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Chronic ear disease is one of the most common reasons pet owners present a pet to a veterinary dermatology specialist. Ear disease often recurs and persists in dogs due to incomplete or ineffective treatments or failure to diagnose the underlying cause. To improve treatment of pets with chronic ear disease, dermatologists often utilize video otoscopy. Video otoscopy has revolutionized the treatment of ear infections by dermatologists as it provides amazing clarity to assess the condition of the ear canal, eardrum and, at times, the middle ear.
Video otoscopy is the use of a small rigid otoscope with a camera built in that can be passed into the ear canal. The image is then projected onto a screen allowing magnification and much greater clarity to observe the deeper ear canal and structures. Small channels within the otoscope also allow instruments to be passed into the ear canal to facilitate deeper cleaning, polyp or tumor removal and other procedures. The use of video otoscopy in a challenging ear case is often the difference between months of continued struggles and a much more rapid resolution of infection and disease.
The video otoscopy examination typically requires general anesthesia due to the sensitive nature of the ear canal and the need for a perfectly still patient when performing this procedure. In some cases, video otoscopy is required just once, while other cases may need the procedure on more than one occasion over time to resolve a particular infection or challenging condition.
Understanding Ear Disease
Ear problems in dogs are a common problem for many pet owners. Problems encountered may include ear infections, itchy ears from allergy or ear mites, polyps or tumors within the ear canal, and many others. If ear problems such as infections are infrequent, periodic treatment with the right topical medication prescribed by a veterinarian may be sufficient. If severe or persistent, veterinary dermatologists specialize in diagnosis and management of challenging and recurrent ear problems.
Ear problems in dogs may have different causes including infections, allergy, polyps or tumors and many others. Most common causes include allergies (environmental allergies and food allergies) that lead to inflammation, itchiness and secondary infections. If your pet has chronic or recurrent ear problems, consult your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist. Veterinary dermatologists specialize in diagnosis and management of challenging and recurrent ear problems.
Since ear problems in animals can be caused by a variety of different disorders, there is no one method to prevent them in all pets. However, for those predisposed to recurrent ear infections, regular cleaning with an appropriate ear cleaner may help prevent or decrease recurrences of infection. If you find that you need to clean the ear more than weekly, there is likely a deeper problem that should be addressed by a veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist.
Video otoscopy is the use of a small rigid otoscope that contains a camera that can be passed into the ear canal. The image is then projected onto a screen allowing magnification and much greater clarity to observe the deeper ear canal and structures. Small channels within the otoscope also allow instruments to be passed into the ear canal to facilitate deeper cleaning, polyp or tumor removal and other procedures. The use of video otoscopy in a challenging ear case is often the difference between months of continued struggles and a much more rapid resolution of infection and disease. Video otoscopy is typically performed by veterinary dermatologists who specializes in diagnosis and management of difficult and recurrent ear problems.
The eardrum (tympanic membrane) is a small membrane within the ear canal that facilitates hearing through vibrations created by sounds. It can rupture or burst in cases of severe or chronic infections or from trauma from an object that goes into to the deep ear canal. If the source of trauma or infection are managed, the ear drum typically will regrow. If you suspect your dog has a ruptured ear drum or other causes of hearing loss contact your veterinarian or veterinary dermatologist for specialized treatment.
Ear canal ablation surgery is a surgery performed in chronic severe cases of ear disease in dogs when the infection can no longer be managed with medications. In this procedure the entire ear canal is surgically removed. The surgery is typically performed by a specialist and eliminates the source of future ear infections. The pinna (ear flap) is left intact and it is difficult to see the procedure has been performed after recovery, except that there is no longer an ear canal opening. While Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA) surgery is typically a last resort for challenging ear disease, it is sometimes a necessary procedure that results in a happier, more comfortable pet. But whenever possible, it is preferable to manage ear disease in dogs more aggressively so that this procedure is not needed. Veterinary dermatologists can help you manage your pet's persistent ear problems.
Left untreated, ear infections in dogs and cats will likely continue and worsen. In extreme cases the infection may cause rupture of the ear drum (tympanic membrane) and progression to a middle ear infection. Ear infections in dogs and cats can be uncomfortable and, in some cases, quite painful. It is best to address your pet's ear infection as soon as it is detected in order to prevent worsening of the problem and further complications.
Dogs and cats with ear infections will most often exhibit itchiness toward the affected ear, typically by scratching or rubbing the ear or shaking their head excessively. In some cases, an excess amount of debris may be noticeable within the ear or draining from the ear or an odor may be present. If you suspect your pet has an ear infection it is best to contact your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist. Veterinary dermatologists specialize in diagnosis and management of challenging, refractory and recurrent ear problems.
Hydrogen peroxide has been used as an ear cleaner by pet owners at times. However, while it may have some antibacterial properties, other cleaners are far superior to peroxide at removal of debris, breaking up waxy material and eliminating bacteria and yeast. Hydrogen peroxide also tends to leave the ear canal much wetter than other cleaners which can compromise the ear canal further.
Otitis is inflammation or infection of the ear. This term is often used synonymously with ear infection and often refers to infection of the external ear canal (otitis externa). Diagnosis of otitis requires an otoscopic exam (exam of the inner surfaces of the ear canal) and typically sampling for cytology - microscopic exam of material found within the infected ear. If you suspect your pet has an ear infection it is best to contact your veterinarian or a veterinary dermatologist.
If your pet has a mild ear infection, you may be able to treat it by daily cleaning of the ear with a good ear cleaner. It is important to recognize that the ear canal of the dog is much longer than in humans and the canal has a bend making the deeper aspect impossible to see without the proper instrument (an otoscope). Since an ear infection can be uncomfortable or painful, it is important to have your pet examined by a veterinarian and treated appropriately if symptoms do not resolve quickly.
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