Veterinary Surgery

November 2017 Patient of the Month

Arlie 2.jpg

Arlie's Story

In February of 2015, we lost our doxie, Bosley.  He had been our son for 13 years and his passing left an emptiness in our life.  My husband and I were determined not to rush into adopting another dog, but in November we happened to see a picture of two dachshund brothers, Jamis and Arlie, on Facebook that were up for adoption at Chapman’s Dachshund Rescue and our hearts opened up to these two sweethearts. We contacted Chapman’s and made arrangements to travel to York, SC to adopt our new sons.  Unfortunately, a couple of days later, my husband’s mother passed away and we weren’t sure when we would be able to get the boys. Chapman’s was willing to hold them for us, so on Thanksgiving Day we finally headed to Chapman’s to meet our boys.

On November 29, we drove to the rescue which was abound with lots of noisy, but happy, dachshunds of all shapes, colors and types.  Gina Chapman met us and introduced us to a handsome red dapple doxie named Jamis and his sweet brother, also a red shorthair, named Arlie.  Gina gave us a large crate, and soon we were off to my cousin’s home, about an hour away, for the night and on to Syracuse and home the following day. Jamis and Arlie were five years old when we adopted them and had come from a home in Utah.  Their owner was elderly and had to be put in a residential facility that did not take dogs.  Her family took the dogs to their home in Fayetteville, NC, but did not want to keep them.  Gina Chapman came to the rescue and took them to her facility about two weeks before we adopted them.

Arlie and Jamis

Arlie and Jamis

Upon arrival at our home, the boys were very happy to see we had a large fenced-in yard, and proceeded to check out the critters who stood no chance against the doxie hunters.  In the months that followed, they became an integral part of our family and friends.  Jamis’ high-pitched scream and Arlie’s “talking” became a daily occurrence whenever we returned from a few hours away from the house.

In late October of the next year, Arlie began walking unsteadily with his back end seemingly weak.  We took him to our vet who stated that we should either take him to Cornell or the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York.  When she said that, it brought back memories of a problem our Bosley had, so we felt time was critical so we took him to VMC.  He was admitted that evening and after a few hours he was unable to walk at all.  Dr. Robinson, who had operated on Bosley in 2004, diagnosed that Arlie had a herniated disc and proceeded to operate.  After a couple of days, we were able to take our little man home and begin home therapy.  My husband and I learned how to express his bladder and perform leg exercises.  In the next few weeks and months, we also took him for acupuncture and physical therapy with Dr. Fleckenstein and Lis at Care Pet Therapy.  After a few months of therapy he was almost back to normal, running and chasing any animal that dared to enter our yard.

In June of 2017, we noticed that Arlie had again started to walk oddly.   We thought maybe he had just hurt his leg when running, but in a couple of days we knew that something more serious was happening.  Dachshunds are notorious for racing down steps and jumping off couches and beds, thinking themselves invincible.  This time we weren’t waiting, and went to the VMC right away.   After examination, Arlie was diagnosed with a slipped disc, and once again needed surgery.  Dr. Robinson was quite surprised that he had a disc injury again, as it was extremely rare but not unheard of.  So once again, Arlie began a regimen of acupuncture and therapy, which continues to this day.  However, he is a strong fighter and although his gait is still a bit wobbly, he handles it like a champ.  My husband carries him up and down stairs, we watch him relentlessly so that he doesn’t jump off the couch.  When he needs his alone time, we also have a playpen set up with lots of soft blankets in our family room.  

Arlie 3.jpg

Arlie never ceases to amaze us with his attitude.  Although he has endured much pain and hardship in his short life of seven years, he takes his handicap in stride and achieves a quality of life on his own terms.  When he is tired, he rests; when he is happy, his tail wags like a propeller; and when he needs something, he “talks” until we figure out what he wants.  And when he cuddles with us and he looks at us with his big brown eyes, no words are sufficient or necessary.   We love him with all of our heart, and look forward to many happy years with him and Jamis.

