Inflammation of the Middle and Inner Ear in Dogs

Otitis is the Latin term for inflammation within the ear. Media and interna refer to the parts of the ear that are inflamed. Otitis media is the inflammation of the middle ear while otitis interna is the inflammation of internal ear. The inflammation can be unilateral or bilateral and is commonly caused by bacterial infection. 

The ears are organs responsible for capturing sound waves from the air and transporting them to the brain through ear canal until they come in contact with the nerves that convert them into sound and allow for hearing. The ear canals are divided into three parts. The external part starts from outside of the ear lobe to the eardrum. It is responsible for catching sound waves. The middle part starts from eardrum and includes the bones and nerves of the ear. This part is responsible for taking those sound waves and turning them into vibrations that are delivered to the inner ear. Closest to the brain is the inner ear which is responsible for maintaining proper position and converting sound waves into nerve signals that the brain understands as sound.

The middle and inner ear coordinate hearing and control balance. Therefore, problems in this area often show up as hearing loss or can include a loss of balance or other neurological problems.

Symptoms associated with otitis media and otitis interna depend on severity of the condition. Some dogs may show no symptoms at all. When symptoms do appear, the may include

Head shaking

Pawing, rubbing at the ear

Discharge from the external ear canal

Pain when the head is touched

Pain when the mouth is opened


Loss of hearing

Lack of appetite

Head tilt


Leaning to one side




Side to side involuntary continuous eye movement (nystagmus)

Facial nerve damage (e.g. inability to blink, or paralysis)

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