What is Otitis Interna and Media?
While otitis externa is relatively common in the animal world, otitis media and interna are quite rare with otitis interna being the most serious of all three types. The infection is usually bacterial but yeast and fungus can also be a cause. If your dog has problems in the external ear, it may extend down and inhibit the middle and inner ear function and normalcy, causing problems with balance, or facial muscle problems such as partial paralysis. Veterinarian care is a must to analyse your dog’s condition and to prescribe treatment for your pet.
Otitis interna and media are caused by middle ear and internal ear infections that can involve the central nervous system, causing neurological symptoms such as imbalance.
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Symptoms of Otitis Interna and Media in Dogs
- Facial nerve damage which causes lip droop, ear droop, and problems with the nasal area
- Your dog may have problems balancing properly
- Your pet may be quite depressed and not want to move around much
- Your dog may develop a tilt to his head and find it hard to walk
- There may be a discharge which can be foul smelling
- Shaking or pawing of the head
- Hearing loss can occur
- Inability to blink
If your dog is a long-eared variety (such as a Labrador Retriever or Cocker Spaniel) he may be susceptible to ear infections.
Otitis media occurs in the middle ear, just behind the eardrum. It can result in partial facial paralysis as the facial nerves are located through the middle ear. It is often an extension of infection from the outer ear. In addition, corneal ulceration may develop.
Otitis interna occurs in the inner ear. If the infection moves from the inner ear to the brain it can cause meningitis and other conditions. Otitis interna is severe due to its location near vital nerves and it may also bring incoordination and a loss of hearing.
Causes of Otitis Interna and Media in Dogs
- Bacteria is the main cause of these conditions – because the ear is warm and protected, it is an ideal place for bacteria to breed
- Trauma to your dog (car accident) may contribute or cause an ear infection episode
- Growths in the ear of your pet such as a tumor or polyps within the ear structure
- Seeds or any foreign object in the ear
- Mites in the ear
- Yeast agents
Diagnosis of Otitis Interna and Media in Dogs
If you suspect your dog to be suffering from any ear condition, it is advisable to take him to the veterinary clinic for an examination. A general examination of your dog’s overall condition will be followed by a thorough ear examination. Your dog may require sedation as the veterinary care giver probes his ears with a simple otoscope. Diagnosis for the middle and inner ears can be done with a myringotomy which is a technique using a very fine needle that extracts middle ear fluid for examination under a microscope.
Due to the shape of the inner ear, your dog may need radiography which can detect changes within the tympanic cavity but usually, the more effective diagnosis is using computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans which are more suited to pick up changes in the delicate ear. If infection has occurred in one ear, your veterinarian will check the other ear to ensure it hasn’t picked up the infection as well. Some blood or urine tests may also be done to confirm infection.
Treatment of Otitis Interna and Media in Dogs
Treatment is most effective if the condition is caught in the early stages. Depending on the cause of the condition your veterinarian will prescribe a medication to suit. For example, for bacterial infection, he will prescribe an antimicrobial to fight bacterial infection. If mites are the cause, an anti-parasitic medicine will be prescribed. In either case, the ear will need to be cleaned thoroughly and flushed out before any drops or creams can be used. The veterinarian may keep your dog overnight if the condition is serious, just to monitor the effects of the treatment medication.
If the condition does not respond to the medication, then drainage myringotomy may be used, which is where the veterinarian will perform a tiny perforation of the tympanic membrane resulting in the fluid being able to drain out, which will relieve pressure within the ear canal. Early detection of these conditions is corrected with careful cleaning and medication. However, more severe conditions can lead to complications that can affect your dog such as neurologic deficits and a loss of hearing. Surgery may be required in severe cases.
Recovery of Otitis Interna and Media in Dogs
In most cases, you will be able to take your dog home to rest and recover. You may have drops or a cream to put into the ear, and your veterinarian will show you how to effectively clean your dog’s ear. In most cases, your dog will have medication perhaps in tablet form to take, and this can be inserted into a favourite treat. You will be advised to take your dog back to the clinic for a check on how your dog’s ears are healing, to see if the medication is taking effect. If your dog is in pain, your veterinarian will prescribe a painkiller to give your pet some relief. Prevention is always the best option, and keeping a close check on the ears of your dog will be advisable. Just don’t overclean the ear canal as sometimes that can be damaging – moderation is the key.