Ear ailments…Middle ear infection (Otitis media)


Last week, we discussed external ear infections. Well, more often than not, those infectious agents work their way into the middle ear.

On rarer occasions, the infection of the middle ear can arise from an infection in the throat via a tube which connects up with the middle ear (the eustachian tube).

Similarly, a tonsillitis or a pharyngitis can also contaminate the middle ear. Of course, a perforation of the ear drum by a foreign object could cause severe problems in the middle ear.


pet cornerThe signs of the middle ear infection are very much similar to those we discussed last week for the external ear infection:

** The animal shakes its head vigorously.

** The drooping of the head/ear on the infected side (holding the head at an angle).

** Expression of severe pain, especially when the area is touched

** Discharge from the ear canal.

I should mention that the infection of the middle ear can further work itself into the inner ear (Otitis interna). That now is a serious problem.

If this occurs, the signs are even more pronounced. The animal is so disoriented that it will have a staggering gait or walk around in circles.

It may even keel over on to the affected side. What is really happening here is that the animal has lost its sense of balance, because the functions of the labyrinth and the vestibular apparatus in the ear are impaired by the infection. These structures are involved in the sense of balance and the sense of motion.

The animal, of course, is in such pain and in such a state of disorientation that it will not eat or drink.

Often, a rapid involuntary movement of the eyeball (Nystagmus) accompanies the ailment.

This condition, if unattended, can only get worse to the point of death due to meningitis or abscess development in the cerebellum, that part of the brain which is concerned with the coordination of muscles and the maintenance of balance.


Experience has taught me to see past any present condition and look for a potentially developing worst-case scenario. So, whenever I am confronted with a severe purulent external ear infection, the possibility of a middle ear sequel is taken into consideration.

For this reason, the sensitivity test, to which I referred last week, is instituted immediately and the appropriate antibiotics introduced.

Also, I would advise that one continues with the treatment long after the symptoms have waned or disappeared. In chronic cases, especially if the ear canal is closing up, surgery may be indicated.

NB:         Middle ear infections can only be handled by the vet. Don’t try to solve the problem yourself.

If the ear drum is perforated, then the future doesn’t look good. You may wish to have a serious discussion with your vet relative to the future of the animal. If the tympanic membrane (ear drum) is intact and the vet intervenes immediately, a total healing could result.

A final note: Because of the possible nerve damage associated with an Otitis media infection, the animal’s head might have a permanent tilt, even after full recovery from the middle ear or inner ear infection. As has been mentioned before, damaged nerves do not usually heal easily or quickly.

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. We still have the free spay and neutering programme. Exploit it. 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.

Around the Web