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
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.