With a grateful heart-   Arlie’s Mom and Dad


April 2017 Patient of the Month

I know everyone feels their family pet is the best pet in whole wide world and well, they should!  For me to say my Riley is the bravest, strongest, hardest-working Labrador out there would be an understatement….For the past year and a few months, Riley has gone from being knocked down, literally, not being able to walk or get around (lameness both hind legs at one point), to being able to take hikes, run through a field in a new-kind-of-way, go on canoe rides, swim in lakes, and so much more.  Riley is a fighter and is where he is today because of the dedication, experience and compassion of Dr. Robinson, Lis Conarton and Dr. Burnett.

I knew from the moment I held Riley in my arms at six weeks old he was going to change my life.  Riley is a purebred lab and he came into our lives with the understanding that both his parents were healthy and had no history of medical or physical issues.  Riley was active as most lab puppies are right from the start and at six months old we noticed he was walking a “bit” funny and sure enough, he had elbow dysplasia in one of his front elbows.   However after two medical exams it was determined he had the type of dysplasia that was caused by the way his two bones grew together and there really wasn’t anything to be fixed.  We were like “whoa” and figured, well, if that’s the worst thing that happens to Riley, we can handle it because Riley was happy and was still able to do his “Riley-thing.”

Memorial Day, 2015 is a day, a moment in time, I will never forget.  I had come home from a bike ride and was in the back yard with my husband, and the kitchen door must have blown open.  Riley heard my voice and wanted to be at my side as quickly as possible.  Riley leapt out the door, over two steps, and must have landed wrong, because the next thing we knew from the back yard is we heard a cry that a dog owner NEVER wants to hear in their lifetime, and we soon saw our Riley dragging himself into the backyard. Despite his agonizing pain he wanted to be at my side.  He is my boy and I will never forget his face, his cry and instantaneously Riley’s short life, he was just four, flashed before me.  He needed help and he needed it right away.

The VMC came into my life, into Riley’s life that day.  Dr. Robinson examined Riley and confirmed he had torn his rear left CCL and that he would need surgery to repair the damage.  Three days later, not knowing Dr. Robinson or his staff, I put my boy in their care, and I am glad I did.  Riley had TPLO surgery and he did great!  At that moment I had no idea how challenging, how difficult it would be to rehabilitate a 100 pound lab who used to run fields, jump logs, and swim rivers.  Riley, after surgery, with the support of a tech, came into a room with no hair on his hind quarter, very tired, but so happy to see me.  I remember sitting on the floor with Riley with a blanket for quite some time.  The VMC did not rush me out. They let me just lay with Riley because he needed me.  Riley was there for two nights and then he came home to begin his healing.

When Riley was six weeks into healing, we came for a re-check, and Dr. Robinson confirmed the bone was healing, but had not fully healed. He said that he could start physical therapy.  Riley met Lis a day or two after that.  When he walked in to see Lis she asked if the right had the surgery and I said, “No, the left.”  A day later, Riley was on a very slow, short walk with me down a path into a field at my parent’s farm and he collapsed.  He cried out, just as awful as the last time.  I knew what had happened.  Time stopped for me as I went to the ground holding Riley.  His rear right CCL had torn along with the meniscus this time.  The left leg was weeks from being healed, and Riley lay in the field with two rear legs in bad shape, total lameness.  To say the VMC was supportive when we rushed Riley there would be an understatement.  I cried, they gave me the time I needed to cry, and to accept the reality.  After two long weeks of waiting and good pain management, Dr. Robinson, performed a second TPLO surgery on Riley’s rear right leg.

Riley’s second surgery was early August of 2015 and by October Riley was back to see Lis, this time with two newly repaired hind legs.  It was overwhelming at first with all the exercise suggestions, and massage techniques, but Lis was patient, always a listener, and above all, compassionate.  Lis suggested we meet with Dr. Burnett because Riley had been through a lot and was dealing with a good amount of pain and it was affecting his rehabilitation progress.  Dr. Burnett was phenomenal and got Riley in a comfortable place so his body was able to begin healing with limited amounts of pain and discomfort.  

It has been about a year and half since Riley’s first TPLO surgery and he has experienced some hiccups along the way.  Through it all, Lis and Dr. Burnett have been there for Riley and he is in such a great place now.  Riley is a new version of Riley, now, after all, he has two rods, one in each rear leg with six screws each.  But, what hasn’t changed through it all is Riley’s spirit, determination and fight.  Riley has fought his way to be where he is today and couldn’t have done it without the support of the VMC of CNY.  

