Ear ailments

Pet Corner


Bacterial problems of the outer ear

I had promised last week that we would go delving into the ‘middle ear’ and see what sort of stomach-turning maladies we will find there.  Then it occurred to me that although we have been discussing ailments of the ‘outer-ear’ – (Haematomas, mites, biting flies, fungus infections, etc) we have not dealt with bacterial invasions.  Let’s correct that omission today.

20090531dogFirstly, it should be recognized that the (excessive) existence of wax and accumulated dirt will predispose to bacterial settlement.  Of course, allergies, moisture, thick clumps of hair and all those foreign bodies, (eg grass seeds, burrs, etc), biting insects, etc, will create a milieu which is conducive to the flourishing of bacteria.  The type of weather we have in Guyana (hot, humid) creates an environment in which germs can be nurtured and flourish.

Dogs (especially those with floppy ears and long hair), cats and rabbits, seem to be the species most infected.


** The animal shakes its head and scratches its ear(s) continuously.  Sometimes, the shaking of the ear is so vehement that the blood vessels burst causing an ear haematoma (see ‘Pet Corner’ for May 10, 2009).

** The infected ear is inflamed (red and hot and painful).

** In more advanced stages of the disease, there could be a sticky, purulent discharge and even ulceration.  There is a characteristic foul-smelling odour.

** In extreme cases (especially when the ailment has been allowed to continue untreated), the tissue swells to such a degree as to close up the entrance to the middle ear.  This would impair the animal’s ability to hear.

** The colour of the discharge often denotes the type of bacteria involved in the infection:

–  Brownish-black waxy discharge – Staphylococcus            (‘Staphs’)
– Brownish-yellow waxy discharge – Streptococcus               (‘Streps’)
–  Pale yellow to green, watery, pussy, foul-smelling            discharge – Proteus of Pseudomonas.


The administering of medication to the affected ear is almost always problematic.  The pain is too intense.  Even the most peaceful dog becomes a monster when you try to approach his injured ear.  For this reason, vets tend to sedate or even totally anaesthetise the patient before entering the ear.

The treatment is geared at firstly cleansing the ear, then looking into the ear (via an otoscope) and later washing (with a special germicide detergent solution; not soap) the infected external ear before administering the antibiotic creams (locally), or capsules/tablets (orally).  I tend to take a sample of the discharge and have it analysed in the laboratory (sensitivity test), so that the specific (most efficient) antibiotic could be used.  Often, veterinarians use anti-inflammatory agents (corticosteroids) together with the antibiotics.

So as not to raise your hopes too high, let me advise that once you let the Otitis Externa become chronic, it is the devil’s own job to cure the condition.  In fact, one smart book tells us that, generally, a high percentage of failures and retreatments can be anticipated.  It is compulsory to persist with treatment even after the symptoms have subsided or disappeared (for as much as two weeks).  Have a pleasant week.

Please implement disease preventative measures (vaccinations, routine dewormings, monthly anti-heartworm medication, etc) and adopt-a-pet from the GSPCA’s Animal Clinic and Shelter at Robb Street and Orange Walk, if you have the wherewithal to care well for the animals.  Do not stray your unwanted pets, take them to the GSPCA’s Clinic and Shelter instead.  If you see anyone being cruel to an animal, or if you need any technical information, please get in touch with the Clinic and Shelter by calling 226-4237.

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