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Complications of Chronic Ear Infections or Otitis in the Dog

What Can Happen to My Dog if His Ear Infection Is Neglected or Not Cured?


Complications of Canine Otitis and Ear Infections

Otitis and ear infections, especially when chronic, can lead to many different types of complications for your dog.
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Dogs that have otitis and/or ear infections that are either neglected or not treated successfully can have a variety of potential complications.

Otitis refers to inflammation in the ears and may occur for many different reasons. The term ear infections is a bit more specific and refers to an actual infection (either bacterial, fungal or parasitic) rather than simply inflammation. Though there is technically a difference between otititis and an ear infection, the two are often present simultaneously and they can also cause very similar complications.

Ear Hematomas Can Be the Result of Chronic Ear Infections or Otitis in Dogs

Ear hematomas can occur as a result of trauma caused by your dog shaking his head excessively or scratching at his ears. They are also known as auricular hematomas. Essentially, a hematoma is a pocket filled with blood. An ear hematoma is a pocket filled with blood that occurs on the ear, almost always on the flap of the ear.

Normally, a hematoma forms on only one ear but it is not impossible to see hematomas involving both ears.

Though hematomas are most often associated with inflammation and/or infection in the ears, this is not always the case. Sometimes, hematomas can form on ears that appear to be perfectly healthy.

Otitis Media and Otitis Interna: Invasion of the Middle or Inner Ear of the Dog

Ear infections can spread from the outer part of the ear into the middle and/or the inner ear of the dog. When the infection or inflammation spreads to the middle ear, it is termed otitis media. When the infection or inflammation spreads to the inner ear, it is known as otitis interna.

Otitis media causes symptoms that include paralysis of the facial nerve, deafness, keratoconjuncitivis sicca (KCS or "dry eye") and Horner's syndrome. (Horner's syndrome consists of drooping of the upper eyelid, prolapse of the third eyelid, recession of the eyeball and/or constriction of the pupil.)

Vestibular disease results when otitis interna occurs. Vestibular disease causes symptoms such as a head tilt, loss of balance, incoordination and shifting eye movements known as nystagmus.

Chronic Canine Otitis Can Cause Narrowing of the Ear Canal

Otitis that is unresolved can cause proliferation of the lining of the ear canal. This in turn leads to a narrowing of the car canal. Ear canals that are drastically narrowed are known as stenotic ear canals.

In some cases, the ear canals may become so stenotic (narrow) that it is impossible to treat them medically. In this situation, surgery may be the only option for your dog.

Learn more: Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats

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