Riley continues to do laser and hydrotherapy with Lis on a monthly basis and does re-checks with Dr. Burnett every 3 months.  He takes Duralactin, Tramadol, Gabapentin and Omega-3 Oil Supplements daily to help with discomfort and arthritis/inflammation management. Thank you Lis!  Thank you Dr. Burnett!  And thank you to all of the staff who have reached out and touched my heart and Riley’s heart throughout this journey.  Riley is back to “living the life of Riley, again!”

                                                     ~The Schultz Family


March 2017 Patient of the Month

Hemi's Story

One day in July of 2009, we were at our veterinary clinic for a visit with one of our cats. A family had recently left a handsome yellow lab with Doctor Kibiuk, Doctor Jank and staff at the Watertown Animal Hospital. His name was Hemi, he needed surgeryon his left knee, and the doctors were hoping to find a new family for him but knew it would be difficult. They mentioned him to us since they knew we were looking for a dog to adopt. We met him once and that was all it took. He came home with us that dayand we learned quickly that he was a happy, friendly and very energetic guy.

In October of 2009, Doctor Jank successfully performed surgery on Hemi’s ACL in his left knee. Around the same time, pre-existing skin allergies became increasingly worse and unbearable, and he ended up having 2 hematomas, one in each ear, and 2 surgeries as a result. After several years, and several medications that didn’t work, we went to Cornell for allergy testing. Hemi now receives allergy shots and Apoquel and can get through the day and night without scratching continuously. Hemi loves walking in the fields and woods, and one day turned to look backwards and his right knee buckled! Another torn ACL and another surgery performed by Doctor Jank. Unfortunately, this surgery was not as successful and he had to go to Cornell to have a TPLO performed on his right knee. Throughout his recovery, it was a struggle to keep Hemi walking slowly, but he was learning and doing great, until he had a setback. Cornell diagnosed him with Peripheral Neuropathy and Laryngeal Paralysis. He continued to have trouble with his back legs, which weakened and caused pain and stress on his front legs as well. Throughout all of this, he has remained the same happy, friendly and energetic guy we first met.

Desperate for help, we asked Doctor Jank if there was anything we could do for him. Doctor Jank talked to us about looking into acupuncture and physical rehabilitation and he recommended Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York. We called VMC the very next day and set up an appointment with Doctor Michelle Burnett on July 28, 2015 for acupuncture and pain management. We also made an appointment with Doctor Molly Flaherty to begin physical rehabilitation after she arrived from Chicago in early August of 2015. So began our visits at VMC weekly for physical rehabilitation and acupuncture treatments, along with pain management assessments, every other week. 

Our visits with Doctor Flaherty include laser therapy on Hemi’s joints, spinal manipulation and underwater treadmill treatments. Hemi does not like water and barked the entire time he was in the tank until Doctor Flaherty “out foxed” him. A kong filled with peanut butter, that he can lick, makes him forget all about the water he’s in. Doctor Flaherty & Jen have helped Hemi to maintain muscle mass, which enables him to have a better mobility. He can now enjoy his daily walks and move around the house so much easier.

Doctor Burnett has helped Hemi be able to enjoy his daily activities more comfortably by introducing him to new medications and acupuncture treatments. She gets a workout during each acupuncture visit because Hemi is much more interested in visiting than standing still for the needles to be placed in position. Although, by the time the electroacupuncture machine is hooked up, he is worn out and usually dozes until the treatment is finished.

Then, as the weeks went by we noticed that Hemi’s breathing was increasingly labored. This was due to the Laryngeal Paralysis and needed attention. At the beginning of the summer, Doctor Timothy Robinson performed Tieback surgery on Hemi to relieve the breathing stress. Hemi was then able to get through the summer without any further problems.

We are so happy and fortunate to have Hemi as part of our family. Hemi just celebrated his 13th birthday at the end of October and we cannot thank VMC enough for everything they are doing for him. Our experiences with everyone at VMC has been outstanding!

