European Specialist in Veterinary Dermatology Natalie Barnard MRCVS and Clinical Animal Behaviourist Dr. Emily Blackwell are calling on general practitioners to think more carefully about treating otitis externa to make it a positive experience for both dog and owner.
In a short video produced by Elanco Animal Health, Natalie highlighted how critical pet behaviour is to achieve a clinical cure: "Many of our cases that are referred for surgery are because the owner can’t apply treatment. However, we still treat the majority medically, alongside behavioural therapy.
"Prioritising your diagnostics in the consult, especially ear cytology, being able to identify subtle behavioural cues and potentially taking treatment back into the practice can all help achieve first-line treatment success."
Emily said: "Treatment doesn’t need to be merely 'tolerated'; it should be a positive experience. Just one bad experience can be hard to overcome so it’s important to get it right first time."
According to a survey commissioned by Elanco1, 45% of owners struggle to administer ear medications at home. 55% of those said the dog finds it stressful, while 43% said their dog hides from treatment.
Natalie said: "Owners often won’t admit that they struggle to apply ear treatments so it is up to us to ask the right questions and make them feel at ease in order to find out."
Emily added: "Owners often feel guilty and think they should be able to apply the treatment. We frequently underestimate how stressful this can be; having to apply treatment once a day to a painful dog is really difficult for any owner and can seriously affect the bond with their pet."
Natalie says treatment choices should be influenced by subtle behavioural cues in the consultation and in some cases veterinary surgeons should consider taking the burden of treatment away from the owner and into the practice in the first instance, to prevent negative experiences and unnecessary stress. She said: "We often find that applying a long-acting treatment in the consultation can make a big difference. It has less of an impact on the pet-owner bond and can help prevent behavioural issues that develop all too commonly."
Elanco highlights a recent clinical study2 which looked at the impact of Osurnia on quality of life, which concluded that: "A veterinarian-administered otic gel provided equivalent efficacy and higher QoL to dogs with otitis externa and their owners, compared to an owner-administered topical otic therapy".
Natalie said: "It’s our responsibility to proactively prevent the negative association with ear handling, making ear treatment a positive and easy experience. By thinking more about how we handle our patients and what we’re dispensing, potentially using a product that can be applied in the practice and less frequently, we can make the whole experience a lot better for dogs and owners."