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All Ears for Ollie’s Problem

30 September 2015

Ollie is a bouncy 1½ year old Cockapoo, but in March of this year, his owners became concerned when he developed very painful ears. He had never had a problem like it before, but there was a strong smell and discharge was seen around the ears.

Ollie was taken to his vets who prescribed some drops for an infection, but although this helped in Ollie’s right ear, his left ear remained excruciatingly painful. Despite more trips to his vets and more ear drops, things didn’t get any better, and Ollie remained very uncomfortable. Ollie was therefore referred to Willows to see dermatology specialist Jon Hardy.

Examination of Ollie’s ears was very difficult initially as he was in so much pain, but swabs were taken from his ears and demonstrated severe inflammation and very high numbers of yeast organisms called Malassezia (Figure 1). This showed that Ollie had a yeast infection of his ears.

 

Figure 1 – Peanut shaped Malassezia yeasts in Ollie’s ears

Figure 1 – Peanut shaped Malassezia yeasts in Ollie’s ears

 

Ollie’s pain was so concerning that Jon recommended further investigations under anaesthesia to assess the extent of the problem. A CT scan was performed and interpreted by Willows Diagnostic Imaging Specialist Lizza Baines. A CT scan gives very detailed pictures of the deepest parts of a dog’s ear canal. It helps to show if the ear drum has been damaged and if infection has passed through into the deeper parts of the skull. However, fortunately for Ollie, his CT scan did not show any of these signs (Figure 2).

 

Figure 2 – Ollie’s CT scan, showing (black) air in the deep parts of his ear canals

Figure 2 – Ollie’s CT scan, showing (black) air in the deep parts of his ear canals

 

Ollie’s ears were then examined in detail with a camera flushing device called a video-otoscope. This allows all the wax and discharge to be flushed out of the ears and enables the very deepest parts of the ear, including the ear drum, to be seen.

Ollie’s ear canals contained lots of waxy discharge, and this was removed using careful flushing. Thankfully, Ollie’s right ear showed quite mild changes (Figure 3), although the ear drum in this ear showed a very small slit-like hole in it (Figure 4).

 

Figure 3 – Ollie’s right ear canal

Figure 3 – Ollie’s right ear canal

 

Figure 4 – The small slit-like hole in Ollie’s ear drum

Figure 4 – The small slit-like hole in Ollie’s ear drum

 

Jon then carefully passed a swab down Ollie’s ear canal and through this hole to check for signs of deeper infection, but encouragingly, nothing was found. Unfortunately, Ollie’s left ear canal was far more inflamed, and certainly explained why Ollie had been in so much pain (Figure 5). Careful flushing of the deeper parts of this ear was carried out, but luckily, the ear drum in this ear appeared intact, and no holes were found.

 

Figure 5 – Ollie’s left ear canal with severe inflammation

Figure 5 – Ollie’s left ear canal with severe inflammation

 

Following Ollie’s procedure, he was started on powerful anti-inflammatory medication to bring down the swelling in his ears, and drops were also given to start treating the yeast infections. Due to the small hole in Ollie’s right ear drum, Jon prescribed human anti-yeast drops, as ear drops designed for dogs can cause neurological signs if the ear drum is not intact.

Ollie returned to see Jon 3 weeks later, and there had been a huge improvement. The yeast infection had started to reduce, but with numbers still too high, treatments were continued. Jon also introduced some anti-septic ear rinsing solution to Ollie’s treatment to help treat the infection.

Ollie returned a further 3 weeks after this, and we are delighted to report that the pain and the infection has now gone. Ollie is off his medication, and is back to his normal bouncy self!

For more information about ear disease, see our Ear Disease (Otitis) Information Sheet

See also our Malassezia Dermatitis Information Sheet