Ear Cysts in Dogs: Signs, Causes, and Treatments

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The ear canal of a dog is formed like an “L.” It is the job of the middle ear to protect the eardrum from external stimuli, and it is located behind the tympanic membrane.

Ear cysts in dogs or Otitis externa is a disorder in which just the outside, “L” shaped section of the eardrum is infected when the ear is infected. There are situations when an infection may spread into the middle ear, which is known as otitis media.

A ruptured eardrum or an infection in the outer ear that persists for an extended period of time may cause middle ear infections.

The growth of a cyst (a fluid-filled sac) in proximity to the eardrum is a possible consequence of long-term middle ear infections. A cholesteatoma is a medical term for this cyst. 

However, germs may travel to the middle ear, which is known as the otitis media, if there is damage or rupture to the eardrum, which occurs in the majority of cases of ear cysts in dogs, ear infection, also known as otitis extra.

They may cause secondary otitis externa/media, as well as secondary inflammation. Although the development of these tumors is not fully known, they may be linked to eustachian tube dysfunction (leading to tympanic membrane invagination), chronic otitis media, or surgery of the ear canal and middle ear as secondary causes.

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Symptoms vary in age, and there is no notable breed predisposition. It is possible for otitis media to lead to cholesteatoma, a disease that is very unusual. This growth or cyst develops around the tympanic membrane (eardrum) and extends into the middle ear’s bony cavity (the tympanic bulla). Dogs with recurring or chronic ear infections are more likely to develop this condition. 

Epithelium cells, the cells that normally line the ear canal, are the building blocks of cholesteatoma. Further, because the cells have been infected, they have grown in layers and secreted the protein keratin, which is what we see here. Even though cholesteatomas aren’t malignant, they do develop and spread over time.

Ear Cysts in Dogs

Pressure on the surrounding bones and tissues may lead to bone fractures and possibly extend to the inner ear or the brain’s lining. Neural ticks in the cheeks and eyes, as well as trouble opening their lips or swallowing, are seen in dogs with severe instances.

Even though surgery is the best choice, cholesteatoma returns in roughly half of all instances because all of the diseased material was not removed during the first surgery. Detection of cholesteatoma in its early stages has been made simpler by imaging methods such as CT scans and MRIs.

Abnormal growth or cyst may form in the center of a dog’s ear if it has been infected for a long time. This disorder is known as cholesteatoma by veterinarians.

Dogs with this disease are quite uncommon. While not malignant, the infection may develop and create complications if it is not surgically removed.

Types and Symptoms of Ear Cysts in Dogs

Ear cysts in dogs or ear infection-like presentation of discomfort and irritation in the ear are common during the early stages of the illness. The onset of neurological symptoms is delayed. If you detect any of the following symptoms, take your dog to the veterinarian:

  • Each or both the ears have been infected for a lengthy period of time (chronic).
  • A lot of shaking of the head.
  • Scratching and pawing at one’s ears.
  • Anxiety and discomfort when trying to consume food.
  • When you yawn, it hurts.
  • Jaw pain when handled.
  • Occasionally, a tilt of the head to one side, or difficulties in walking.
  • Occasionally, people lose their hearing or become deaf.

Causes of Ear Cysts in Dogs

The most prevalent reason behind the occurrence of cholesteatomas or ear cysts in dogs is chronic ear infections that last for months or even years at a time. Dogs of all varieties and ages have been documented to have cholesteatomas, while particular breeds may be predisposed to ear disorders due to specific anatomical traits.

  • Inflammation of the inner ear.
  • Mites in the ears.
  • Invading species (e.g., grass awns).
  • Excessive cleaning of the ear canals using cleaning chemicals or swabs.
  • Causes of susceptibility.
  • Small ear canals and/or abnormally folded ears in certain breeds.
  • The ear canal is full of hair.

