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Ear Disease
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Why Should I Bring my Pet to Willows for Investigations and Treatment of Otitis?
Willows is one of Europe’s leading small animal referral centres. Our state-of-the-art hospital is led by internationally renowned Specialists who are committed to providing the highest standards of veterinary care. The Dermatology service at Willows is led by European Specialist Jon Hardy who has extensive experience of managing complex cases of otitis.
Our Dermatology service is supported by our multi-disciplinary team of Specialists across a number of disciplines including; Anaesthesia, Diagnostic Imaging, with access to advanced imaging facilities including CT, MRI and video-otoscopy which allows cases of otitis to be investigated fully. In addition, Willows has a large dedicated team of Nurses and clinical support staff available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to provide the best possible care for your pet.
willows-cardiology-icon
Why Should I Bring my Pet to Willows for Investigations and Treatment of Otitis?
Willows is one of Europe’s leading small animal referral centres. Our state-of-the-art hospital is led by internationally renowned Specialists who are committed to providing the highest standards of veterinary care. The Dermatology service at Willows is led by European Specialist Jon Hardy who has extensive experience of managing complex cases of otitis.
Our Dermatology service is supported by our multi-disciplinary team of Specialists across a number of disciplines including; Anaesthesia, Diagnostic Imaging, with access to advanced imaging facilities including CT, MRI and video-otoscopy which allows cases of otitis to be investigated fully. In addition, Willows has a large dedicated team of Nurses and clinical support staff available 24 hours a day, every day of the year to provide the best possible care for your pet.
How is Otitis Diagnosed?
In many cases, otitis externa (external ear canal only) can be diagnosed with a thorough history and clinical examination. In some cases, such as those caused by grass seeds, the cause of otitis will be apparent at a very early stage. Secondary infections can be identified by taking swabs from the ears and examining them under a microscope.

In more long standing, recurrent or difficult cases that are not responding to treatments, the risk of otitis media (inflammation beyond the ear drum) becomes much higher and further investigations are usually needed. In order to assess this area, imaging is needed and this is most effectively achieved with a CT scan, which gives a very detailed image of the patient’s skull. Under general anaesthesia, a camera called a video-otoscope can also be inserted deep down into the external ear canal to assess the deeper portions of the canal and inspect the tympanic membrane (ear drum) for damage. It is often necessary to take samples or swabs from these deeper parts, including beyond the ear drum, to ensure that deeper infections are identified.
How is Otitis Diagnosed?
In many cases, otitis externa (external ear canal only) can be diagnosed with a thorough history and clinical examination. In some cases, such as those caused by grass seeds, the cause of otitis will be apparent at a very early stage. Secondary infections can be identified by taking swabs from the ears and examining them under a microscope.

In more long standing, recurrent or difficult cases that are not responding to treatments, the risk of otitis media (inflammation beyond the ear drum) becomes much higher and further investigations are usually needed. In order to assess this area, imaging is needed and this is most effectively achieved with a CT scan, which gives a very detailed image of the patient’s skull. Under general anaesthesia, a camera called a video-otoscope can also be inserted deep down into the external ear canal to assess the deeper portions of the canal and inspect the tympanic membrane (ear drum) for damage. It is often necessary to take samples or swabs from these deeper parts, including beyond the ear drum, to ensure that deeper infections are identified.
How is Otitis Diagnosed?
In many cases, otitis externa (external ear canal only) can be diagnosed with a thorough history and clinical examination. In some cases, such as those caused by grass seeds, the cause of otitis will be apparent at a very early stage. Secondary infections can be identified by taking swabs from the ears and examining them under a microscope.

In more long standing, recurrent or difficult cases that are not responding to treatments, the risk of otitis media (inflammation beyond the ear drum) becomes much higher and further investigations are usually needed. In order to assess this area, imaging is needed and this is most effectively achieved with a CT scan, which gives a very detailed image of the patient’s skull. Under general anaesthesia, a camera called a video-otoscope can also be inserted deep down into the external ear canal to assess the deeper portions of the canal and inspect the tympanic membrane (ear drum) for damage. It is often necessary to take samples or swabs from these deeper parts, including beyond the ear drum, to ensure that deeper infections are identified.
What is Otitis?
Otitis is a term that describes inflammation of the ear. Inflammation can affect both the skin of the ear flap (pinna) and also the skin lining the ear canals. The ear canals of dogs and cats are open to the outside world at the base of the ear flaps, and are L-shaped skin-lined tubes that extend down to a semi-transparent membrane called the tympanic membrane (ear drum)(Figure 1).

