Middle ear infections – otitis media

CT Scan of dog with otitis media.

CT Scan of dog with otitis media.

In a world where more and more people are consulting Dr Google, pet stores, and people in Facebook groups before they talk to a vet, we are starting to see some cases where diseases have progressed further than they would have if a vet had been consulted first.

Ear infections leading to middle ear disease are one such example.

The majority of middle ear infections come from external ear infections (otitis externa), which is when the ear canal is infected.

In most cases, otitis externa is relatively straight forward to treat, with combinations of ear cleaners and antibiotic/antifungal ear drops. If the ear infection is caused by a grass seed, then we obviously need to remove that as well. We also need to look at the cause of the infection, as ear infections in dogs rarely occur without an underlying problem.

We see middle ear infections occur when foreign bodies such as grass seeds migrate in through the ear drum (which separates the outer and middle ear), or when otitis externa is left untreated or inappropriately treated.

A quick search on Google gives a scary number of home remedies, everything from putting crushed garlic into the ears through to vinegar and yoghurt. Not only are these treatments largely ineffective, they could cause additional pain and even permanent deafness if the eardrum has been ruptured.

Many pet store treatments may be quite good for maintaining ears once the infection is controlled, but they are often ineffective at treating active infection.

We also need to remember that ear infections are painful (ask any mother who’s child has an ear infection), so early and appropriate treatment is needed to alleviate the pet’s suffering as soon as possible.

Once an ear infection has progressed to otitis media, it is much harder and more expensive to treat. Otitis media often requires surgery or flushing under anaesthetic, and long courses of broad spectrum antibiotics. In the worst cases, the pet may need removal of the ear canal and middle ear to resolve the problem.

If you ever need advice on things such as ear or skin care, or if you’re not sure if your pet needs to see the vet, please feel free to give us a call. Our highly qualified staff can discuss any concerns you may have and determine if a consultation with the vet is required.

Early, appropriate treatment is always going to be cheaper than trying to cure a more advanced and painful condition, and early resolution of such conditions is always going to be better for the welfare and quality of life of your precious pet!

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