A total ear canal ablation (TECA) means removal of the ear canals. Many times it is performed on both ears at once. It is an operation that is performed when an animal has severe inflammatory disease of the external ear canal or when a growth, such as cancer, is present within the ear canal or middle ear cavity.
To understand why this procedure might be necessary, it’s important to first understand the anatomy of your pet’s ear and the surrounding area.
Under your pet’s earflap is the ear canal, which extends internally to the eardrum and forms the outer ear. The middle ear is a hollow cavity within the skull that is separated from the outer or external ear by the eardrum and contains three delicate bones that transmit sound to the inner ear. The inner ear receives the vibrations from the bones of the middle ear and transfers it into an electrical signal, which is then interpreted by the brain as sound. The inner ear is also responsible for your pet’s sense of balance. The facial nerve, which controls muscles of facial expression and the eyelids, wraps around the ear canal.
Dogs with long-standing ear infections may develop irreversible disease of the ear canal in which chronic inflammation causes the ear canal to thicken to the point that it turns to bone and becomes impervious to medication that might be used to treat the infection. In about 50% of pets where the ear canal is damaged, the eardrum is ruptured and the infection extends to the middle ear.
It is important to note that dogs with chronic ear infections often also have skin allergies. If this is the case for your pet, you should have a dermatologist evaluate him once the ear problem is addressed.
Cancer can also affect the ear canal. Of the tumors that affect the ear canal in dogs, 85% of them are malignant tumors (adenocarcinoma). Surgery usually cures these tumors if they do not extend beyond the cartilage layer of the ear canal or into the middle ear cavity.
Whenever your pet is showing signs of a health issue your first step is to contact your primary care veterinarian. If it is indicated that your pet may suffer from chronic ear infections or another serious condition, a veterinary specialist is available at an ExpertVet certified hospital.
CLINICAL SIGNS & DIAGNOSIS
Symptoms of an ear infection or an ear canal tumor include shaking of the head, ear scratching and rubbing, crying out in pain, sensitivity when the ear is touched, thickened ear canals, foul odor from the ear, and/or a bloody or yellow-green discharge in the ear canal.
If the infection extends into the inner ear, your pet may keep her head in a tilted position, may have continual shifting of the eyes, or might walk in circles. Unfortunately, dogs with end-stage ear disease do not respond to medical treatment.
If your pet is experiencing symptoms of ear disease, your veterinarian will examine the ear to see if a tumor is in the canal or if there is chronic irreversible infection. A complete blood count (CBC), chemistry profile, and urine testing are performed prior to surgery to allow your veterinarian to select the best anesthetic for your pet. Remember to ask about potential risks, including clotting factors, which exist in every surgery no matter how healthy your pet may be.
X-rays of the chest will made if a tumor is in the ear canal to check for spread of the cancer to the lungs. The results of this test would affect treatment options. ACT (computed tomography) scan of the head can also be used to evaluate the extent of a chronic ear infection or tumor.