If your vet told you that your dog may need an ear canal ablation you may be wondering what this procedure exactly entails and its associated costs. Most likely if your vet suggested this surgery, your dog may have been dealing with recurrent ear infections or other complicated ear problems that have been proven to be particularly difficult to treat. This surgery is usually done as a last resort after attempting other means to fix the problem. Costs for ear canal ablation procedure in dogs may vary based on location, but rough estimates may provide an insight.
Understanding the Procedure
Total ear canal ablation (TECA) is a common surgical procedure that is often used as a last resort when all other measures were tried and the dog’s ear has sustained irreversible damage.
The procedure is often referred to as a “salvage procedure” meaning that its aim is to provide relief when there is no more hope of a medical solution.
The procedure entails removing the entire diseased ear canal. If the dog’s middle ear is also affected, then the infected lining membrane must be also removed from the bony portion of the middle ear (the bulla). This additional procedure which entail removal of infected tissue, is called a “bulla osteotomy” and it’s often included with the ablation surgery.
In some cases, where the middle ear is not affected, then a less invasive surgical procedure known lateral ear resection may be chosen, explains veterinarian Dr. Michael Salkin.
Dog Ear Ablation Candidates
What dogs generally need total ear canal ablation? Dogs who have suffered from chronic ear infections sustain significant damage to their ears over time. The long-standing inflammation causes the ear canal to considerably thicken, up to the point of turning into bone, and at that point, treatment will no longer work, explains board-certified veterinary surgeon Dr. Daniel A. Degner.
Other candidates for the surgery are dogs suffering from adenocarcinoma (cancer) of the ear canal, dogs affected by multiple follicular cysts and dogs suffering from “congenital imperforate ear canal” basically, dogs who are lacking the normal opening to the ear canal which results in middle ear infections. This is overall, a rare birth defect.
Did you know? Cocker spaniels are particularly predisposed to ear problems and therefore often undergo this type of surgery.
Risk for Complications
While total ear canal ablation is a common surgical procedure, it is not without risks. The area the surgeon works on is innervated by several facial nerves which makes the procedure quite delicate. Facial nerve paralysis is the most common complications associated with this procedure and may result in the dog’s inability to close the eye and droopy lips, the canine equivalent of Bell Palsy, if you will. Fortunately though, in most cases the paralysis is temporary and subsides within 2 weeks, explains Dr. Degner.
Other complications may include trouble chewing or pain opening the mouth, Horner’s syndrome, balance problems (head tilt and staggering) swelling and recurrent infections. The dog’s sense of hearing may also decrease following surgery, but most dogs had already hearing loss prior to surgery due to thickened ear canal. Because of the risks for complications, it is best to have this procedure done by a board-certified veterinary surgeon.
Often dogs requiring total ear ablation surgery are senior dogs considering the long amount of times it takes for ears to reach the point where this surgery is the only effective option, explains veterinarian Dr. G. Performing the surgery on an older dogs may lead to slower healing times and more complications if the senior’s dogs organs aren’t functioning well. However, old age is not a disease and with careful monitoring ( EKG, pre-anesthetic blood panels, etc) it is possible to minimize the chances for such complications.
Dog Ear Ablation Surgery Costs
So how much does on average a dog ear ablation surgery cost? The costs for dog ablation surgery may vary from place to place, but as a rough estimate, you can expect to pay anywhere between $1200 and $4000.
Costs on the lower range may be what a general practitioner may charge, while costs on the higher range are closer to what a skilled board-certified surgeon may charge, but the extra cost is often worth the peace of mind of having a professional perform the surgery.
Many dog owners report that after surgery their dogs are feeling much better (and acting as if younger!) and that their relationship with their dogs also improves since they no longer will need to have to subject their dogs to annoying ear treatments. In the long run, the surgery may be more cost effective versus a potential lifelong use of medications and repeated vet visits.
- Vet Surgery Central, Total Ear Canal Ablation and Bulla Osteotomy
- DVM360, Canine ear canal surgery considerations
- DVM360, Ear canal ablation, more than palliation