Types of Ear Cysts in Dogs

Dogs with this illness are very unusual and are just now starting to be diagnosed on a regular basis. The tympanic bulla is filled with a spongy keratinous fluid in certain cholesteatomas, whereas hard lesions have developed in others. Bacteria of several kinds are present, many of which have developed resistance to drugs.

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Diagnosis of Ear Cysts in Dogs

Your dog’s medical history, including the development of symptoms and any probable incidences that may have contributed to this disease, must be well documented. An otoscope, a diagnostic tool with a light and a cone on one end, will be used by your veterinarian to examine your pet’s ears.

This will aid your veterinarian in determining whether or not your dog’s ear canal is enlarged, as well as whether there is any form of debris or discharge in the ear canal. The eardrum will also be examined by your veterinarian. 

Swelling and drainage in the ear canal sometimes prevent your veterinarian from seeing the eardrum in cases of chronic ear infection. A sample of your dog’s ear material will be obtained for culture to identify the bacteria that may be causing your dog’s ear infection. X-rays of your dog’s head will also be taken by your veterinarian as a precaution.

Your veterinarian may examine the center of the ear (behind the eardrum) using these x-rays, which are not visible with an otoscope. If the jaw is also implicated, an X-ray will be helpful in determining how much ear damage has occurred.

If the x-rays don’t give enough information to establish a diagnosis, your veterinarian may request a computed tomography (CT) scan. Using a CT scan, you can see exactly how much of your dog’s ear is infected in great detail. Your veterinarian will be able to use this information to determine the best course of treatment for your dog.

Treatment of Ear Cysts in Dogs

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Cholesteatomas can only be removed surgically. Your dog’s ear canal and the cholesteatoma will be removed during surgery. Your dog’s ear won’t look any different after it’s recovered from surgery.

It is possible that the ear that was operated on will be less sensitive to sound. Even after a dog’s operation, many of them are able to hear as well as before. Facial nerve damage is a potential complication that may arise after a surgical procedure. In most cases, this will go away on its own after some time.

Surgery may be curative in 50 percent of patients and should be performed early in the illness to restrict tumor growth. Surgery, on the other hand, may be palliative even in advanced illness. Total ear canal ablation combined with bulla osteotomy should be investigated as an alternative to bulla osteotomy.

Attempts should be made to remove as much diseased tissue as feasible. Secondary infections may be treated with antibiotics, and corticosteroids (both systemic and topical) may be used to decrease inflammation as part of medical care.

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Dogs who have had surgery need antibiotics and may need to wear a bandage on their head for a length of time after the procedure is complete. If your bandage has to be changed, you should see your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if your dog seems to have completely healed, it is imperative that you give your dog all of the prescribed medication. Once or twice a day, you’ll need to check on the surgical site to see if there’s any more swelling or drainage, and if so, notify your veterinarian.

Despite the fact that your veterinarian may arrange follow-up appointments to check the healing process, your dog will be able to return to regular life once it has completely healed.

Prevention of Ear Cysts in Dogs

As soon as you see any signs of an ear infection or ear cysts in dogs, you should seek immediate treatment. Don’t stop giving your dog the medicine prescribed by your veterinarian even if he or she seems to be feeling better.

As a precaution, if your dog is susceptible to ear infections, be aware of the methods by which you may prevent them.

When it comes to your dog’s ears, for example, you may ensure that they are cleaned and trimmed on a regular basis so that dirt and other items don’t get stuck in them.

Cotton swabs should not be put in a dog’s ear canals at all. To clean the ear canal’s outer surface, all you need is soft cotton tissue.

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A Case of Canine Cholesteatoma Recovered from an Ear Cyst

When dogs are diagnosed with mild cholesteatoma at an early stage, they are far more likely to recover completely. Even if surgery helps dogs with severe symptoms at first, it is common for the illness to recur within six to twelve months after the operation was performed.

As a result, a long-term treatment plan would need to be devised by the veterinarian in this situation. The formation of cholesteatoma may be prevented with regular ear examinations and timely treatment of any ear infection symptoms.

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