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What is Lateral Ear Canal Resection?

When dogs experience chronic ear infection of the outer ear, or ear infection that fails to respond to traditional medications, a lateral ear canal resection may be recommended. This procedure involves the removal of one side of the external ear canal, which allows improved drainage and ventilation. Dogs that have long ears are particularly susceptible to otitis externa and can benefit from this procedure if the ear canal is sufficiently open and ear structures are undamaged. If permanent damage has occurred to the ear canal this procedure may not be adequate to address the problem. 

Although this procedure may not completely eliminate future ear infections, it makes future infections less common and easier to treat. A veterinary surgeon is required to perform this surgical procedure.

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Lateral Ear Canal Resection Procedure in Dogs

If active infection is present in the ear it is usually treated aggressively prior to surgery with antibiotics and cleaning. This procedure is performed under general anesthesia. The ear will be cleaned and excess hair removed to expose a clean surgical site. Cotton may be inserted in your dog's ear to prevent debris and detergent from draining into the ear canal. The ear will also be flushed with an antiseptic solution prior to surgery to ensure contamination is minimized. Once anesthetized your veterinarian will make parallel incisions on the sides of the vertical ear canal to leave an intact flap of tissue that lays flat in the canal to allow for drainage from the horizontal canal and allow better airflow to the remaining ear canal The remaining flap is sutured to adjacent skin over the cartilage. During this procedure infected tissue that has not responded to medication can be removed. 

Efficacy of Lateral Ear Canal Resection in Dogs

The effectiveness of this procedure depends on whether the procedure is appropriate for the individual dog. Dogs such as cocker spaniels that suffer from severe forms of ear infection chronically may require more invasive surgery to address their condition. If scarring or tissue growth has occurred or damage to the ear structures such as calcification is present, this procedure may not be recommended. Active ear infections should be addressed prior to surgery for the best results. If unsuccessful, future surgeries such as total ear canal ablation or lateral tympanic bulla osteotomy may be required. Benefits of this procedure are better air circulation and decreased humidity and moisture that decrease the incidence of fungal and bacterial infections. In addition, improved drainage that reduces the accumulation of secretions from the ear usually results. This may result in less infections or improve the ability to treat infections that do occur, by allowing better access to infected tissues with medications and allowing more effective cleaning. Treatment of systemic disease contributing to chemical imbalance that may play a role in the incidence of ear infections will improve efficacy of this procedure.

Lateral Ear Canal Resection Recovery in Dogs

After lateral ear canal resection, pain medication is usually provided and antibiotic-steroid medication prescribed by your veterinarian. Any treatment for ear infection should continue as directed by your veterinarian. An E-collar is recommended to prevent your dog from interfering with the ear and incisions. The ears may be taped over your dog's head to allow for maximum air circulation and allow incisions to heal appropriately. Sutures may need to be removed in 14 days and your veterinarian will do a post-operative follow-up appointment to remove sutures if necessary and ensure healing is progressing. Pain with chewing may occur post surgery, but usually resolves itself within a few weeks.

Cost of Lateral Ear Canal Resection in Dogs

The cost of lateral ear canal ablation should be weighed against the cost of continued treatment of recurrent ear infections. The procedure can range from $500 to $1,000 depending on the cost of living in your area. 

Dog Lateral Ear Canal Resection Considerations

Complications from anesthetic are a risk from ear canal surgery. Infection present during surgery presents a risk for spreading, however this is uncommon. 

Damage to nerves can occur or damage to ear structures can result in vestibular damage, but this is uncommon with less invasive lateral ear canal resection than with total ear canal resection.

Lateral Ear Canal Resection Prevention in Dogs

Lateral ear canal resection is a preventative measure for external ear infections to allow for more effective treatment of infections when they occur and reduce the likelihood of them occurring. Prompt attention to ear infections including treatment with antibiotics and thorough cleaning of ears as instructed by a veterinarian will help to prevent ear infections from becoming chronic and requiring surgical intervention.

Lateral Ear Canal Resection Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

4 Years
Moderate condition
1 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Ear drain

Hi. My male Labrador, 4 year old had an ear canal surgery after twice reoccurring infections. Today is the 10th day. There is still ear drain coming out. How long will it take for the drain to stop. Is it normal it’s still coming out? How long before his stitches heal and cone removed? The female lab is very sad at home, Tyrone is in the vet clinic.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2469 Recommendations
There are different approaches to surgery of the ear canal depending on whether there is a total ear canal ablation, lateral ear canal resection or another approach taken; some cases may be discharged the following day and others need to be kept in due to observation or complications. Wound healing is generally fast, with stitches normally being removed within two weeks of surgery; but again there are possible complications which may delay the process. It would be best to speak with your Veterinarian about Tyrone and his case to see what exactly is happening in his case. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Shar Pei
7 months
Serious condition
1 found helpful
Serious condition

Has Symptoms

head shaking, trying to scratch ear

My 7 month old Shar Pei had a Bi-lateral Ear Resection done yesterday because she was continuously getting ear infections. We picked her up this morning and she is miserable. She is on pain meds, anti-inflamatory, and antibiotics, also wearing an e-collar. She is constantly shaking her head, wimpering, restless, will hardly eat or drink and just plain miserable. What can we do to make her more comfortable? She belongs to my 12 yr old daughter and my daughter is torn to pieces seeing her puppy in this state.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
2469 Recommendations
This is quite a painful surgery and the ears will feel like there is swelling or irritation leading to Rosebud wanting to shake whatever she is feeling off; apart from rest, antibiotics and antiinflammatories there is not much else that can be done. Studies have shown that this procedure is particularly successful in Shar Pei’s. As for comfort, it is just a case of waiting it out; I’ve attached a link below to a good resource on the surgery along with pictures step by step of the procedure. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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