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Otitis Treatment Update: Use of Ear Wicks

Within the last several years, ear wicks have begun to gain popularity in veterinary otology for treating chronic ear disease. An ear wick is a polyvinyl alcohol compressed porous sponge that when hydrated expands to a pre-determined diameter. The compressed wick is only 1-2mm in diameter and remains rigid until hydrated. The wicks that are most often used in dogs have an expanded diameter of 9mm and a length of 24mm. In cats a 7mm x 20mm wick is appropriate. (A source of ear wicks is C-Med Surgical, Inc. at 973-616-6669).

With the ear canal dry, the wick is inserted into the ear canal in the verticle or horizontal canal, it may also be placed with one end directly into the bulla through an open channel where the eardrum has been destroyed. Medication placed into the spongy wick material is continuously held along the ear canal and has a better chance of providing continuous medication to the skin surface. Ear drops only coat the ear canal surface for a short period of time and then dissipate or pool in the horizontal canal. When the sponge is saturated with medication, it will "wick" into deeper areas below the opposite end of the wick. The sponge also absorbs exudates into the pockets contained within the wick, so these substances are not in contact with the epithelial surface. This feature helps prevent further enzymatic degradation and inflammation of the ear canal epithelium.

The treatment is done by moistening one end of the wick once or twice a day. Each wick is removed in one weeks time for re-evaluation. The physician often successfully inserts a wick into the infected ear, expands it with aqueous antibiotic solution without any other traetment by the owner and removes it in a week to find a significantly improved ear canal.

Some stenotic ears are actually just swollen from inflammation, whereas others are closed from permanent pathological changes in the ear, such as epithelial hyperplasia, glandular hyperplasia or fibrosis. In a swollen, edematous ear canal, aqueous corticosteroids kept in contact with a swollen ear canal by the use of an ear wick have a more beneficial effect in opening the ear canals than drops alone.

In a large breed dog with a stenotic ear canal, as the inflammation decreases and the ear canal increases in diameter, the wick will loosen and the dog may shake it out of the ear. In other dogs where the wick expands to mold to the ear canal, it needs to be removed forcefully with the patient sedated.

Information provided by:
Dr. Louis N. Gotthelf
Animal Hospital of Montgomery
Montgomery Pet Skin and Ear Clinic
3310 Atlanta Highway
Montgomery, AL 36109



Ear Wicks

Ear Wicks 9mm x 24mm
Code: 30310-C
Price: $32.00
Quantity in Basket: none
Ear Wicks 7mm x 20mm
Code: 30311-C
Price: $32.00
Quantity in Basket: none


© 2009 C-Med Surgical Inc. All information deemed reliable at time of writing.
Not responsible for typographical errors. Pricing may change without notice.

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