Chronic Ear Infections

LBaby_hulse_2ast week we saw a lovely (if overlarge) cat named Baby.   She didn’t look quite so bedraggled then.  This picture was taken as she awakened after her ear-cleaning procedure today.

It was Baby’s first visit to our hospital and I was unhappy to learn that she had been suffering from chronic ear infections "for years".   She had been treated for various diagnoses of ear mites, ear infections, and ear polyps with every thing from long-acting cortisone injections to antibiotics to the current treatment of twice weekly home ear flushes.

Her ear canals were full of extremely hard debris.  Several passive flushes (just instilling a cleaning solution and letting the cat shake it out) removed virtually nothing.  I had to wonder how long it had been since someone actually LOOKED into these ears.  The canals were very hard, not flexible at all, and swollen so that you couldn’t get a scope into them very well.

We gave her enough cortisone for about a week, and sent home drops with cortisone and anti-fungals and antibiotics, hoping to get the canals to open up a bit, and maybe soften that debris.

Ear_booger_2 Today we anesthetized her and removed LOTS of junk, including this honker, which is as hard as a rock.  After cleaning this long-standing accumulation of crud out of her ears, we could see her ear-drums on the video-otoscope and were surprised to see that they appeared intact.  They were a little macerated (like your finger gets under a wet band-aid), but no obvious holes were present.  This was surprising because probably 80% of animals with long-standing ear infections no longer have an ear-drum.  A little closer observation revealed air-bubbles rising from her right middle ear and appearing through the ear drum to float up to the scope.

Fortunately, despite this small hole in the ear-drum, her middle ears looked great when we X-rayed her skull: no change in the bone, no crud on the inside.  Bottom line is that her prognosis is good to be FREE of ear infections "for years".   You have to really examine these thoroughly and really get them clean in order to effectively treat them.  "More ear drops" is not the answer.

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