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Otic (ear) Polyps

Polyps in the ear canals of dogs and cats can originate from a variety of sources and tissues. These polyps can grow quite large causing obstruction and trapping of the normal waxy secretions of the ear canals. Obstruction or interference with normal wax migration generally leads to secondary infections, both bacterial and yeast.

Inflammatory polyps are caused from chronic and persistent inflammation - infection of the external ear canals of the dog and cat. Chronic allergies, food allergies, or chronic over-stimulation of the wax-producing glands (ceruminous glands) are the general causes of these polyps. In many cases, there may be numerous polyps in varying sizes noted during the examination. Many of these will resolve with anti-inflammatory medications, both topically and orally, but some will require ablation or removal. Removal of the underlying insult to the ear (eliminating allergy-causing foods from the diet) is the primary treatment as well as addressing the polyp, itself.

Nasopharyngeal polyps are polyps that extend into the ear canal from the Eustachian tube or middle ear cavity (tympanic bulla). These polyps grow slowly, but usually "fill" the space wherever they are. As the polyp grows out of the ear drum it enlarges to take up the space of the ear canals. In many instances, these polyps remain unseen until they block the ear canal and cause discomfort or pain. These polyps are more commonly seen in cats than dogs, but they do occur in the dog (see accompanying video), especially in older male dogs (for reasons unknown).

In our video, this patient was seen due to ear shaking, head rubbing, and foul odor from the ear canal. After sedation and removal of all of the purulent discharge, the polyp was clearly seen arising from the area of the tympanic membrane. As you watch the video, you will see a rigid polypropylene catheter moving the polyp around to remove the pus/wax built up around and behind it. Because the polyps start well inside the tympanic bulla or middle ear cavity, it is oftentimes not possible to completely remove the entire tumor. The tumor was debulked and the external ear canals were thoroughly irrigated.

Otic Neoplasia or Cancer of the external ear canals is likely found in those chronic cases where the ceruminous glands (the wax glands of the ear canal) are chronically stimulated. These patients generally have histories of ear disease for many years. The most common cancer found is ceruminous gland adenoma or the malignant form, adenocarcinoma. These tumors will oftentimes fill the entire ear canal requiring removal of the ear canal.

Nasopharyngeal polyps are not common and are not avoidable, but many of the other maladies (inflammatory polyps and cancerous polyps) are avoidable by correct assessment of the ear problem early in the course, and proper treatments. The longer the pet's problem exists, the longer it takes to resolve. If your pet has chronic or non-responsive ear disease, please consult your veterinarian and/or seek another opinion.

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