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What is Ear Cancer?

Tumors may develop from any of the structures lining or supporting the ear canal, including the outer layer of skin, the glands that produce earwax and oil, or any of the bones, connective tissues, muscles, or middle layers of the skin. The most common benign tumors in both cats and dogs are inflammatory polyps, papillomas, basal cell tumors, and ceruminous gland adenomas (tumors of glands producing earwax). More common in cats than dogs, ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma is the primary malignant tumor of the sweat glands that is found in the external auditory canal. Though rare, it is one of the most common malignant tumor of the ear canal in older dogs.Although the exact cause of ear canal tumors is unknown, it is thought that longterm inflammation of the ear canal may lead to an abnormal growth and development of tissue, and finally to the formation of a tumor. Signs of ear canal tumors include ear discharge (waxy, pus-filled, or bloody) in one ear, a foul odor, head shaking, ear scratching, swelling or draining abscesses near the ear, and deafness. In any case of inflammation in one ear that does not respond to treatment, a tumor of the ear canal should be suspected by an veterinarian.

Ear Cancer Average Cost

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Symptoms of Ear Cancer in Dogs

  • Ear tumors can usually be seen as firm nodules or plaques located in the ear canals, auricular meatus (opening of the ear) and/or pinna (ear flap). They can be pink, white or purplish in color. Most often they will not be visible. If in the canal they are not visible without scoping the ear. If in the middle of internal ear a CT or MRI is necessary to visualize. Be sure to ask the veterinarian about this.
  • Tumors can be ulcerated and cause bleeding or discharge from the ear(s).
  • There may be an odor from the ear.
  • Itchiness or pain, especially if the middle or inner ear is involved, may cause certain mechanical problems such as tilting of the head, head shaking, listing to one side or loss of balance, circling, ear scratching or difficulty blinking.
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Causes of Ear Cancer in Dogs

  • The exact causes of ear tumors are not straightforward, but there is evidence that recurrent and long-term inflammation of the ear canal could be one culprit. It can lead to abnormal growth of tissue and eventually into the formation of a tumor.
  • Certain dog breeds have ear canals which are compressed, such as dish-faced dogs like Pugs. Others have long or heavy drooping ears which keep the ear canals continually covered and moist. This breed feature can predispose certain types of dogs to bacterial and yeast infections of the ears. Again, this leads to inflammation and thickening of tissues.
  • Ear mites (parasites) are another condition causing irritation and inflammation, and repeated infestations can lead to the overgrowth of tissues and possible transformation to cancerous growths.
  • Thickening secretions from earwax glands when the external ear canal is inflamed may stimulate the production of cancerous cells.
Types

Many ear tumors are polyp-like growths which may arise and attach by a narrow base or stalk to any of the structures that line or make up the ear canal. This would include, but not be limited to, the outer layer of skin, the glands that produce earwax and oil, or even bones, connective tissues and muscles. Malignant tumors (Ceruminous gland adenocarcinomas) are more commonly seen than the benign form (adenomas). Benign or malignant tumors that develop from the earwax glands in the external ear canal seem to appear more in middle-aged or older dogs. Also, there is an increased risk for ear tumors in dogs which have a history of chronic otitis (ear infections), such as Cocker Spaniels and dish-faced dogs like Pugs.

Malignant tumors are locally aggressive and have the potential to metastasize (spread) to the nearby lymph nodes, salivary glands or lungs. Benign tumors usually grow and compress tissues, but usually do not invade tissues or spread to other areas. Rarely, other cancers can occur in the ear canals or on the pinna, (ear flaps) [“leather”] of the ears, such as various carcinomas, i.e. squamous cell, and benign tumors like inflammatory polyps, papillomas and basal cell tumors.

