Inner Ear Disease in Dogs

An ear disease can cause a series of problems in your dog. The ear is divided into 3 main areas: the external ear, the middle ear and the inner ear. The middle ear and the inner ear cannot be seen unless the ear drum connecting them to the external ear is ruptured. The inner ear has an important role both in hearing and in equilibrium. Diseases affecting the inner ear are very serious and you should have your dog diagnosed as soon as you see any abnormal symptoms.

Inner Ear Disease in Dogs

The inner ear is located in the temporal area of the skull. It cannot be seen. It is composed of semicircular canals, vestibulum and cochlea. Besides hearing, the inner ear is also responsible for the maintaining equilibrium and is connected to the brain. The semicircular canals and the vestibulum are responsible for maintaining balance, while the cochlea is responsible for hearing.

Diseases of the inner ear can cause neurological conditions or loss of hearing.

Inner ear diseases can be primary or secondary conditions. Primary inner ear conditions are caused by dysfunctions in the cochlea or in the vestibulum. Some conditions can affect both structures. Disorders of the external ear or middle ear can extend to the inner ear causing a secondary disease.

The vestibular disease is a rare inner ear disease and it occurs mainly due to some neurological abnormalities in the brain and may interfere with the dog’s equilibrium.

Causes of Inner Ear Disease in Dogs

There are various causes that can cause inner ear diseases or inner otitis in dogs:

  • Bacterial and yeast infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Parasites (ear mites)
  • Neoplasia
  • Inflammatory polyps
  • Trauma
  • Allergies
  • Foreign objects

Infectious agents usually get to the inner ear through a perforated tympanum. They get to the middle ear through the auditory canal and afterwards reach the inner ear. Foreign bodies can also cause infections if they enter the dog’s ear. Some breeds have a genetic predisposition towards ear disorders. Long, droopy ears favor humidity and the proliferation of infectious agents in the ear. 

Symptoms of Inner Ear Disease in Dogs

The symptoms for inner ear diseases in dogs are similar to those of external or middle ear diseases. Internal ear clinical signs also include neurological symptoms. Inner ear diseases are most commonly manifested through:

  • Otic pain
  • Tilting the head on the side of the affected ear
  • Pawing and scratching the ear
  • The eyeballs move involuntarily
  • Sudden falling
  • Loss of equilibrium
  • Difficulty in coordinating movements
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Smelly ear discharge (in otitis caused by parasites)

Whenever you notice any of the above mentioned symptoms, you should take your dog for a checkup. Left untreated, inner ear diseases can cause serious damage.

Treatment of Inner Ear Disease in Dogs

The treatment depends on the cause and severity of the disease. Antibiotics and antifungal drugs are generally prescribed to fight infections. In more serious cases, surgery might be required. Your veterinarian will decide the best course of action.