-- The Coons Family


  • ALC Left Knee
  • TPLO Right Knee
  • Arthritis in Most Joints
  • Laryngeal Paralysis


  • Laser Therapy
  • Underwater Treadmill
  • Chiropractic Care
  • Acupuncture
  • Pain Management




January 2017 Patient of the Month!

Stella's Story

When we adopted Stella in 2010, we weren’t looking for a young dog. We had our hearts set on a 9-year old female from German Shepherd Rescue who could be a companion to our 9.5-year-old male, Ezra. The 9-year-old female did not want to live in a house with other dogs, so the rescue steered us to Stella, a 2.5-year-old that had been surrendered by her family.  We feel in love with Stella’s sweet personality and playfulness immediately.  Stella and Ezra were running around and playing like old friends shortly after meeting so we knew she was the dog for us. 

Stella had a femoral head and neck osteotomy performed on her left hip when she was 6-months old after x-rays showed hip dysplasia. Despite this early setback, Stella is an extremely active dog who loves to play fetch and Frisbee. Occasionally we noticed that Stella was stiff after her playtimes. We brought her in for Physical Rehabilitation and Pain Management at the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY. Dr. Fleckenstein and Lis Conarton had worked wonders on our old shepherd, Ezra’s issues through the end of his life so we knew they would come up with a plan to keep Stella active. We immediately saw a decrease in Stella’s stiffness and recovery once we added physical rehabilitation. We have kept Stella on a 4 to 6-week rotation of chiropractic care and hydrotherapy and followed a regiment of home exercise and stretches. 

When we adopted Stella we knew she had anxiety issues. Having a strong male role model around helps with Stella’s anxiety but it is still a problem. Stella’s greatest problems occur during thunderstorms. We have frequently come home or woken up to find Stella wedged into a space that is too small for her. Stella has cut herself during these episodes but never caused an injury that required medical care. In early July, Stella panicked during a thunderstorm and wedged herself under our bed. The bedframe is very close to the ground. The only way Stella was able to get herself under the bed was to unnaturally contort her body. Stella was wedged in so tight that we could not pull her out. I was able to pull Stella out after my husband lifted the bed. It looked like she had rotated her hips at a strange angle so we weren’t surprised that she was a little stiff when she started walking around. 

Aside from the stiffness, she acted like her normal, playful self.  The next morning when we took her out to play fetch it was obvious that something was wrong. She was not putting weight on her left hind leg. We brought Stella to the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY for evaluation and found out that she had ruptured her cruciate ligament. Dr. Robinson and the surgical team assured us that this was a common injury in active dogs and that Stella would be back to her playful self about 12 weeks after surgery if we followed a strict rest and recovery program. 

Stella 1.png

One week after Stella’s surgery we started Acupuncture. Stella had a lot of bruising and swelling around her knee and ankle and her leg was extremely hot to the touch. A few hours after her first Acupuncture treatment, the bruising and swelling had decreased significantly. We continued with treatments every two weeks through Stella’s 6-week post op x-rays. Once we got the all-clear that she was healing well, we were able to add Physical Rehabilitation with Lis. Visits with Lis for laser therapy were already part of Stella’s recovery but we were happy that now she was going to be able to do something active to burn off some of that nervous energy. 

At this point, we are almost 11 weeks post-surgery and Stella is doing great. Stella now comes in twice a month for her treatments with Dr. Polly and Lis and we follow our home exercise and mobility regiment.  Stella is doing better than we expected at this point and is basically back to her old self. Even though some parts of the recovery process have been difficult, things would have been much worse without the great care and support that we receive from the VMC. You never want anything bad to happen to your pet but when it does, it is great to have such a great resource close by that embraces both traditional and non-traditional approaches to veterinary care. 

