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Glossary Term: Otitis Externa


Ear infection in a Cocker Spaniel / Joel Mills on Wikipedia

Ear infection in a Cocker Spaniel

Joel Mills / Wikipedia
Definition: Otitis externa is an inflammation of the external ear canal. The word otitis means ear canal inflammation, and externa refers to the external ear canal. Related terms are otitis media and otitis interna, which refer to the middle and inner ear canals, respectively.

Otitis externa is characterized by itchy ears, redness, local swelling, and if infected, a discharge with very bad odor. The nature of the odor and discharge depends on what the causative agent is.

The term otitis externa does not imply a cause; simply that the canal is inflamed. As mentioned above, foreign bodies such as grass awns, moisture (as from swimming in a lake), bacteria, yeast, and ear mites are all potential causes of inflammation and resulting infection or infestation.

Another potential cause of red itchy ears is allergies; typically inhalant allergens or food allergies, causing red, swollen, and itchy ears.

If known, one would list the cause of the otitis before the term, such as: bacterial otitis externa or fungal otitis externa to be more specific.

Treatment of otitis externa depends on the cause. A good ear cleansing is helpful for most cases of otitis externa. Antibiotics in the ear (and possibly by mouth as well) will help with bacterial problems and foreign body penetration. Antifungal and antiparasitic solutions will help with yeast and mites.

If your pet has a bad odor from the ears, is scratching or shaking the head constantly, please see your veterinarian as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the ears and ear drums.

Veterinary Glossary Index

Related: All About Ear Infections

Pronunciation: Pronunciation Key: Oh-tie-tus Ex-sturn-ah
Also Known As: ear infection, swimmer's ear
The otitis externa worsened without proper treatment and caused the dog's ear drum to rupture.
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