Ear disease usually reflects local skin disease. Skin micro-organisms (bacteria and yeasts) love nothing more than warm moist nooks and crannies so the ear canal can make an ideal environment for them.
When chronic infection or recurrent infection is an issue, so long as the deeper parts of the external ear canal aren’t irrevocably thickened or diseased and so long as the middle ear isn’t involved, it may be possible to use lateral wall resection or vertical canal ablation to save the function of the external ear canal and avoid compromising the pet’s hearing. Think of the external ear as being something like a coal mine. There is a vertical canal (the pit shaft), then a horizontal canal (the pit tunnel), leading to the eardrum (the coal face).
Lateral wall resection involves removing the side of the vertical canal of the external ear canal to improve ventilation to the deeper parts of the external ear. This makes the local environment less attractive to micro-organisms. When we do a lateral wall resection we remove the side of the vertical canal. We turn a “deep mine” into a “drift mine”, that the air can then blow through more easily!
Vertical canal ablation is performed when the inner wall of the vertical canal is diseased. The horizontal part of the external canal must still be in good shape, and this is sutured to the skin to create a new ear opening below the pinna (the ear flap).
Regular veterinary supervision/medication is advised into the future to stay on top of any residual skin disease.
If the disease progresses, there may be no alternative to a total ear canal ablation surgery (see separate article in the soft tissue section of cases). At West Midlands Referrals we have produced a sheet on ear surgery in the section for owners/fact sheets for more information on ears and ear surgery.
29th December 2013