Ear we go Again: Improve Your Otitis Diagnostics

Sarah Mouton Dowdy

It’s been said that only two things are certain in this world: death and taxes. But if we’re talking about the veterinary world, that list should arguably expand to include otitis. “We know that otitis is the second most common reason dogs come into our clinics,” said Ashley Bourgeois, DVM, DACVD, at a recent Fetch dvm360 conference session. “The first reason is itch, so derm is awesome because we get the No. 1 and 2 spots! And usually it’s both—they have an ear infection because they have allergies and they’re itchy.”

But despite all of this forced practice, diagnosing otitis remains a painful process for both the pet and the practitioner—a reality that Dr. Bourgeois addressed by sharing her solutions to some common conundrums.

Problem: The patient is extremely uncomfortable during the otoscopic exam.

Treatment: The patient may just need a distraction, and you may need to tweak your technique.“ There actually aren’t too many dogs, unless they’re extremely painful or just aggressive on their own, that I can’t do an awake otoscopy exam on,” said Dr. Bourgeois. “Obviously I’m doing them all day, every day, so I have good practice, but we’ll use things to distract them.” If the dog doesn’t have a food allergy, her diversion weapon of choice is a pretzel rod garnished with spray cheese.

But distraction is only one part of a better otoscopy exam. “Dogs tend to get uncomfortable when you put in the scope and hit the junction where the vertical canal meets the horizontal,” explained Dr. Bourgeois. “Because the ear canal is L-shaped, you’ll want to pull it up and out to straighten the canal. You’ll be able to get deeper into the canal, and it will be less painful for the dog.”

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