'Glue ear' in dogs? Here's what you need to know! - Dr. Marty Becker

‘Glue ear’ in dogs? Here’s what you need to know!

Tuesday, Nov 29th, 2016 | By Dr. Marty Becker

If your dog is pawing at his ear, it may be a more complicated problem than you think! Here’s a question from a reader about her dog’s ear problem.

Q: My cavalier has something called “glue ear.” Is this common in the breed?

A: That’s a sticky problem. Glue ear, more formally known as “primary secretory otitis media,” is a common problem in cavalier King Charles spaniels. It’s not your typical ear infection: The dog’s middle ear becomes blocked with a gooey plug of mucus. If it gets really full, the tympanic membrane can begin to bulge, causing pain. While it is seen most frequently in cavaliers, it has been noted in rare instances in boxers, dachshunds and Shih Tzus. In cavaliers, the condition may be hereditary, but as of yet, there’s no definitive evidence of a genetic component other than its frequency in the breed.

We don’t know what causes PSOM. It may be a problem related to the eustachian tube, which connects the middle ear and the back of the nose, which is how air enters the middle ear. Another theory is that it is related to the shape of the tympanic cavity. Signs of the problem include pain, especially in the head or neck area; or neurological signs such as head tilt or rapid eye movement. Dogs with the condition may scratch frequently at their ears, rub their heads, yawn excessively or cry out in pain.

In severe cases, PSOM may be visible via radiograph or even when the veterinarian takes a look with an otoscope. Other times, diagnosis may require a CT or MRI scan. Treatment involves removing the mucus plug and flushing the middle ear (a procedure called a myringotomy), followed by medication with corticosteroids and antibiotics. Treatment may need to be repeated more than once before it’s successful, but generally PSOM has a good prognosis.

Read more, including about holiday safety hazards, in this recent Pet Connection!