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Ear cancer in dogs is rare. In dogs, it is more commonly seen in brachycephalic breeds and breeds with increased risk of brachycephaly (i.e. chihuahuas, pugs, Boston terriers).
The risk factors for human ear cancer are similar to those in dogs. Ear cancer may be present in the pinna (earlobe) as well as the external auditory canal, and often times ear cancer is found in both. In dogs, ear cancer is more commonly found in the pinna rather than the external auditory canal, and is usually unilateral. Ear cancer most commonly presents as a polyp and is often a focal or nodular mass. The tumor is often described as hard or elastic in consistency.
In veterinary medicine, ear cancer in dogs is described as a papillary neoplasm. It is characterized by polypoid growths of epithelial cells within the lining of the ear canal. It is typically described as a focal or multifocal lesion with varying degrees of cellular atypia. Atypical cells can be seen within the stroma, and cytologic and histopathologic findings often provide the best diagnosis. Most common is epithelial cell hyperplasia, and it may also show signs of dysplasia, such as loss of polarity or a decreased amount of cell-cell contact. The malignant form of this lesion is called squamous cell carcinoma (SCC). It is the most common form of ear cancer in humans, and dogs, and is also the most common form of ear cancer seen in the veterinary literature. Other lesions in the canal that may be mistaken for ear cancer include inverted papilloma, squamous cell papilloma, fibrosarcoma, and adenoma.
Risk factors for the development of ear cancer include ear trauma or surgery, genetic predisposition, and a high environmental risk. Risk factors for the development of ear cancer in dogs include:
Excess or chronic ear trauma, including dog fighting
Possible genetic predisposition and familial incidence
Cancer of the middle and inner ear, which may predispose to ear cancer
Ear neoplasms, including exostoses
Genetic predisposition and familial incidence
The exact reason for the increased risk of ear cancer in dogs is not known, but several factors may be involved. The ear canal is a common site for infection, so infections and inflammation can play a role in the development of ear cancer. A genetic predisposition for ear cancer is also thought to play a role. Dogs with a genetic predisposition are at an increased risk of developing ear cancer, and the degree of predisposition is influenced by breed, age, gender, and genetic lineage.
SCC in dogs is more commonly seen in brachycephalic breeds and breeds with increased risk of brachycephaly (i.e. chihuahuas, pugs, Boston terriers). This is the result of an anatomical predisposition for these dogs to have an increased angle of the pinna (earlobe) which predisposes them to ear infection. The angle of the pinna increases the risk of canal obstruction and subsequent inflammation and infection, which is a risk factor for the development of ear cancer. In humans, ear cancer is more commonly seen in males, but in dogs, it is usually found in females.
Signs and symptoms
Ear Cancer in dogs usually presents as a polyp that is firm to the touch, rubbery in consistency, and has a rough surface. The tumor may be unilateral or bilateral. If the tumor is unilateral, it will usually be found in one ear, with the most common location being the pinna. If both ears are affected, one ear will be affected more commonly than the other. The tumor usually causes pressure or blockage of the ear canal, causing the ear to be pnful. It can be present for days, months, or years before it is discovered. Often times, this tumor can present as a focal mass rather than a polyp. A mass will often be present on one side of the ear canal, but it will be firm in consistency and may be more pnful than the healthy ear.
Ear cancer is a common tumor seen in dogs. It may be the result of ear trauma or surgery, inflammation, or a pre-existing tumor. The diagnosis can usually be made with a visual examination, but may be difficult if the tumor is present in both ears. It is important to evaluate the ear canal for any mass or blockage, as this may indicate ear cancer. If an ear mass is found, it should be evaluated by an ear, nose and throat (ENT) specialist, as this is often an indication of a more severe problem. If the mass is not present in the ear canal, but rather in the pinna, it may be a benign tumor.
It is usually very difficult to diagnose ear cancer in dogs, as many other diseases of the ear canal may present similarly, and the location of the tumor can often mimic other ear problems. Ear cancer may present as a focal mass, or may be present in one ear more commonly than the other. In dogs with bilateral ear cancer, one ear may be larger than the other, so the larger ear may be more noticeable. It may be difficult to see a mass, and a history of ear problems may be present. The location of the mass may also cause the dog to have pn. If the tumor is present in the pinna, a visual examination may be sufficient, but it may be difficult to see if the tumor is present in the ear canal or the pinna. The mass may be palpable if it is large enough, and it may be firm to the touch. If the tumor is unilateral, it will usually be in one ear, but it may be present in both. A history of ear infections and surgery may be present. Other diseases that may be present include ear neoplasms, ear exostoses, inverted papillomas, and fibrosarcomas.
A CT scan may be useful in the diagnosis of ear cancer in dogs. It may be difficult to see the mass with a physical examination or with other imaging mod