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In Veterinary Terms, what is a Pinnectomy?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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A pinnectomy, in veterinary terms, refers to the removal of all or part of the ear. The Latin root pinna refers to the ear, while an ectomy in medical terms is a removal. There are several types of pinnectomies, and the surgery is performed for a wide variety of reasons ranging from medical necessity to aesthetic. Most animals recover well from a pinnectomy, given proper care and prophylactic antibiotics to prevent the onset of infection.

A unilateral pinnectomy refers to the removal of one ear, while a bilateral pinnectomy is the removal of both ears. In some cases, a partial pinnectomy may be performed, where part of the ear is removed. The surgery is performed under anesthesia, and pain management drugs are provided before and after the procedure to promote a positive outcome.

Pinnectomies are often performed for medical reasons, usually when an animal has skin cancer on the surface of its ears. This is especially common in white animals, which have no natural pigment to resist ultraviolet radiation, which can lead to carcinomas and cancers. While most skin cancer of the ears is not malignant and will not spread to other parts of the body, it is uncomfortable and unsightly, characterized by weeping lesions and obvious sites of irritation. In this case, a bilateral pinnectomy is usually recommended, and both ears are removed as close to the head as possible to prevent recurrence. Biopsy is also recommended, to ensure that the cancer has been fully excised.

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Especially in dogs, a cosmetic pinnectomy is sometimes performed to achieve a desired look. Some species have their ears sharpened with a cosmetic pinnectomy, to give the head a crisper look. Some members of the American Veterinary Association have spoken out against cosmetic pinnectomy, arguing that it is an unnecessary and potentially dangerous procedure.

After a pinnectomy, the inside of an animal's ear will be more sensitive. The outer pinna of the ear helps to keep out dust, dirt, and other potential sources of infection. After the pinna is removed, pet owners should be sure to clean their animal's ears regularly with products recommended by a veterinarian, keeping an eye out for signs or ear mites and irritation. In the case of white animals, the animal should be confined indoors if possible to prevent additional sun exposure, or sunscreen can be used. Some owners of white animals tattoo unpigmented areas to help prevent sun damage.

As with any veterinary procedure, a trusted veterinarian should be used, and his or her recommendations followed for post surgical care. In cases where it is medically necessary, a pinnectomy can result in a happier and healthier animal with a longer life expectancy and greater quality of life.

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