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Diagnosis of Ear Cancer in Dogs

It is not possible through medical observation or physical examination alone to determine with certainty whether lumps in the ear(s) are non-cancerous or malignant, and will spread. More definitive diagnosis of these tumors requires blood tests, urinalysis evaluation and biopsy. The tumors may be visualized with deep otoscopic examination, which typically requires sedation or anesthesia. Advanced imaging with CT or MRI may also be suggested to determine the extent of the tumor(s). A biopsy can be taken during the otoscopic exam or through surgery. Other biopsies of the lymph node, as well as chest x-rays, are usually performed to determine if tumors, which present as malignant have metastasized (spread elsewhere in the body). The veterinary pathologist at a specialized diagnostic lab will examine the cells of biopsied tissue under a microscope and then provide as definitive a diagnosis as possible.

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Treatment of Ear Cancer in Dogs

The treatment of choice for ear canal tumors is surgical excision. Laser surgery is very effective when it is available. For benign tumors this can be curative when they are completely removed.

Aggressive surgery is the preferred treatment for malignant tumors. It often involves removal of the ear canal and cleaning out the inner ear. This surgery is typically referred to as a total ear canal ablation (TECA). Most dogs can live an additional 2 years or more after aggressive surgery.

Radiation therapy is utilized in some cases to relieve pain and slow the growth of the tumor(s). This can also be used for the intent of curing when surgical excision is incomplete. However, when conservative surgery is performed, the prognosis is decreased significantly.

If a tumor seems to be aggressive, based on the biopsy, or if there is evidence of metastasis, then chemotherapy may be recommended. That said, if there is involvement of the deep parts of the ear, or spread of the cancer to lymph nodes or lungs, the prognosis is poor.

The veterinarian can offer a more complete outlook for the possible results of any surgery or other treatments. It is important to note that treating animals with cancer takes a strong commitment on the part of the owner. Therapy requires frequent trips to the veterinary hospital and can be expensive. In fact, some treatments may continue for a lengthy period of time, and require you to present your dog for treatment at precisely when requested by the veterinarian since the timing of cancer therapy is critical for obtaining an optimal outcome.

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Recovery of Ear Cancer in Dogs

The most important management tasks after surgery are to keep the operation site clean and to prevent the dog from scratching or rubbing its ears. This will reduce the possibility of contamination, infection, bleeding, swelling and any loss of sutures. Special collars are usually placed on the dog to prevent scratching about the head. Topical medications may also be included. The veterinarian will detail all of the necessary post-surgical care and follow-up appointments. Medicines administered at home should be done exactly as instructed.

In many cases, surgery leads to a cure. However, in some others, surgery (or various treatments) will only provide a period of remission, with the cancer recurring. Your commitment to your pet and your veterinarian's dedication to providing state-of-the-art care will work together to keep your dog as happy and comfortable as possible.

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Cost of Ear Cancer in Dogs

Finding out that your furry family member has cancer is one of the hardest things to go through. We become so attached to our pets that sometimes we don’t consider the overall cost for their health and well-being. However, it is something to be aware of. Anesthesia may be required if the veterinarian wishes to view the tumors with a deep otoscopic exam. This test can cost around $40. The biopsy is necessary to conclude whether the tumor is benign or malignant. A biopsy can cost between $160 and $170. The veterinarian might choose an aggressive surgery if the tumor was malignant. This surgery can cost between $1,500 and $2,500. The veterinarian may then choose radiation therapy to assist in pain relief and to help shrink the tumor. This can cost $2,000 to $6,000. Chemotherapy may also be an option which can cost $1,000 per treatment or a total of $6,000 to $10,000. The total cost of treating your dog’s cancer will be substantial.

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Ear Cancer Average Cost

From 187 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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Ear Cancer Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Sasha

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Lab mix

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8 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Puss
Smelly Ears
Large Growths/Swelling
Severe Headshaking
Blood In Ears

My 8 year old lab mix has severe growths in both ears. Last year she had a small tumor removed from each ear. Since then she has had severe ear infections in both - topical and oral antibiotics have been used with little success. 4 vets with 4 different diagnosis and treatments - with final direction to just keep cleaning them. Her ears are so bad that they have basically closed. When I try and clean them the ears bleed and she cries when it is happening (tears and noises). I can't keep causing her pain and don't know what to do.

