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Ear Infections in Dogs and Total Ear Canal Ablation (TECA)

Reviewed by Dr. Sarah Tasse, DVM on Wednesday, September 28, 2016
Posted September 28, 2016 in Dog Surgery A-Z

AJ Debiasse, a technician in Stroudsburg, PA, contributed to this article.

Hershey, a 6 year old cocker spaniel, had been in and out of the vet for ear infections for almost all of his life. He had been treated with just about every oral antibiotic, and every type of ear medication known to man. Sadly, with little to no success. Tablets, capsules, lotions, potions— nothing worked long-term. The ear infections just kept coming back. As he became more and more uncomfortable, Hershey came to be head-shy and sometimes even aggressive when his guardians tried to administer ear medications. Eventually, the smell caused by the infection had invaded every room of the house. Something had to change.

Examining infected dog ears
Frustrated by the lack of results, Hershey’s guardians finally decided to get a second opinion, but the poor dog would not allow the veterinarian to examine his ears. The vet recommended an exam of the ears under sedation. An instrument (called an otoscope) would not even fit inside the ear canals because they had become so narrow. Years of ear infections had transformed the soft and delicate cartilage of the ear canals into a hard, painful, infected mess. Such ear canals have become calcified, which means they are full of calcium deposits.

Cocker spaniels like this often have ear infections

Treating infected dog ears
“This is end-stage ear disease” said the vet, and the only effective treatment is surgery.” He referred Hershey to yours truly, a board-certified surgeon. I recommended a Total Ear Canal Ablation or TECA. “A TECA involves removing the entire ear canal,” I explained. “The next step is to completely clean up the bulla.” The bulla is a bony “bubble” at the bottom of the ear canal. At this stage of the disease, it routinely contains pus, which needs to be removed to reach good results. A sterile swab, called a culture, will also reveal which bacteria lives there, and which antibiotic will take care of it.

Hershey’s guardians asked if there were less invasive options. “Other surgeries do exist, but they will fail in Hershey’s case. Only a TECA will take care of the entire problem. And only a TECA allows cleaning up the bulla.”

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Dr. Phil Zeltzman is a board-certified veterinary surgeon and author. His traveling practice takes him all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Western New Jersey. You can visit his website at www.DrPhilZeltzman.com, and follow him at www.facebook.com/DrZeltzman.