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Ear Infections or Otitis Externa

Endocarditis

 

Ear infections or Otitis Externa

Causes of otitis or ear infection include:

*swimming regularly - bacteria thrive in a moist environment

*a foreign body such as a grass awn.

*a generalised skin allergy caused by mainly an inhaled skin allergy (atopy) or a food allergy.

*long hairs down the base of the ear making them itchy in certain breeds such as Poodles, Schnauzers, Bearded Collies, Terriers etc.

*ear mites or Otodectes cyanotis which cause a red/brown discharge.

*tumours or benign polyps that block the ear canal in older pets.

*breed disposition in certain breeds with very large, upright ears that may get foreign bodies falling in the ear or very large hanging ears that allow no air circulation such as Cocker Spaniel

It is important to have your pet seen for an otitis as it can result in a burst eardrum and deafness if not treated. It can be very painful and we do tend to treat your pet with anti-inflammatory tablets and an injection initially.

We always need to look down your pet's ear with an otoscope to make sure that the eardrum has not been perforated, but if this proves too painful, then your pet will need at least 2 weeks of oral antibiotics and painkillers.

Further tests for otitis involve:

*microscopic exam to look for earmites by taking a sample of ear discharge. The brownish 'coffee granule discharge' is in fact dried blood and ear mite faeces produced from the numerous mites biting your pets' ears.

All pets in your home would need to be treated for ear mites as it is a very contagious condition.

*taking a swab and sending this to the laboratory to find the exact bacteria or fungus causing the problem and treating with a specific antibiotic.

*full sedation and an ear flush if the ear is infected or an investigation if a foreign body is suspected. We tend to clean away as much infected material as possible and also shave the fur around the ear in long-haired breeds.

*a final drastic procedure involves a full surgical removal of the middle ear in dogs with a thickened ear canal and chronic infections.

Treatment of otitis in dogs

Once a diagnosis is made, we treat otitis with:

*broad spectrum antibiotics.

*painkillers or anti-inflammatory tablets to reduce the swelling and alleviate the itching in allergic pets.

*long-term management of itchy ears may benefit from anti-histamines and essential fatty acids or a dietary change to a non-allergenic diet if the cause is a food allergy.

*keep your pet free of parasites by regular flea and mite treatment

*use good general parasite control against fleas in allergic pets as once they start scratching, they tend to end up scratching their ears too.

*keep your pet's ear free of hair down the base, especially in breeds such as Poodles and Schnauzers. It is important to get your young dog used to this procedure.The hair in the ear canals can keep the moisture trapped in the ear canal, which leads to infections.

*avoid prolonged wetness in your pet's ears. If you give your pet a bath or allow your dog to swim, be sure to pat the insides of the ears dry with a towel so as not to allow bacteria or yeast to grow in the dampness, then apply a commercial ear cleaning product that is safe and gentle on the ears.

Use an ear cleaning product to help with ear maintenance and cleaning. Besides drying the ear, these products also help to break up wax.

*pets with floppy ears such as Springer and Cocker Spaniels are more prone to ear infections because the air does not dry the ears naturally, as it does for pets with erect ears. If your pet has floppy ears, it is important to check his ears regularly and get him used to having his ears touched from a young age as ear infections could possibly become a way of life for him.

*to administer liquid ear medication, gently lift your dog's ear and insert the tip of the bottle into the ear canal. A squeeze of the bottle should be all that is needed. Massage the ear canal between your finger and thumb. Do NOT use cotton swabs as they push the wax further down and may puncture the ear drum.

You can use small pieces of cotton or tissue to clean the external part of the ear. When using an ear cleaner, use gentle massaging and wiping. Too much pressure can easily rupture an unhealthy ear drum.

 

Endocarditis

 

Endocarditis is inflammation of one or more of the valves within the heart due to infection by bacteria.

Thankfully it occurs rarely in dogs. The incidence is believed to be higher in large-breed male dogs. German Shepherds and Boxers are possibly predisposed.

If severe, the affected valve stops working properly and so the animal begins to show symptoms of heart failure.

Endocarditis occurs when bacteria spread from another part of the body to the heart via the blood.

Infections of the mouth and teeth are of particular importance so good dental hygiene and regular dental checks may help to prevent endocarditis from occurring.

Symptoms

The symptoms are extremely variable depending on how bad it is. If the infection is very mild then there may be no signs. If a valve is severely affected then the animal will show signs of heart failure ie coughing due to fluid on the lungs, breathlessness, excessive fatigue and restlessness during the night.

The bacteria can break off the valve in a particle called a "thrombus" and spread to other sites in the body: this can be fatal since the thrombus or clot can block blood vessels, preventing blood from reaching important organs such as the brain.

Treatment of Endocarditis

The infection can be treated using antibiotic injections which must be administered by your vet.

Antibiotic tablets will then be required for at least 4 weeks since endocarditis is a particularly difficult infection to clear. If there are already signs of heart failure then the prognosis is poor. Recurrent infections are a problem in spite of long term antibiotic therapy, and there is always the risk of a clot formation.