What is animal ENT surgery?
Ear, nose, and throat surgery, commonly known as ENT Surgery, is simply any operation for your pet that involves the ear nose and throat. At Animal Trust, we have dedicated specialists who can diagnose and treat a wide range of conditions involving the head, neck, and ear nose and throat regions of your cat, dog or other pet.
If you require a particular operation for your pet, please contact your local surgery and our team will be happy to help arrange a free face-to-face consultation to discuss your options further.
Types of ENT surgery provided by Animal Trust
There is a wide range of surgical operations available throughout the Animal Trust group. Some surgeries require more specialised techniques and will require a referral to senior surgeons and specialists within our group. Other surgical options can be carried out by Veterinary Surgeons at your chosen local branch. An estimation of prices for each surgery can be found on our prices page.
Cleft palate correction: A cleft palate is a condition related to puppies and kittens who are born with a hole in the roof of their mouth. While any breed can be affected, cleft palates occur more commonly in short-nosed breeds of dogs such as Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, and other purebreds including Cocker Spaniels. For cats, the condition commonly affects the Siamese breed.
In a case where an animal is diagnosed with the condition, it is recommended to delay the surgery until they are between 3 and 4 months old. This is to give the surgery its optimal chance of succeeding. This means that careful feeding up to this point is required to prevent inhalation of food and liquids and not all affected puppies and kittens will survive. Recovery from the surgery can take approximately 6 weeks and can require a feeding tube for the first week to allow the mouth to heal. The prognosis following surgery is good.
BOAS: Brachycephalic Obstructive Airway Syndrome is a collection of problems associated with the compaction of all the tissues of the nose and throat into a small space. It affects brachycephalic (short-nosed) breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pugs, and Shih Tzus. Many of these dogs will have respiratory noise (snoring) and difficulty breathing, sleep apnoea (stopping breathing when sleeping), trouble cooling down in hot weather, and gastric reflux (heartburn).
Depending on the severity of the condition, some animals require widening of the nostrils at an early age, whilst others can also require soft tissue surgery including removal of the excess soft palate and even removal of the tonsils. Prognosis following surgery is good, with 95% – 98% of dogs improving following surgery, giving them a better quality of life, fewer digestive problems, the ability to rest and sleep properly, and better exercise and heat tolerance. Unfortunately, some dogs may still have breathing problems following surgery due to their abnormal nasal cavity and narrow airway.
Lateral wall resection: This relates to the surgical removal of the outer wall of the ear canal to improve ventilation. This reduces humidity, temperature, and moisture to make the environment less conducive to bacterial and fungal growth. It does not affect the animal’s hearing but has limited uses. It is only effective when there are no permanent changes in the ear canal because of disease.
When surgery is performed early enough during the course of the condition, many dogs will have fewer ear problems, but many will still have some issues. It is therefore most useful for tumour or polyp removal; in which case the surgery is often curative. Most dogs with chronic ear conditions requiring surgery will therefore require a total ear canal ablation (TECA). Recovery usually takes 2 weeks, although it is not uncommon to have some wound breakdown due to ongoing infections which can make recovery take longer.
TECA: Total ear canal ablation (TECA) is the surgical removal of the whole ear canal. It is performed in dogs and cats with severe ear canal or middle ear disease, including invasive or widespread tumours. The surgery involves the removal of the diseased ear canal and any abnormal material from the middle ear chamber (tympanic bulla). The surgery does not involve the removal of the inner ear (hearing organ), but the removal of the ear canal will lead to significantly reduced hearing.
Over 90% of animals have a significantly improved quality of life following the procedure and recovery generally takes between 2 – 3 weeks. The animal must wear a buster collar following surgery until the wound is completely healed. There are some potential complications including temporary nerve paralysis, infection, and balance problems in 10 – 20% of cases.
Tonsillectomy: This is the surgical removal of the tonsils. It can be performed by using several different techniques. The main reasons for it to be carried out are severe infectious tonsillitis which is not responding to medical treatment, enlargement causing interference with swallowing or breathing, and types of cancer. It typically takes at least one week for recovery due to the discomfort of exposed throat muscles after the tonsils are removed.
Thyroidectomy: The procedure relates to the removal of either one or both thyroid glands — 2 small glands in the neck of your pet. It is usually carried out in older cats who have developed overproduction of the thyroid hormone, or hyperthyroidism. It can potentially cure the condition, but there are some potential complications of this surgery due to the close proximity of the parathyroid glands and the fact that these cats may be at higher risk for anaesthesia. Because of this we now tend to use long term medical or radiation treatment, although it is still the best option for some cats who are difficult to medicate.
