Some dogs are more prone to ear problems than others and if you do share your home with a Cocker Spaniel or other breed that enjoys nothing more than splashing around in water, you will probably be familiar with the sort of issues they tend to suffer from. Not thoroughly drying your dog's ears when they get home can result in them developing some pretty nasty and painful ear problems.
Managing ear problems can be challenging especially if it's a chronic condition that keeps flaring up making life very uncomfortable for your dog when it does. A lot of the time, ear problems can be treated and managed using specific ear drops and certain medication, but there are times when a chronic, recurrent problem just does not go away when using these methods. It's when surgery may be the only other option to relieve the pain and prevent things from taking hold again.
There are two types of procedures that vets can carry out on dogs that constantly suffer from ear issues with the end goal being to help resolve the problem and make life more comfortable for them. The first procedure is known as a "lateral wall resection" and the other being a "total ear canal ablation". A vet would examine your dog before deciding if surgery is the only option and whether or not such an invasive procedure would actually have any benefits. Dogs need to be sedated during an examination and if it's found that an ear canal has either become a lot narrower or the wall has thickened, the chances are this is why a dog continually suffers from persistent ear problems.
A vet would also be able to establish if a dog's ear drum has been ruptured or whether an infection has taken hold in their middle ear, all of which can make the condition that much worse. Whether a vet decides to perform any sort of surgery on a dog's ear would depend on what they find during the examination along with how a patient has responded to ear drops and any other type of medication used to treat the problem in the past.
This surgical procedure opens up a dog's ear canal so that things drain better and it also helps air circulate through the passage which effectively helps reduce the chance of bacteria taking hold. Although there's no guarantee that a dog will not suffer from an ear problem once they've had the surgery, it does help prevent any infections flaring up. It also tends to be easier to treat an ear condition and therefore clear up things up that much faster too. It's worth bearing in mind that it's a procedure that needs to be carried out before things get too bad and when a dog's ear canal has not suffered any permanent damage.
If your dog has undergone a lateral wall resection procedure, it's really important for them to be well cared for once they are allowed to come home. Dogs have to wear an Elizabethan collar to make sure they don't scratch or paw at their ear which could slow the healing process down considerably. They would also have to take painkillers along with a course of antibiotics to help prevent an infection taking hold.
It's extremely important for the course of antibiotics to be completed even if a dog's ear looks completely healed. It generally takes around 2 weeks for things to heal and get back to normal once a dog has undergone the ear surgery. The key to this procedure being successful is to catch a problem early enough and although dogs may still suffer issues with their ears, the good news is they will be far less frequent than before the surgery was performed.
If the vet finds the problem is more severe, they may recommend removing a dog's entire ear canal and would do so by carrying out a procedure known as total ear canal ablation. Although the surgery sounds very invasive, most dogs that undergo this type of procedure recover well and only need to be kept in overnight which is mainly so they can be given the right amount of painkillers. A vet would only typically recommend this type of surgery if a dog's ear canals have been so badly damaged they have become extremely thick or so narrow it causes a lot of problems and where infections are so chronic there is no other option but to operate.
The downside to the procedure is that dogs often lose their hearing in an affected ear, but because their hearing would have been negatively impacted anyway, it generally is not such a drastic change for them to have to cope with. Some dogs experience a little nerve paralysis in their faces after the surgery, but this clears up after a few weeks or so.
Dogs would need to be given antibiotics and painkillers once they are allowed home and they would also need to wear an Elizabethan collar to prevent them from pawing and scratching at their ear. The good news is that most dogs benefit from having the surgery with only a small percentage experiencing any sort of complication.