Bernadette, a thirteen year old spayed female domestic long hair cat, just could not seem to get over an ear infection. It seemed to respond to ear medication, but every time it would mysteriously return once she was off medication. She was brought to Hampden Family Pet Hospital for evaluation where not only was an infection found, but also a mass was seen inside her ear canal. Bernadette was placed under general anesthesia for skull xrays and video otoscopy (using a small camera to look within the ear) to help visualize her middle ear. Based on those findings, surgery was performed to remove the mass coming from the middle ear which luckily came back as a benign growth, called an inflammatory polyp. After a short stay in the hospital, Bernadette was sent home. She did develop Horner’s syndrome, a possible side effect of the surgery, which causes the affected side to have a drooping eyelid, smaller pupil, sunken in appearance, and exposed third eyelid. This condition can be temporary or permanent and is caused by irritation of the nerves within the middle ear. In Bernadette’s case, the Horner’s syndrome resolved over a few months and since surgery, she has not had any more ear infections.
Inflammatory polyps within the ear are typically found in younger cats and are one of the most common causes of disease in that part of the body. Symptoms can include head shaking, pawing at the ear, discharge, and neurologic signs, such as Horner’s syndrome, head tilt, and a drunken gait. Because of Bernadette’s age, both benign and malignant masses had to be considered. Advanced imaging, such as CT scan or MRI, can help determine the extent of a mass prior to surgery and give us a better idea of prognosis. If your pet displays any of these signs or you are concerned about a stubborn ear infection, do not hesitate to seek veterinary care.