Canis ISSN: 2398-2942

Ear: otitis externa

Contributor(s): Karen Campbell, Rosanna Marsella, David Scarff, David Godfrey, Sue Paterson


  • Inflammation of the external ear canal Otitis externa acute - hemorrhage and transudate  exudate.
  • Affects 4-20% dogs.
  • Causes: numerous, categorized into predisposing factors, primary and secondary causes and perpetuating factors.
  • Signs: pruritus (usually earliest sign) shown by scratching or head shaking, aural discharge, malodor, and pain - shown by head tilt or dislike of handling of ear.
  • Diagnosis:clinical signs, examination and cytology.
  • Treatment: topical therapy (ear cleaner and ear drops), systemic therapy, surgery (where chronic irreversible change is present).
  • Prognosis: Good if acute, in chronic disease primary causes must be identified and controlled to prevent recurrence. Where chronic change is present (perpetuating factors) this must be treated to prevent recurrence.
    Print off the owner factsheet on Chronic otitis Chronic otitis to give to your client.Follow the diagnostic tree for Evaluating and Managing Otitis Externa/Media Evaluating and Managing Otitis Externa/Media.




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Further Reading


Refereed papers

  • Recent references from PubMed and VetMedResource.
  • Forster S L et al (2018) A randomized placebo-controlled trial of the effiacy and safety of a terbinafine, florfenicol and betamethasone topical ear formulation in dogs for the treatment of bacterial and/or fungal otitis. BMC Vet Res 14 (1), 1-11 PubMed.
  • Paterson S et al (2018) A study to evaluate the primary causes associated with Pseudomonas otitis in 60 dogs. JSAP 59 (4), 238-242 PubMed.
  • Paterson S (2018) Brainstem auditory evoked responses in 37 dogs with otitis media before and after topical therapy. JSAP 59 (1), 10-12 PubMed.
  • Barnard N, Foster A (2017) Pseudomonas otitis in dogs: a general practitioner's guide to treatment. In Practice 39 (9), 386-398 VetMedResource.
  • Noli C et al (2017) Impact of a terbinafine-florfenicol-betamethasone acetate gel on the quality of life of dogs with acute otitis externa and their owners. Vet Dermatol 28, 386-388 PubMed.
  • Zur G, Lifshitz B & Bdolah-Abram T (2011) The association between the signalment, common causes of canine otitis externa and pathogens. JSAP 52 (5), 254-258 PubMed.
  • Favrot C, Steffan J, Seewald W et al (2010) A prospective study on the clinical features of chronic canine atopic dermatitis and its diagnosis. Vet Dermatol 21, 23-31 PubMed.
  • Caffier P P, Harth W, Mayelzadeh B et al (2007) Tacrolimus: a new option in therapy - resistant chronic external otitis. Laryngoscope 117 (6), 1046-1052 PubMed.
  • Nuttall T & Cole L (2007) Evidence-based veterinary dermatology: a systematic review of interventions for treatment of Pseudomonas otitis in dogs. Vet Dermatol 18 (2), 69-77 PubMed.
  • Paterson S (2003) A review of 200 cases of otitis externa in the dog. Vet Dermatol 14, 249.
  • Crespo M, Abarca M & Cabanes F (2002) Occurrence of Malassezia spp in the external ear canals of dogs and cats with and without otitis externa. Medical Mycology 40 (2), 115-121 PubMed.
  • Bensignor E & Legeay D (2000) A multicentric prospective study of otitis externa in France: 802 cases. Vet Dermatol 11 (supplement 1), 22.
  • Martín B J L, Lupiola G P, Gonzalez L Z & Tejedor J M T (2000) Antibacterial susceptibility patterns of Pseudomonas strains isolated from chronic canine otitis externa. J Vet Med B Infect Dis Vet Public Health 47 (3), 191-196 PubMed.
  • Cole L K, Kwochka K W, Kowalski J J & Hillier A (1998) Microbial flora and antimicrobial susceptibilty patterns of isolated pathogens from the horizontal ear canal and middle ear in dogs with otitis media. JAVMA 212 (4), 534-538 PubMed.
  • Nuttall T J (1998) Use of ticarcillin in the management of canine otitis externa complicated by Pseudomonas aerginosa. JSAP 39 (4), 165-168 PubMed.
  • Mansfield P D et al (1990) Infectivity of Malassezia pachydermatis in the external ear canal of dogs. JAAHA 26 (1), 97-100 VetMedResource.
  • Moriello K A et al (1988) Adrenocortical suppression associated with topical otic administration of glucocorticoids in dogs. JAVMA 193 (3), 329-31 PubMed.
  • August J R (1986) Evaluations of the patient with otitis externa. Dermatology Reports 5 (2), 1-8 VetMedResource.
  • Woody B J & Fox S M (1986) Otitis externa - seeing past the signs to discover the underlying cause. Vet Med Small Anim Clin 81 (7), 616-24 VetMedResource.
  • Wilson J F (1985) A practitioner's approach to complete ear care. Dermatology Reports 4 (2), 1-8 VetMedResource.
  • Dickson D B & Love D N (1983) Bacteriology of the horizontal ear canal of dogs. JSAP 24 (7), 413-21 VetMedResource.

Other sources of information

  • Harvey R G, Paterson S (2014) Otitis externa: an essential guide to diagnosis and treatment. CRC Press, Taylor and Francis Group.
  • Miller W H, Griffin C E & Campbell K L (2013) Otitis externa. In: Muller & Kirk's Small Animal Dermatology. 7th edn. Elsevier Mosby, St Louis, pp 741.
  • Paterson S, Tobias K (2012) Atlas of ear diseases of the dog and cat. 1st edn, Wiley Blackwell, Oxford.
  • Griffin C E (2010) PSPP System.
  • August J R (1988) Otitis externa in the dog and cat. Part II - Pathogenesis of the Disease. Western Veterinary Conference, Las Vegas, 162.