Thyroid gland removal in dogs is usually due to thyroid tumours. Recovery is generally within 10 – 14 days of surgery, although the prognosis for dogs with thyroid cancer is guarded, with very few surviving over 2 years. For both species, initial post-operative monitoring of thyroid levels and blood calcium levels is required to ensure that the animal is coping well without the glands.
Nasopharyngeal polyp removal: Polyps are benign lumps that can form in the ears and affect the nose and throat area in cats. They are thought to occur in response to long-term inflammation. It is often relatively young cats that are affected, and the polyps can result in airway obstruction, often seen as snorting or gurgling noises. Alternatively, they can lead to outer and middle ear disease, causing ear irritation and sometimes balance problems. Surgical removal is the recommended treatment in these circumstances.
Depending on the location, this can be relatively simple or require more extensive surgery, such as lateral wall resection or TECA to locate. Sometimes it is impossible to remove the entire lump, in which case partial removal to limit the effects can be useful. Recovery can take a few weeks, dependent on the location of the polyp, the surgical approach required, and whether complete removal is possible.
Ear flushing: Some dogs with chronic ear infections can benefit from swabbing the ears for culture to ensure we are using the correct treatment, plus ear canal flushing under anaesthetic. Dogs such as Cocker Spaniels, with long floppy ears, or dogs with narrowed ear canals due to long-term allergies can suffer from nasty fungal and bacterial infections in their ear canals which are resistant to many antibiotics. These infections can cause ulceration of the ear canal, which is very painful. It is, therefore, kinder and more effective to thoroughly flush the ears under anaesthetic, removing any pus, wax, and debris, enabling any medication to successfully get to the infection. Some infections may even require this to be carried out regularly over a period to clear up. Prognosis is dependent on the underlying cause and what infections are present. Failure of medical treatment and management will lead to the need for more invasive procedures such as TECA.
Laryngeal Tieback: This surgery is performed to treat laryngeal paralysis in dogs and cats. Laryngeal paralysis is a condition that sees an animal’s vocal cords fail to open when they breathe in. It occurs due to nerve damage from trauma, nerve disease, or tumours. It leads to noisy breathing, coughing, altered bark, exercise intolerance, difficulty keeping cool, and trouble swallowing food and water. Older animals and some breeds of dog such as Labradors and Irish Setters are more commonly affected. The surgery involves securing the larynx in a semi-open position. 90 – 95% of patients who have the surgery have a significantly improved airway and quality of life.
What ENT equipment do we use at Animal Trust?
Otoscope: This is a handheld device used to investigate the ears. It has a light source and a little funnel that is inserted into the ear canal. It enables us to visualise the entire outer ear canal and tympanic membrane or eardrum, so is used to aid diagnosis of ear canal disease and polyps. It can also be used in a sedated dog to examine some of the nasal cavity.
Laryngoscope: This is a handheld instrument that shines a light down a blunt metal ‘blade’ which is used to depress the tongue. It allows us to examine the larynx, tonsils, and soft palate of cats and dogs. This can be therefore used to check for laryngeal paralysis, BOAS, tonsillar growths, and polyps. Some of these examinations may need to be carried out under sedation or anaesthetic.
Rhinoscopy: This is an examination of the nasal cavity using a fibre-optic endoscope to allow direct visualisation of the tissues within the nose and nasopharynx. Rhinoscopy is carried out under general anaesthesia and is a non-invasive way of examining the nose and taking samples, locating polyps, or removing foreign material within the nose. This service is currently available at Animal Trust Failsworth.
Radiography: This is a term for the taking of X–Rays. Radiography can be useful to detect conditions of the inner ear, check for aspiration pneumonia in dogs with laryngeal paralysis, check for signs of cancer spreading in animals with tonsillar or thyroid cancer, and locate some foreign objects such as fishhooks, which can become embedded in the mouth and throat.
CT (computed Tomography) scans: A CT scan combines a series of X-ray images taken from different angles to create cross-sections of bones, blood vessels, and soft tissues of the body. The scans are much more detailed than a plain X-ray. They are particularly useful in diagnosing nasal disease and middle and inner ear disease, including polyps. CT scanning is offered at Animal Trust Bolton and Ellesmere Port.
If you know or suspect your pet may be in need of ENT surgery, do not hesitate to book a free consultation with our vets at Animal Trust. If you haven’t visited our clinics before, please register using our simple online form.