Diagnostic imaging of the canine and feline ear

Vet Clin North Am Small Anim Pract. 2004 Mar;34(2):437-58. doi: 10.1016/j.cvsm.2003.10.013.


Radiographic evaluation of the tympanic bulla is limited. Improper obliquity or angulation of the skull for radiographs or malpositioning of the tongue can result in an inadequate study [4]. Additionally, because of the complex anatomy of the canine and feline skull, with superimposition of multiple osseous structures, radiography can result in false-negative examinations or understimation of the disease present [2]. When compared with surgical findings of 19 clinical cases of presumptive middle ear disease, false-negative radiographic findings were found in 25% of the surgically confirmed cases of otitis media [4]. Therefore, radiographs are not considered to be a highly sensitive mode of diagnosing otitis media. Radiographs may be helpful in determining lysis associated with neoplasia; however, the extent of involvement is still underestimated. In a study comparing CT and radiographic evaluation of otitis media, CT was determined to be more sensitive but less specific than radiography [11]. CT is the preferred modality for the evaluation of the tympanic bulla at our institution. This opinion may be biased by the fact that most cases are presented for recurrent or chronic otitis. Although radiography is more accessible, the availability of CT in local referral settings is increasing as opposed to being limited to university settings. After the cost (i.e., anesthesia, radiographs) and amount of time necessary to make optimum radiographic studies are taken into account, a CT study may actually be faster and more informative. Given our preference for the CT examination, the cost of the examination has been adjusted to make it more appealing to the owner and clinician. For example, a bulla CT study is only 1.3 times the cost of a radiographic bulla study. In conclusion, imaging of the ear canal can provide important information about ear disease, including unilateral or bilateral ear disease, the degree of middle or inner ear involvement, peripheral versus central vestibular disease, an infectious or inflammatory versus neoplastic process, the chronicity of the disease process, involvement of adjacent structures, and postsurgical complications.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cat Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Cat Diseases / pathology
  • Cats
  • Dog Diseases / diagnostic imaging*
  • Dog Diseases / pathology
  • Dogs
  • Ear Diseases / diagnostic imaging
  • Ear Diseases / pathology
  • Ear Diseases / veterinary*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / veterinary*
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / methods
  • Tomography, X-Ray Computed / veterinary*