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Chronic Ear Problems in Dogs

By: Dr. Rosanna Marsalla

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Diagnosis In-depth

In cases of ear inflammation, your veterinarian will want to identify and correct the primary underlying cause as well as the perpetuating cause (e.g. bacterial infection).

  • Diagnosis of atopy is based on history (age of onset, progressive worsening overtime), clinical signs (pruritus on face, feet and ears), exclusion of other pruritic diseases, intradermal skin test, and serology testing for allergen-specific IgE.

  • Food allergy is diagnosed by appropriate food trial in which a source of protein is selected based on the individual history and used for a minimum of two months. The food is then discontinued, and if signs clear up, the food will be given again to see if symptoms recur.

  • Diagnosis of a primary disease of keratinization is made based on history of very young age of onset, lack of pruritus (itchiness) at least initially, and skin biopsy.

  • Diagnosis of an underlying endocrine disease is based on clinical signs, compatible changes on CBC and chemistry panel and specific tests for either thyroid or adrenal function.

  • Diagnosis of ear mites is made by cytology and identification of mites under the microscope.

  • In most cases of chronic otitis externa/media bacteria are present. Although bacteria are not a primary cause of otitis, once the infection is established, they can cause significant inflammation and damage. Diagnosis is based on cytology of the exudate, bacterial culture and sensitivity. Aggressive treatment is warranted as resistance to antibiotic may easily occur especially in cases when Pseudomonas is cultured.

  • Any time that rods are detected on cytology, a bacterial culture/sensitivity test is warranted to investigate whether Pseudomonas is present and what the sensitivity is.

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