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Date:   17 July, 2012  

Focus: Small animals - dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pig & rabbits.

Toa Payoh Vets Clinical Research
Making veterinary surgery alive
to a veterinary student studying in Australia
using real case studies and pictures

EAR PROBLEMS IN  DOGS - No pain, no gain
Dr Sing Kong Yuen, BVMS (Glasgow), MRCVS
First written: 25 Jan 2009.  Update: 17 July, 2012  

EAR PROBLEMS IN DOGS. Ear pain and scratching all the time is a cause for concern but the owner usually thinks that the groomer will be able to resolve the problem as it is cheaper to consult the groomer than the veterinarian.

EAR SURGERY (Lateral ear canal resection) is one of those effective operations to resolve the chronic (long standing) ear infection and pain of certain dog breeds like the Miniature Schnauzer and the Cocker Spaniel. Miniature Schnauzers tend to have lots of ear hairs inside the canal trapping water and preventing ear ventilation. Dampness of the ear canals lead to ear canal ulceration and bad smells, head shaking and scratching.
No problem. Send the dog to the groomer. The groomer will know what to do.

Ear hairs obstruction of ear canal. Infections lead to ear scratching and pain. Toa Payoh VetsThe groomer uses ear powder for easier plucking of the oily ear hairs and to neutralise the smell. This is not the long-term solution. The ear powder just clogs up the horizontal ear canal and cause ear shaking as the dog tries to get rid of the powder by shaking his head and scratching his ears and neck with his hind legs.

Two well groomed Miniature Schnauzers (picture of one of them, left) I see growing up from newly purchased puppies screamed whenever I tried to examine their ears during one consultation for ringworm and ear scratching in 9 December 2008. They did not bite me as they were well trained and gentle bearded dogs.

Why? Most likely, the groomer plucks their ear hairs using the forceps to twist and pull the excessive ear hairs out regularly (picture below of one of the dogs given gas anaesthesia to pluck hairs and to irrigate the canals). Their luxuriant hairs were obstructing the ear canal ventilation and if the hairs are not plucked regularly, the dogs get ear infections and require veterinary attention.

Nowadays, most Singapore dog owners are not keen on the lateral ear resection surgery. The frequent ear cleaning trips to the groomer to pluck ear hairs and grooming is an inexpensive option for owners. But the dogs with excessive long ear hairs need to tolerate the pain of regular ear hair plucking.  

The owner's thinking reminds me of the following phases: "No pain, no gain?". If the dog does not suffer pain, there is no need for frequent consultations and treatment by the groomer. The groomer needs to use ear powder to pluck the hairs. More powder accumulates inside the ear canal and cause internal irritation and pain to the dog. More head shaking. So, more visits to the groomer till one day, the owner decides to bring the dog to the veterinarian. By then, the ears are in bad shape. 

The sad aspect is that the dogs with hairy ears suffer till old age. Ear canal tumours develop over many years of irritation. For owners who can see the big picture, it is kinder to dogs with chronic ear problems to be given the lateral ear resection surgery when the dog is young and fit for anaesthesia.

EDUCATIONAL VIDEO OF LATERAL EAR RESECTION SURGERY

Photo-31.  Educational Video: Lateral ear canal resection surgery at Toa Payoh Vets Dog ear surgery, Singapore vet2.  Chronic ear infections may lead to painful cries, deafness, head tilt and ear canal tumour formation as you can see from one case at: Vertical Ear Canal Ablation surgery in an old dog - Part 1. Consult your vet early.  

COSTS OF ANAESTHESIA AND SURGERY
At Toa Payoh Vets, the cost of surgery and general anaesthesia for both ears is estimated to be around S$600. Total costs will be around $800 - $900 at the Toa Payoh Vets for small breeds like the Miniature Schnauzer, inclusive of post-operative care (10 days), antibiotics and pain-killers.  In the long term, the owner will find that the surgical costs are much cheaper than several years of ear plucking costs and the ear canal infection. 

POST-OP COMPLICATIONS
At Toa Payoh Vets, the patient will be hospitalised for at least 7 days as it is very difficult for the owner to clean the ears post-op. Bleeding and infections may be present as the dog's ears are usually infected for a long time before the owner decides to do surgery. In 99% of cases, the surgery is effective in resolving ear stench and scratching. However, regular check up and cleaning of the horizontal ear canal is needed in some dogs for a few months after surgery.

A recent case on a toy poodle is shown here:
 

lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore
Left ear before ear surgery Day 2 after surgery Day 6 after surgery
lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore
Re-stitched at Day 6 Day 17 after surgery Day 17 after surgery
lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore
Right ear before ear surgery Day 2 after surgery Day 6 after surgery
lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore lateral ear canal resection surgery for smelly itchy years lasting 6 years, toapayohvets, singapore
Re-stitched at Day 6 Day 17 after surgery Day 17 after surgery.
tpvets_logo.jpg (2726 bytes)5264-5271. Lateral ear canal resection surgery gives the best outcome when the ear canals are not infected

UPDATE AS AT JULY 17, 2012. The poodle has no more smelly ears post-op.

However, in July 10, 2012, the owner complained that the poodle was scratching the neck, ears and body. There was no ear discharge or smell. Just scratching. The dog is being checked for allergies. 

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 Clinical Research

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