Filly's Damaged Ear Repaired With Surgery

Horses' ears are designed for distinguishing fine sounds, protecting sensitive inner ear structures, and communicating with herdmates. An 18-month-old Belgian Warmblood filly's ear was injured (likely on a fence), resulting in the ear bending backward, exposing the ear canal and causing an unsightly blemish. However, surgeons were able to reshape the ear into a normal appearance.

Lieven E. Vlaminck, DVM, was one of the authors of a report on the filly, which was treated at the Department of Surgery and Anesthesia of Domestic Animals at Ghent University in Merelbeke, Belgium.

Ear injuries typically are related to fence accidents and sometimes bite or frostbite injuries. The filly's wound was treated with antibiotic ointment and local antiseptics for about three weeks. As the wound healed, the tip of the ear curled backward at about a 50-60-degree angle when the cartilage thickened. The wound didn't seem to affect the filly's hearing, but the owners wanted the ear corrected for aesthetic and sale reasons.

During the surgery, incisions were made through the inner cartilage. This resulted in the relief of contraction and curling, which allowed reshaping of the ear into a normal appearance. A skin graft was sutured onto the cartilage and granulation tissue areas so future wound contracture was prevented. A thermoplastic "splint" was applied to the ear's inner surface. Within 30 days, the bandage, thermoplastic splint, and sutures were removed. Six months later, the filly's ear had retained its normal shape and appearance, with the exception of a few white hairs where the injury had been.

Vlaminck said, "The owners were completely satisfied with the cosmetic results obtained. The treatment was definitely successful in re-establishing a normal appearance of the ear."

About the Author

Liz Stitt, Editorial Intern

Liz Stitt was The Horse's editorial intern in 2005 and a student majoring in equine science and English at the University of Kentucky.

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