Lateral Ear Resection

I have a medical question and hope you can help. My Border Collie has had ongoing ear infections for years! We keep them at a dull roar with drops and general antibiotics. The antibiotics have also been to help her skin problems. My vet has mentioned a lateral ear resection a few times, but there's always something else that needs to be tended to. I understand it's cutting away some of the cartilage at the ear canal to open it up. Now, my dog is 10.5 years old and been through a lot. It almost appears that the operation is her only way to healthy ears. Would you suggest I go through with it?

How much of a workup has been done on this dog? If it has only consisted of examination of the ear, determination that it was infected, and then prescription of antibiotics, I'd say you have a long way to go before considering resection.

First I'd make sure to do a complete (and I mean complete) workup. A full body physical should preceed everything. Many times low grade dermatological problems can spread to the ear and be most obvious there or homone problems could exhibit the worst signs in the ear. It sounds like the dog has skin problems and this could be the cause of the ear infections. Cure the skin and you cure the ear.

Second, a culture should be done of the ear infection to determine the exact causative agent. Knowing the exact agent may lead you to a precise and completely efficacious antibiotic. Generalized antibiotics do well for low grade infections of unknown sources but with more recurrent cases and longer lasting infections, simply knowing the exact cause may be the solution. The cause could be fungal too and treatment with antibiotics won't cure the problem. Switching to an antifungal may do the trick. In other words, figure out what you're fighting before calling in the cavalry.

Third, has a close internal inspection of the ear been done? If the ear is painful or full of fluid/pus, this might not have been done. The dog may even have to be anesthetized in order to accomplish this. Maybe the dog has a ruptured eardrum or a foreign body embedded deep in the ear. You never know until you check.

Next, if it is the structure of the ear that is holding in moisture and the like, I would go with less invasive things first - like trimming the hair around the ear, pulling the hair in the inner ear (ouch!), and daily cleanings and drying manually. Use of an astringent may do the trick.

Next, I would compare ears. Is there a difference in infection between the two? If so, is there a difference in structure or some other condition? This might lead you to a cause.

Finally, I would stick with a treatment for a long enough period to make sure it isn't working. This generally means about a month. If it doesn't work, go on to the next level.

This is the KISS theory in action (Keep it simple stupid). It sounds like your vet went from the very simple to the most complex. There are a lot more steps to explore before ever reaching this step (ear resection). Especially with a dog of this age. You may be leaving a lot out in your description so I have no idea how much work your vet has done.

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