Ear Disease in Dogs Part 2.
By David Prydie BVMS, CertSAO, CCRT, MRCVS
In part 1 I looked at the anatomy of a dog’s ear and how this affects the disease process as well as causes of ear disease. In part 2 I will look at treatment of ear disease in the dog from cleaners and medicated drops through to surgery.
These are liquids used to loosen wax and debris down the ear canal. Some are aqueous based and some are oil based. If a dog has not had any ear disease in the past then using ear cleaners is not usually necessary. However, if a dog has had ear disease then these are a good preventative measure. They are also useful at cleaning away debris before applying medicated drops. Most ear cleaners are available over the counter.
In recent years ears washes containing additives such as EDTA have come to the forefront of combatting ear disease. They change the environment down the ear canal and make it more difficult for antibiotic resistant bacteria to multiply. They do not contain antibiotics but are usually only available on prescription from your vet.
Medicated Ear Drops
These are the backbone of treating ear disease in the dog. They usually contain one or more of the following; an antibiotic to attack the bacterial infection; an anti-fungal to attack the yeast; a parasiticide to kill any ear mite and a steroid to reduce inflammation and irritation of the skin. Often treatment is needed for a prolonged length of time and because of changes to the skin lining the ear canal, the condition often flares up. Once the ear problem is controlled using medicated drops, weekly ear cleaning with an ear cleaner will help prevent flare-ups. All of these types of drop are prescription only.
Ear Syringing and Flushing
This requires a general anaesthetic (GA.) This allows the ear canal to be fully investigated using an auroscope. It is very difficult to fully visualize the ear canal in a conscious dog. At this stage tumours or polyps may be identified. A GA allows swabs to be taken and sent to the laboratory for culture to identify any pathogenic bacteria present and the antibiotics they are sensitive to. In dogs’ ears, often bacteria, such as Pseudomonas, are present and are often resistant to many antibiotics. It allows for thorough cleaning of the ear canal to remove any foreign bodies such as grass seeds or dead hair, excess wax and pus. A GA also allows for X-rays or even MRI to be taken to check for calcification of the ear cartilages and visualize the deeper structures such as the bulla for signs of pathology. This will give important information when deciding how to proceed with a recurring case.