What is Otoscopy?

Many dogs are prone to ear issues. These come about from environmental factors, activities and genetic predispositions. After a basic examination of a dog's ear, often the first procedure recommended is an otoscopy. This diagnostic method uses a flexible tool with a camera and a light on the end of it to get a magnified look at inside of the ear canal. 

This makes finding any abnormalities, discharge, or foreign objects much easier. Various tools can be added to the end of the otoscope including fine aspiration needles, brushes, and scrapers. Biopsies can be harvested during the examination, and the otoscope can also flush or draw liquid through the ear. Many veterinarians offer this type of evaluation, although special equipment and some training are required. 

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Otoscopy Procedure in Dogs

At the first examination, the affected ear may be too swollen or full of discharge to conduct an otoscopy. If this is the case, the dog will be given anti-inflammatory drugs and the ear will be flushed. Generally, otoscopy is performed while an assistant holds the dog's head still. Some dogs will not allow their ears to be manipulated and therefore must be sedated prior to the procedure. If general anesthesia is being used, full blood work will have to be run to determine if the dog is healthy enough to undergo the exam. 

To begin the otoscopy, the flexible tool is inserted into the ear canal. A full evaluation of the anatomy can then be performed. A magnified image of everything that the otoscope sees is projected on a large screen. If any growths or lesions are found, they can be scraped or sampled and retrieved for testing. The process can take time, as the lens often gets dirty from ear wax and other discharge. The canal may be washed using the otoscope, and the tool is then removed to end the procedure.

Efficacy of Otoscopy in Dogs

This method is meant to help diagnose conditions of the ear, not cure them. Once the cause of ear problems has been found, a treatment plan can be made. Otoscopy is an effective, non-invasive way to collect information about the external ear canal. When paired with histopathological examination, an otoscopy can correctly identify many ailments of the ear.

Otoscopy Recovery in Dogs

In general, dogs who receive an otoscopy are allowed to go home shortly after the procedure. If general anesthesia has been used, the dog will have to be closely monitored as it wakes up from sedation. If the otoscopy has revealed irreparable damage to the ear, the dog will likely be scheduled for surgery. Any tissue samples that have been collected will be sent away to a lab. 

Once the results are available, a follow-up appointment will be needed to discuss the appropriate course of treatment. Bacterial infections will likely be treated with a prescription of antibiotics. If cancer has been found, a regime of radiation, chemotherapy, and possibly surgery may be implemented.

Cost of Otoscopy in Dogs

The cost of an otoscopy on its own is often included in the consultation price, which typically ranges between $100 and $200. If the dog requires sedatives or general anesthesia, the cost may spike significantly. Any lab work that needs to be done on blood or tissue samples will also add to the end price. There are no alternatives to this examination that are more cost effective.

Dog Otoscopy Considerations

The procedure can cause irritation or even pain to the dog, as the affected area will likely be inflamed. There are not a lot of risks associated with otoscopy, however, it is possible for the dog's ear drum to be ruptured in the process. This can be avoided with proper technique, so choosing a veterinarian who has used an otoscope before may be the best option. If general anesthesia is used, certain risks that are rare, but serious, will also exist.

Otoscopy Prevention in Dogs

Preventing the need for an otoscopy involves promoting healthy ears in your dog. This can be done by regularly cleaning the dog's ears and avoiding swimming. Some breeds are highly susceptible to ear problems because of how their ear pinnae or canals are shaped, such as the Shar Pei or some spaniels. Providing supplements to boost your dog's immune system may prevent it from developing improper responses. Other issues such as cancer may be deterred by a high quality diet and avoidance of known carcinogens such as cigarette smoke and car exhaust.