Feb. 25, 2018

Sasha's Owner


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Without examining Sasha, I cannot determine the severity of the condition or what to do next, you should probably consider visiting a Specialist as further surgery may be required if the infection doesn’t improve. Removal of a section of the ear canal may be required to help the ear canal drain to prevent build up and improve airflow. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/treatment/lateral-ear-canal-resection www.cliniciansbrief.com/sites/default/files/attachments/Lateral%20Ear%20Canal%20Resection%20in%20Dogs.pdf

Feb. 25, 2018

I have an appointment today to discuss additional treatment options. Thank you for taking the time to assist.

Feb. 26, 2018

Sasha's Owner

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Jasper

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Belgian Shepherd mix

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11 Years

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Serious severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Lump
Nodule, Inside Top Of Ear

My ten year old Belgian Shepherd mix has a nodule in the top of his ear flap, along the ridge that joins to scalp. No injuries to recall or similar for subcutaneous cyst. Can't get into my vet before early next week and I was just seeking out some guidance. Vet's assistant called back to be sure I had made appointment, per Vet's dislike of the description I provided. Curious if any blood work may reveal since pathology report on any biopsied cells to take several days. Pensive and anxious. Any advice appreciated.

Jan. 27, 2018

Jasper's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. Without seeing Jasper, or the lump, I cannot shed much light on what might be going on, but older dogs do tend to get both benign and malignant lumps - it could be nothing to worry about, or it could need to be removed - the best thing to do is what you're doing - have him seen, have the growth biopsied or removed, depending on the location of the mass and invasiveness. Blood work won't give any clues as to the identification of the mass, but will let you know if Jasper is systemically healthy. If you feel that the mass is growing quickly, or is becoming ulcerated or changing quickly, it would be worth moving your appointment to an earlier day, but if the mass doesn't seem to be changing, a week or two either way doesn't tend to make a notable difference in the larger picture. I hope that you get good news from the blood work, and the pathology report.

Jan. 27, 2018

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Pierre

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French Bulldog

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11 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Foul Odor
Foul Odor , Head Shaking
Foul Odor , Head Shaking, Hearing L

My 11 yr old French bulldog had what I thought was an ear infection. I picked up some drops from the vet, but did not see much improvement. Within two weeks, Pierr'e ear was emitting the most foul odor you could imagine. My vet examined him and said there is a tumor in his ear that will require extensive surgery. We are scheduled for a consult with a specialist tomorrow. Do you think it is cancer?

Jan. 16, 2018

Pierre's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for youe email. Unfortunately, without seeing Pierre, or the mass in his ear, i have no way of knowing if it is cancerous. I think that the appointment that you have tomorrow will be very helpful in lettign you know what to expect, what the possibilities are, and what the recovery might be. I wish you both well.

Jan. 16, 2018

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Harley

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Pitbull mix

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2 Years

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Fair severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Dirty Ears

Hello not sure if its ear cancer as all the vet told me is it appears he has 2 masses inside his ears. He will be 3 in may and is my baby, im very worried and not sure what to think she gave me some medicine for him and told me to come back when its done. Unfortuantly i have zero cash to go back right noq and im very worried, the smell has not come back and hes always had an appetite but he still has blackish red stuff coming out when i clean is this normal? Should i worry?

Jan. 11, 2018

Harley's Owner


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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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Thank you for your email. Without seeing Harley, I can't say what might be going on with his ears, or what the masses might be - ear infections can cause discharge, and growths that can resolve, so it may be good news when you go back for your recheck. If he still have black debris, he may need a longer course of medication to clear up any infection, bacterial or fungal problem, or irritation in his ears. I hope that he does well.

Jan. 11, 2018

i just got a better look in her ear's she has notes in her ears is there some where i could upload a pic and get an opinion?

