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Ear Disorders

Animals Affected – Dog, Cat

General Information
Deafness may be partial or complete, temporary or permanent. A complete, permanent lack of hearing may be a birth defect in white animals. Deafness also may occur in aged pets or those with chronic ear infections. There is usually no cure for these types of deafness, and the hearing loss is generally permanent. Fortunately, total deafness is uncommon.

Partial hearing loss may also be permanent. However, when deafness is the result of infection, the problem may respond to treatment.

Important Points in Treatment

  1. Caution: Deaf dogs or cats are easily startled and may nip or bite. Children should be warned not to startle such pets.
  2. Activity: Confine your pet to the house and walk it on a leash for elimination. Hearing loss may prevent your pet from hearing an approaching car or other danger.

Animals Affected – Cat, Rodent

General Information
Ear mites are tiny (nearly microscopic) white parasites that live in the ear canals of dogs and cats. These mites are highly contagious and frequently infest whole litter of puppies and kittens. If more than one dog or cat is present in the home and one is found to be infested, then all should be carefully examined for ear mites.

Severe ear infections may develop as a result of injury to the ear canal by the mites. A dark, crusty material is found in the affected ear canal. Head shaking and ear scratching are common signs.

Important Points in Treatment

  1. In many cases, the ears require a thorough cleaning before treatment. An anesthetic may be necessary in severe cases to allow complete cleaning.
  2. The mites can crawl to other parts of your pet’s body. Therefore, a topical insecticide may be prescribed, depending on your pet’s age, state of health, and the severity of the disease

General Information
Hematoma of the ear flap is an accumulation of blood between the cartilage and the skin of the ear flap. It is caused by damage to the cartilage or overlying skin from vigorous repeated head shaking or scratching at the ears with the back feet. Occasionally the damage results from the ear striking a solid object during head shaking.

The most common underlying causes of head shaking are ear infections, ear mites, and fleas.

Important Points in Treatment

  1. In most instances, general anesthesia is necessary for the withdrawal of the hematoma fluid and surgical repair.
  2. Treatment of ear infections and/or ear mites is necessary to allow healing and prevent the recurrence of the condition that caused the hematoma.

(Outer Ear Infection)

General Information
Otitis externa is an inflammation of the external ear canal that begins at the outside opening of the ear and extends inward to the eardrum. Causes include allergy, bacteria, fungi, ear mites, accumulation of wax, thick or matted hair in the ear canal, debris, impaired drainage of the ear, and infections from elsewhere in the body.

The ears of dogs (especially those with pendulous ears) and cats are ideal for the growth of bacteria and fungi because they are moist and warm and contain wax and other debris. The funnel shape of the ear canal effectively traps debris, further complicating the treatment of infections.

Important Points in Treatment

  1.  Sedation or General anesthesia is often necessary to allow thorough cleansing of the ear canal and to obtain specimens for bacterial cultures.
  2. The longer the infection has been present, the more difficult it is to clear up. In severe long-standing infections, surgery may be necessary to correct the problem.
  3. Medication: To be effective, the medication must contact microorganisms or mites deep in the ear canal. To achieve this contact, the canal must be kept clear of debris, and the medication must be placed deep within the canal. Please call the doctor if you are having trouble treating your pet’s ear.
  4. Cleaning the ear

(Middle Ear Infection)

General Information
Otitis media (infection of the middle ear) usually results from the spread of infection from the external ear canal into the middle ear. Foreign bodies, debris, ulceration, or improper cleaning may rupture the eardrum, allowing bacteria to reach the middle ear. Signs of middle ear infection include odor, discharge, ear scratching, head shaking, and head tilt. The animal may appear to be sick.

Important Points in Treatment

  1. In some cases, prolonged (4 to 6 weeks) treatment may be necessary. Laboratory tests, radiographs (x-rays), and surgery may be needed to correct the problem.

Animal and Bird Medical Center of Palm Harbor