Regular Ear Cleaning: An Integral Part of a Successful Management Plan for Chronic Otitis Externa

Score5 (55 Votes)

Angela Beal, DVM

An overview of otitis externa

Otitis externa is an acute or chronic inflammation of the external ear canal and associated structures. It is the most common ear condition to affect dogs,with 13% of dogs affected,2 and also one of the top reasons for veterinary visits.3 A dog’s deep, angled, external ear canal is a target for inflammation and infections, as secretions and debris easily become trapped. Otitis externa can be caused by a number of factors, including parasites, foreign bodies, and seborrhea, although allergic skin disease accounts for most cases.4 Although any dog can develop otitis externa, dogs with floppy ears, those who often swim or get wet, and those with allergies are most likely to have recurrent problems.5 These factors facilitate moisture accumulation and increase the likelihood of microorganism overgrowth.

Chronic otitis externa

Acute otitis externa, or recurrent cases, can lead to chronic otitis externa if inflammation is not adequately managed. Uncontrolled inflammation leads to increased ear canal secretions, which provide nutrition for skin bacteria and yeast species and allow overgrowth. The microorganisms break down tissue, causing further inflammation and perpetuating the condition. Over time, the ear canals can become stenotic, which traps secretions and reduces air circulation, and progressive pathologic changes, including tympanic membrane damage, fibrosis, calcification, and severe stenosis, can develop. Pathology can also extend to the middle and inner ear, further contributing to chronicity. Chronic otitis externa can significantly impact a dog’s quality of life and cause long-term client frustrations. Affected dogs may suffer from chronic discomfort, hearing loss, and balance problems, while owners often express frustration about repeated veterinary visits and related costs. The human-animal bond can also suffer when dogs are in chronic pain; owners resent the costly veterinary bills and may hesitate to interact with a smelly pet.

Chronic otitis externa management
Managing chronic otitis externa involves treating the primary cause, reducing inflammation, and preventing secondary infections and perpetuating factors. Once the primary cause is eliminated, prevention is the best treatment to stop recurrence and regular ear cleaning is a critical part of a long-term management plan. Regular cleaning promotes overall ear health by keeping the ears dry, clear of debris, and smelling pleasant. Epiotic® Advanced Ear Cleanser is ideal for supporting good ear health in dogs prone to developing chronic otitis externa. The product provides many beneficial actions, including:

  • Gentle and powerful cleansing
  • Limiting microorganism bonding to the ear canal surface
  • Emulsification and removal of excessive wax and cellular debris
  • Drying action
  • Keeping ears smelling fresh and clean


  1. Ear Infections and otitis externa in dogs (2018). Merck Veterinary Manual website. Accessed May 12, 2021.
  2. State of Pet Health 2016 Report (2016). Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2021.
  3. Top 3 most common pet insurance claims (2019). DVM360 website. top-3-most-common-pet-insurance-claims. Accessed May 12, 2021.
  4. Paterson S. Discovering the causes of otitis externa. InPractice website. Available at: Accessed May 12, 2021.
  5. Otitis externa in animals (2020). Merck Veterinary Manual website. merckvetmanual. com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/otitisexterna-in-animals. Accessed May 12, 2021.
  6. Regular Ear Cleaning: An Integral Part of a Successful Management Plan for Chronic Otitis Externa.   Original date of publication: JULY/AUGUST 2021
  7. Anti-inflammatory Drugs Are a Critical Component for Treating Otitis Externa. Original date of publication: SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2021

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