"Otitis Media and Otitis Interna in Dogs

"Otitis Media and Otitis Interna in Dogs

Health & Safety

When dogs suffer from otitis media, it is their middle ear that's affected by an inflammation. However, when it's otitis interna that's the problem, this refers to a condition that affects a dog's inner ear and again it is due to an inflammation. Both conditions are typically caused by a bacterial infection and dogs with long ears and lots of hair on their ears are more at risk of developing otitis media and otitis interna than short eared dogs.

Breeds Most at Risk

As previously mentioned dogs with long ears and those with lots of hair on their ears are more susceptible to suffering from ear infections which includes otitis media and otitis interna. As such studies have shown the following breeds are more at risk of developing the condition:

  • Cocker Spaniel
  • Labrador Retriever
  • Springer Spaniel

Symptoms to Watch Out For

The signs of there being something wrong depend on how severe a dog's ear infection might be. Very often there are no apparent symptoms whereas at other times the signs of there being something wrong can be quite obvious more especially if a dog’s nervous system is affected. The symptoms to watch out for could include the following:

  • Pain when opening mouth
  • A reluctance to chew and eat
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at an affected ear
  • Head tilt
  • Leaning to one side
  • Loss of balance
  • Vomiting
  • Different sized pupils
  • Redness in the ear
  • Discharge from affected ears
  • Swollen, bulging eardrum

Should both a dog's ear be affected by the infection, they could well show other symptoms which includes the following:

  • Swinging head
  • Uncoordinated, wobbly movements
  • Deafness
  • An inability to blink
  • Paralysis - in severe cases

The Causes

The main cause of otitis media and otitis interna are bacteria which take hold in a dog’s ears. This causes the inflammation of the inner or middle ear. However, there are other reasons why a dog might develop this type of ear infection and this includes the following disorders:

  • Malassezia
  • Ear mites
  • Aspergillus - a type of fungus
  • Trauma
  • Tumours
  • Polyps
  • Foreign objects lodged in ear

Diagnosing the Problem

A vet would examine a dog's ear to see if the inflammation has affected their middle or inner ear. The technique used is known as myringotomy which is when a spinal needle is placed in a dog's ear to extract some middle ear fluid for examination. This procedure helps confirm a diagnosis and the presence of fungi or bacteria. Other tests a vet would typically recommend carrying out could include the following:

  • Analysis of cerebrospinal fluid
  • A urine analysis
  • CT scan
  • MRI scan

Treatment Options

Should a dog be suffering from a severe ear infection, a vet would usually want to hospitalise them so their condition can be closely monitored. However, if the condition is caught early they can be treated as outpatients with vets usually prescribing some form of antimicrobial medication to fight off the infection. Dogs would also need to be put on a course of antibiotics and it is essential for the course to be completed for the treatment to be effective. Should a dog suffer recurrent ear infections, it may be necessary for the vet to surgically drain the ear with an end goal being to resolve the problem.

Living with a Dog with Otitis Media or Otitis Interna

A dog that's been treated for otitis media or otitis interna would need follow up visits to the vet so their condition can be assessed with the first visit typically being 2 weeks after they have initially been treated. A vet would then assess their condition and make any changes to the chosen treatment should this prove to be necessary.


The best way to prevent an ear infection of this sort taking hold is to make sure a dog's ears are regularly cleaned which could reduce the risk of a problem developing. With this said, it is important not to over clean"" a dog's ears either which could end up damaging their ear canals.


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