are not otherwise visible.
A targeted treatment can then be proposed and, if surgery is necessary, the ideal surgical technique can be selected.Treatments are most often simply medical while still ensuring treatment of the root cause of the otitis. However, in some instances surgery is the only effective alternative in order to provide pain relief to our pets suffering with chronic otitis.
In conclusion, otitis attacks should not be disregarded. It is always necessary to identify the primary reason for infection using the techniques explained above before blindly treating your pet.