What is Vertical Ear Canal Ablation?
Ear infections are unfortunately common in dogs, especially dogs with large floppy ears such as spaniels and poodles, where they can easily become problematic. The ear canal is shaped like an “L” with a vertical section and a horizontal section leading to the inner ear structures that allow your dog to hear. Because of the shape of the ear canal, it is susceptible to wax and bacteria buildup that can easily harbor infections, especially in breeds of dogs where air circulation to the ear canal is limited by the ear flaps and long hair.
When ear infections (otitis externa) become chronic, antibiotic treatment may have limited effect, ear canal tissue may become damaged, and cleaning of the ear canal can become difficult due to swelling and pain your dog is experiencing in the area. There are a few surgical options available to remove diseased tissue and improve drainage to the ear canal. Lateral ear resection involves removing tissue on one side of the ear canal, total ear canal ablation involves removing the entire ear canal, and vertical ear canal ablation involves removing only the vertical portion of the ear canal. Vertical ear canal ablation leaves the horizontal ear canal intact which provides the advantages of lateral resection by providing ventilation and drainage and the advantage of total ablation in that it effectively removes diseased tissue in the vertical portion of the ear canal. Vertical ear canal resection is ideal when disease has caused damage to the vertical ear canal but the horizontal canal is still salvageable. This procedure is performed by a qualified veterinary surgeon under general anaesthetic.
Vertical Ear Canal Ablation Procedure in Dogs
Your dog will be treated with antibiotics prior to surgery if ear infection is present. Prior to surgery, your veterinarian will ensure that systemic infection is not present and that your dog is able to undergo general anesthesia. Your dog will be sedated, administered intravenous anesthetic, and an intubation tube inserted and anesthesia maintained by gas during this procedure.
Incisions in the vertical external ear canal will be made and the ear canal, along with damaged tissue, removed. Bleeding is addressed by suturing and cauterization as appropriate.
Infected tissue may be biopsied and sent for analysis to identify bacterial organisms present and adapt antibiotic treatment to prevent further infection moving into the horizontal ear canal.
Drains may be placed in the ear to allow drainage. Hospitalization for 24 hours after surgery is common to monitor your pet's condition and address complications.
Efficacy of Vertical Ear Canal Ablation in Dogs
Vertical ear canal ablation may not be as effective as total ear canal ablation, as infection may be active in the horizontal canal as well and the remaining ear canal can experience recurring infections, however it is less invasive, and if the horizontal ear canal is not affected it would be preferable to leave healthy tissue in place to provide functioning
Vertical ear canal ablation has advantages over lateral resection as it more effectively addresses removal of diseased tissue and involves less interference with cartilage, resulting in less pain and better healing.
Vertical Ear Canal Ablation Recovery in Dogs
Your dog will need to be monitored post-surgery to ensure they do not interfere with their ears and cause damage to treated tissues. Your dog's ears will be taped over their head to ensure that air circulation to the surgical site is maintained during healing and an e-collar will be used to prevent your dog from scratching the area. Topical antibiotic-steroid medication will be used to treat the area. Your veterinarian will follow up and remove sutures in 14 days.
Cost of Vertical Ear Canal Ablation in Dogs
The cost of vertical ear canal ablation ranges from $500 to $2,000 depending on the cost of living in your area. This will include examination, anesthesia, procedure, postoperative medication, and follow-up.
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Dog Vertical Ear Canal Ablation Considerations
Vertical ear canal ablation has less complications than lateral ear canal ablation and is less invasive than total ear canal ablation, however recurrence of ear infections in the remaining horizontal ear canal is possible. Damage to facial nerves is possible during surgery but less common than with total ablation or lateral wall resection and hearing organs are not likely to be damaged by this surgical intervention as it is restricted to the vertical canal.
There is a risk from general anesthesia and ensuring that your dog is fit to undergo surgery is important prior to this procedure.
Vertical Ear Canal Ablation Prevention in Dogs
Prompt treatment of ear infections with thorough cleaning and aggressive treatment with antibiotics and steroidal medication, if required, will reduce the likelihood of infections becoming chronic. Ensuring allergies and parasites are addressed will reduce the incidence of chronic ear disease requiring surgical intervention.