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Ear Canal Ablation in Cats

ear canal ablation cats

Ear infection is something that happens to mammals of all kinds. Whether it’s a human, a dog, or a cat – there are things that can be done to help relieve the symptoms and the painful effects. The reasons for ear infections vary but in cats, one procedure that helps is called an ear canal ablation. If you’re not familiar with this procedure, and your cat has frequent ear infections, here is some helpful information. Here is more on ear canal ablation in cats – what it is, why it is needed, how the procedure works, home care, and more.

What is an Ear Canal Ablation in Cats?

First of all, it is important to learn why an ear canal ablation is needed in the first place. For cats that get chronic ear infections, this not only leads to pain and being uncomfortable, it can lead to rapid changes in the ear canal. This may progress to a blockage or total closure of the ear canal. Cats that have this issue will have significant inflammation of the middle ear and external ear.

An ear canal ablation in cats is a surgical treatment. This is typically recommended when traditional treatment methods have failed to solve the problem. According to Vet Specialty:

Total ear canal ablation is a surgical procedure in which the diseased tissue of the external and middle ear is removed. This allows a pain free ear that does not require long term medical management.

When Is This an Option?

As mentioned, this surgery prevents a total blockage of the ear canal and helps the cat with pain. It also helps the pet owner at home since long-term medical management is not needed. Yet, there are a couple of other reasons that this can be the recommended treatment.

One indication is when the cat either has chronic end-stage middle ear and outer ear infections. In other cases, if a cat has ear canal tumors, they are also usually a good candidate for this procedure.

VCA Hospitals sums it up:

A TECA-BO is primarily recommended in cases of chronic, end-stage otitis (ear infections), in which medical treatment is no longer helping the patient. In some cases, this may be due to a bacterial infection that is resistant to antibiotic treatment; removing the bacteria may be the most effective means of dealing with the infection. In many cases, long standing infection and inflammation have led to so much scarring and mineralization of the ear canal that the ear canal has narrowed and ear cleaning is no longer effective for removing accumulated debris. In either case, a TECA-BO allows the infected, abnormal ear tissue to be removed, reducing chronic pain and inflammation and giving the pet an improved quality of life.

How Does the Surgery Work?

In an ear canal ablation in cats, the cat is first placed under anesthesia and the infected ear is prepared for surgery. The veterinarian makes an incision around the ear canal and it is removed. This allows the middle ear to be exposed and cleaned. Many times a sample of this will be tested. Once it is flushed and sterilized, the incision is closed. In some cases, there may be a drain put in but this is not typical in all surgeries. And last but not least, the cat is given a collar to protect injury to the area. If that is not needed, it is simply bandaged.

As with any surgical procedure, it is important to talk to your vet and know everything that is going on, as well as what to do with your cat once you have him back home.

Home Care After an Ear Canal Ablation

After a cat has had ear canal ablation, a return visit to the vet is needed to remove the sutures – typically in 10 days to two weeks. At home, check the incisions daily to report anything unusual like redness or swelling. If there is a small amount of swelling, an ice pack can help relieve some of the symptoms. Yet, if you see anything that causes concern, call your vet immediately.

Keep the cat restricted from exercise for a couple of weeks or at least until your second visit to the vet. This may mean leaving the collar on to protect the surgical area.

Your cat will most likely be on antibiotics to help prevent infection and the sample that was taken from his ear at surgery will mostly likely have garnered results that you can find out about.

Surgery and vet visits can be expensive and pet health insurance helps defray some of the cost. It is a good idea to have this in place before you need it.

Future Prognosis

Most cats respond well to an ear canal ablation. It helps them live lives that are infection free and pain-free. There is always the risk of complications but these are not typical. Complications include:

  • Minimal hearing loss
  • Issues with their eyes like a small pupil or third eyelid, or rapid eye movement – these are most likely temporary and will go away within a few weeks.
  • Incision infection
  • Issues with balance and coordination
  • Bleeding
  • Head tilt
  • Reoccurring ear infections

The best measures are to treat the ear infections with non-surgical means first. Surgery should be an option that is a last resort. With that said, most cats do very well after this procedure and do not have return ear infections.

Cost to Treat: $2,000 to $4,000


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