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Bubba can't kick ear pain; owner of cat at wits' end

Ear problems are some of the more common cases we see as veterinarians.

Dogs are the most common groups with ear disease, but cats can also have problems.

Bubba is one of those cats. He has been dealing with an ear problem for more than eight months.

He has seen his veterinarian several times and has been treated with several ointments and drops. Morgan, who calls herself Bubba's "housemate," reports her cat has been entirely unappreciative of her efforts and that she is getting fed up. I suspect Bubba is as well.

Morgan said Bubba has shown improvement with various treatments in the past, but the problem never has entirely cleared up.

Chronic ear disease is a subject I have broached in this column in the past, but I do not recall ever discussing a case involving a cat. Bubba is uncomfortable, Morgan is frustrated and we need to do something.

The following probably have been done already, but I will suggest them anyway:

Bubba's ear needs to be swabbed out and the swab then smeared on a slide for microscopic examination and a culture plate to try to grow bacteria. With these two tests, we can determine if there is an infection and its source.

Bubba needs to have a scope sent into his ear canal, a procedure that will require an anesthetic.

With the fiber-optic scope, we can examine Bubba's ear canal under high magnification and view the procedure on a video monitor. Never is the old Confucius saying, "A picture is worth a thousand words," more apropos.

I suspect Bubba has something growing down in his ear canal. This may be a polyp or a tumor emanating from the ear canal wall. I suspect a growth of some type because Bubba has historically responded to several therapies, only to have the problem return after treatment was stopped. This makes me suspicious there is an underlying problem allowing the problem to come back.

Another possibility is a polyp that does not arise in the ear canal but instead grows from the throat up into the eustachian tube and into the ear canal. This tube connects the throat to the middle ear, allowing equalization of pressure on either side of the ear drum. This is why we yawn or chew gum when we fly; the jaw movement helps open this tube and allows the air pressure to equalize.

Cases involving polyps or masses within the ear canal will usually require a surgical procedure, as will cases involving polyps growing from the throat.

The root of the problem has yet to be discovered. Once it is, Bubba and Morgan will enjoy a better quality of life.

Jeff Kahler is a veterinarian in Modesto. Questions can be submitted to Your Pet in care of LifeStyles, The Modesto Bee,P.O. Box 5256, Modesto 95352.