“You can do that?!?” – ear infection testing and treatment

I hear this phrase a lot! People are often surprised when I offer to do something for their pet they didn’t think we could. The response is often: “You can do that!?!”
Each newsletter I’ll feature a service we offer that people may not think can be done in their home.
This month’s feature is ear cytology (microscopic analysis).
Ear infections can be one of the most frustrating conditions to treat! If your adult pet has never had an ear infection, they probably never will (if they’re over, say, 9 years old). Other pets, particularly dogs, have a constant battle with ear infections. Some dogs it’s just one ear, but always that same ear! What gives?
These dogs that seem to be constantly battling ear infections often have a condition that predisposes them to the infection. Until the predisposing condition is addressed, the recurrent infections will persist. The most common predisposing conditions are seasonal allergies (atopy), food allergy, or anatomical abnormality. Determining which of these is wreaking havoc in your pet can be very difficult and time-consuming, but is possible!
In terms of the actual ear infection, they usually come in three basic types: bacteria, yeast, or both. We need to know what is living in the ear so we know which medication will kill it. “Ear cytology” means microscopically evaluating the cells in the ear debris. We’ll smear a sample of the ear goo on a microscope slide. Then we treat the slide with three stains to make the micro-organisms show up better. Finally, we read the slide under the microscope. All this takes about 10 minutes, and we do it right there in your house. Based on what we see, we’ll leave you with the appropriate medication and/or cleaner to target the infecting agent.
In some cases, a dog that has had infections off and on for years can develop a bacteria that is resistant to the usual medications. In this case, we’ll take a sample for culture and send it to the lab. They will grow the organisms, test them for which medication it’s resistant to, and which will kill it. We use that information to prescribe the best treatment.