Chronic ear infections might involve bacterial or yeast overgrowth in the external, middle, or inner ear. Chronic infection can completely damage the ear canal and cause pain, neurologic signs, and deafness. Ear infections are generally secondary to a hidden condition that enables an undesirable ear environment. Treatment is based on removing the bacteria or yeast with antibiotics or antifungal medication while working to solve the underlying condition. Regular ear cleansings and resolution of the underlying condition help to prevent recurrence.
What Is a Chronic Ear Infection?
Ear infections are generally secondary to inflammation of the external ear canals (the tube-shaped part of the ear noticeable under the ear flap). Inflammation of the canals leads to the recreation of normal bacteria and yeast that reside in the ear to the point where the body is unable to manage their numbers (called overgrowth). Other bacteria can also benefit from the inflammation and undesirable environment inside the ear to develop infection. The overgrowth of these organisms causes more inflammation. Inflammation of the ear canal causes swelling, making the tube narrower than normal. Inflammation also causes an increase in the production of wax. The ears become really itchy and painful. Severe ear infections can cause eardrum rupture and middle and inner ear infections. Deep infections can result in deafness and neurologic signs.
Particular conditions or diseases may be the primary factor ear infections establish. These conditions include:
- Allergies (ecological and food).
- Ear mites.
- Foreign bodies.
- Skin disorders (like seborrhea).
- Thyroid disease (in dogs).
- Growths or polyps in the ear.
Ear infections might repeat since of the failure to manage the initial infection or treat the underlying cause. Chronic changes cause future infections, and scar tissue and irreversible narrowing of the ear canals can make future infections challenging to treat.
What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection in Dogs and Cats?
An external ear infection first shows signs of local inflammation (redness, discharge). Family pets may shake their heads, scratch their ears, or rub their ears versus furniture or the floor. Some pets with severe infections may weep or groan as they rub and scratch their ears. Some pets scratch so seriously that their nails develop injuries on the skin around their face, neck, and ears.
External ear infections might advance to involve the middle and inner ear, leading to more serious signs of disease:.
- External ear infection (otitis externa).
- Itchy or painful ears.
- Head shaking.
- Discharge and odor from the ears.
- Narrowing or perhaps closing of the canals.
- Middle ear infection (otitis media).
- Paralysis of the nerves in the face.
- Dry eye.
- Hearing loss.
- Abnormal pupil size.
- Inner ear infection (otitis interna).
- Failure to keep balance, stand, or walk.
- Head tilt.
During a health examination, your veterinarian will search in the ear for the presence of inflammation, redness, discharge, developments, or other findings that might indicate an ear infection. Sometimes, a cotton swab is used to collect debris from the ear. This material can be placed on a slide and analyzed under a microscope to identify if the infection is due to yeast, bacteria, or termites. Your veterinarian may likewise collect a sample of ear debris for culture and sensitivity testing, which determines the precise organisms present and helps your vet select the best antibiotic to use.
In severe cases, or if the animal remains in excessive pain to allow an assessment of the ears, sedation might be needed to assess the ears, collect samples of discharge, tidy the ears, and initiate treatment. With the pet sedated, the ears can be carefully flushed to get rid of debris and facilitate better examination of the ear. Radiographs (X-rays) and other diagnostic tests can be performed while the animal is sedated to determine if the middle or inner ear are likewise included.
How Is an Ear Infection in Dogs and Cats Treated?
As soon as the infection has been identified, many animals with chronic ear infections can be treated at home. Ear mites are fairly simple to treat with medication positioned directly into the ear or applied topically between the shoulder blades. The majority of yeast and bacterial infections can be treated with regular cleansings and topical or oral medication. When inflammation is severe, a steroid might be had to give comfort to your pet and reduce the swelling around the ear canals.
If there are underlying problems such as thyroid disease or seborrhea, these need to also be resolved to clear the infection and reduce the chances of reoccurrence.
If the ear canals have been completely narrowed or damage is otherwise severe, surgery might be advised to allow for drainage and application of medication. In other cases, more extensive surgery might be recommended to avoid the pet from being in chronic pain due to a permanently warped, infected ear.
How Can Ear Infections Be Prevented?
As soon as an infection has been cleared, preserving a healthy ear environment with regular cleaning helps avoid reoccurrence. Regrettably, routine cleansing isn’t really constantly enough. Hidden diseases such as allergic reactions and skin disorders must be determined and solved in order to help avoid future infections.