Jan. 15, 2018

Belle


i had a chihuahua that would injest something and start bleeding rectally then go into cardiac arrest. i now have a chorky a chihuahua + yorkie, she has horrible allergies airborne she will bit, nip, scratch till she looks like she has mainge! she came into my life to make me as happy to have a lil` girly girl again she was right around 8 weeks, i noticed she had this tiny little bump no bigger than the tip of ball point pen. months later i noticed it had grown and split into 2 bumps still small i got nerveous and had her checked out while i was in Georgia and she said it was a cysts and could be removed but was small that it may go away or grow but was nothing dangerous, we'd watch it and if it got worse or painful she'd remove it. well what seemed like overnight [and was a couple months later] it not only grew but ruptured! omg i didn't see it go from an eraser size to a bump split wide open oMg, i cried, cleaned it up and poor baby she looked at mommy with sad eyes, they said that was good to release and put her on antibiotics i kept it clean and researched!! I found a product called Tumeric I purchased my from Health xxx site vitamins etc,... it was purest form and i sprinkled it in her food and WoW never had one again 4 years later she had a small one and after a few couple and a half years i didn't think she should be on it for life so i quit giving it to her and a couple months ago she had a small one. So I'm going back to Tumeric, guess my point was that it's healing properties are for cysts, tumors, cancer, and more! i just noticed that her ear seemed darker and bumpier than her other one and she's never been one to allow her ears to be manipulated to see inside, she's all black lol and disapears in a shadow, lol. there seems to be a tint of what i can't be sure of but either from her scratching or there is something irritated i pray thats the only reason is irratation! but Tumeric is extremely dooable price i paid ...4 years ago was around $8 and some change, was on sale but a larger pouch size of a bag of salad croutons. research the amount you'd need for your pet and sprinkle it in their food, she never seemed to not like it. Good Luck i hope my story tho long but hopefully helpful! tc & gb!

Jan. 14, 2018

Belle

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Tula

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English Bulldog

dog-age-icon

10 Years

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Moderate severity

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pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Growth On Ear

We noticed a fairly large growth on our dogs ear this evening (1.5 cm diameter), rough texture, pink, not bleeding, located on the left pinna. Does not appear to bother her or cause itching/pain when touched. Mass is solid. There may also be a secondary site further into the canal, small pimple sized bump with a touch of blood. Appetite and mood are consistent. Weight is stable, perhaps a bit heavier due to less activity with age/weather. She just had her ears checked 3 weeks ago as part of a follow up of chronic infections in her feet and interdigital cysts. Ears were clear with no masses. Medications for her feet include the sulpha and clindamycin. She is also on daily apoquel. Blood panel conducted in spring prior to heavy antibiotics. Organ functions in good range, especially with her breed and age. We are concerned about cancer, especially at her age. We will be calling our vet on Monday. How bad does this sound to you?

Nov. 19, 2017

Tula's Owner


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0 Recommendations

From your description it sounded like Tula may have a mast cell tumour which may appear like a rough pink growth (check photo on first link below); obviously without examining Tula I cannot say for sure what the cause is but that is what it sounds like to me. Also, read our page on mast cell tumours which I have linked to below; these masses (if it is a mast cell tumour) can grow, regress, disappear, come back, ulcerate among other things. Your Veterinarian will be able to take a look and will guide you after a diagnosis. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM www.pugdogclubofamerica.com/uploads/7/4/8/2/74828213/1255048.png https://wagwalking.com/condition/canine-mast-cell-tumors

Nov. 19, 2017

I took my dog to a dermatologist and he said apoquel should not be used in dogs with ear infections or paw infections. The daily apoquel could be hurting more than helping. Also, I work in a veterinary clinic and have confirmed this with my docs!

Jan. 19, 2018

Lynnette P.

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Ear Cancer Average Cost

From 187 quotes ranging from $3,000 - $12,000

Average Cost

$8,000

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