Figure 1: The normal tympanic membrane (ear drum) of a dog
What is Otitis?
Otitis is a term that describes inflammation of the ear. Inflammation can affect both the skin of the ear flap (pinna) and also the skin lining the ear canals. The ear canals of dogs and cats are open to the outside world at the base of the ear flaps, and are L-shaped skin-lined tubes that extend down to a semi-transparent membrane called the tympanic membrane (ear drum)(Figure 1).

Figure 1: The normal tympanic membrane (ear drum) of a dog
What Causes Otitis?
Inflammation of the ear can be caused by a number of factors, and there is often more than one cause present at any given time. Inflammation of the skin lining the ear canals is frequently a result of more widespread skin disease, explaining why Dermatologists are responsible for treating these cases. Contrary to popular belief, ear infections caused by bacteria and fungi very rarely initiate the problem. These infections usually take advantage of an altered and inflamed ear canal caused by other factors. The most common initiating causes of otitis include parasites, foreign bodies (like grass seeds) and allergic skin disease (Fig 2). Rarer causes include hormonal diseases and growths (tumours) in the ear canals. Factors such as increased humidity and poor ventilation (e.g. from excessive hair) can also contribute to the formation and persistence of otitis.

Figure 2. Severe otitis externa in a dog with allergic skin disease
What Causes Otitis?
Inflammation of the ear can be caused by a number of factors, and there is often more than one cause present at any given time. Inflammation of the skin lining the ear canals is frequently a result of more widespread skin disease, explaining why Dermatologists are responsible for treating these cases. Contrary to popular belief, ear infections caused by bacteria and fungi very rarely initiate the problem. These infections usually take advantage of an altered and inflamed ear canal caused by other factors. The most common initiating causes of otitis include parasites, foreign bodies (like grass seeds) and allergic skin disease (Fig 2). Rarer causes include hormonal diseases and growths (tumours) in the ear canals. Factors such as increased humidity and poor ventilation (e.g. from excessive hair) can also contribute to the formation and persistence of otitis.

Figure 2. Severe otitis externa in a dog with allergic skin disease
What Treatments are Available?
What Can I Expect if my Pet has been Diagnosed with Otitis?
Otitis can only be treated effectively when all the factors contributing to its formation have been addressed. Secondary infections are usually treated with ear rinsing procedures, appropriate ear drops and tablets and cleaning solutions. Ideally, the initiating factors are identified and treated accordingly. Many cases of recurrent otitis in dogs and cats are caused by allergic skin diseases, as such management of these conditions is essential to prevent future relapses. In some cases, management changes are also required to alter factors such as ear canal humidity and ventilation.

In cases of otitis external (external ear canal only), the prognosis for a successful outcome is usually very good if the contributing factors can be identified and addressed. Cases of otitis media (involvement beyond the ear drum) carry a more uncertain prognosis but many can be successfully treated with the aid of video-otoscopy procedures. In rare poorly responsive cases, surgery is sometimes needed.

What Treatments are Available?
What Can I Expect if my Pet has been Diagnosed with Otitis?
Otitis can only be treated effectively when all the factors contributing to its formation have been addressed. Secondary infections are usually treated with ear rinsing procedures, appropriate ear drops and tablets and cleaning solutions. Ideally, the initiating factors are identified and treated accordingly. Many cases of recurrent otitis in dogs and cats are caused by allergic skin diseases, as such management of these conditions is essential to prevent future relapses. In some cases, management changes are also required to alter factors such as ear canal humidity and ventilation.
In cases of otitis external (external ear canal only), the prognosis for a successful outcome is usually very good if the contributing factors can be identified and addressed. Cases of otitis media (involvement beyond the ear drum) carry a more uncertain prognosis but many can be successfully treated with the aid of video-otoscopy procedures. In rare poorly responsive cases, surgery is sometimes needed.
What Treatments are Available?
Otitis can only be treated effectively when all the factors contributing to its formation have been addressed. Secondary infections are usually treated with ear rinsing procedures, appropriate ear drops and tablets and cleaning solutions. Ideally, the initiating factors are identified and treated accordingly. Many cases of recurrent otitis in dogs and cats are caused by allergic skin diseases, as such management of these conditions is essential to prevent future relapses. In some cases, management changes are also required to alter factors such as ear canal humidity and ventilation.
What Can I Expect if my Pet has been Diagnosed with Otitis?
In cases of otitis external (external ear canal only), the prognosis for a successful outcome is usually very good if the contributing factors can be identified and addressed. Cases of otitis media (involvement beyond the ear drum) carry a more uncertain prognosis but many can be successfully treated with the aid of video-otoscopy procedures. In rare poorly responsive cases, surgery is sometimes needed.