                               ~The Sliwiak Family


  • History of Left Femoral Head & Neck Osteotomy
  • Left Cranial Cruciate Ligament Rupture corrected with TPLO repair
  • Noise Phobia
  • Separation Anxiety
  • Secondary Compensatory Muscle Pain


  • Electroacupuncture
  • Laser Therapy
  • Hydrotherapy
  • Massage
  • Soft Tissue Mobilization
  • VSMT
  • Alprazolam (for anxiety)
  • Shen Calmer (Chinese Herbs for Anxiety)
  • Pain Management Perioperatively (and as needed)
  • Tendon Ligament Formula Chinese Herbs





VMC's October Patient of the Month

Blackjack's Story


Hello, my name is Blackjack, everyone calls me Jack for short and my friends at daycare call me Jack-Jack as they have decided I like to hear my name. I am Lord Blackjack of Rambunctiousness as it could be seen by the look in my eyes I was destined for trouble from the very beginning.

I am a 7 year old black lab. I was having various limping episodes and had gone to see Doctor Goetz and Doctor Rodriguez at Manlius Veterinary Hospital. It was decided they needed an X-ray to confirm that I had a cruciate tear. Once that was confirmed I was sent to Doctor Robinson at Veterinary Medical Center for a consult for surgery. We discussed my options and decided that for my size the TPLO surgery was the way to go. The left side was also showing a tear so it was explained that the likelihood of the other side needing surgery at a later time was probable. So I had surgery in October and the follow-up X-rays as scheduled. I had not healed as fast as expected, (probably due to my inability to sit still) and required more time of sitting watching DogTV. Now don’t get me wrong, DogTV is great but I had things to do.

My Dad had heard that Lis would be great to help with recovery but she was booked weeks in advance and I just could not wait. So we made our appointment with Doctor Molly Flaherty and started laser and treadmill therapy. I get my chiropractic adjustment, too. And there was water involved!

My first session was all about what was expected of me.  Once we got the hang of it and toys got introduced I was hooked.  As expected four months after the first surgery the left leg was weakening and I needed another TPLO on that knee. Doctor Flaherty suggested starting laser the day after surgery and what a difference it made. It made a real difference with swelling and I healed a lot faster. I wish I had known for the first TPLO!

Since December I have been a weekly patient of Doctor Flaherty. I have laser and cannot wait for my turn at the water treadmill; splashes for everyone! I love coming to VMC for water fun, visiting friends, hugs and cookies. My four months recovery after the second surgery is over I still want to continue coming to help build more muscle and maintenance for elbow dysplasia. The goal is to be able to go back to daycare and play with my human and canine friends. There are more lakes out there to play in. I am so thankful that Doctor Flaherty and Jen Waldron were able to help with my recovery and future success in having fun and making people happy.

~Blackjack & Family



VMC September Patient of the Month

Bevyn's Story


In December of 2015, I noticed a small growth on the lower lip of my 4 year old Golden Retriever, Bevyn. I contacted his primary veterinarian and brought him in to be evaluated. They decided to perform a fine needle aspiration of the growth and had me continue to monitor the area for any changes. The fine needle aspiration was inconclusive and within a couple of weeks his front bottom teeth began to shift and there was obvious inflammation. Due to the sudden changes in his mouth, his vet performed x-rays of his jaw and she confirmed that a tumor was present.

I was beyond devastated. Unfortunately, due to his breed the vet prepared me for the “C” word, cancer. I was immediately referred to Dr. Rassnick at the VMC in January 2016. During the oncology consult, Dr. Rassnick discussed the options that were available for Bevyn and from there we started our journey at the VMC. A fine needle aspiration was initially performed on 2 lymph nodes to rule out any metastasis, thankfully they were both clear. A CT scan was performed to show the margins of the tumor and biopsies were taken which confirmed the diagnosis of fibrosarcoma.

The next step was meeting with Dr. Robinson for a surgery consult to remove the tumor. Dr. Robinson’s plan was to perform a bilateral rostral mandibulectomy (removing a large portion of his lower jaw). In March 2016, Bevyn’s surgery was a success and I was able to bring him home the day after surgery. Dr. Robinson’s surgical work on Bevyn’s mouth was wonderful. I had planned for alterations in Bevyn’s basic activities such as eating, drinking and playing with his toys but he has continued to prove me wrong! He is eating and drinking the same as before his surgery and he still enjoys finding sticks outside to chew on. Although we have hit some bumps in the road during Bevyn’s recovery and a few more than anticipated visits to the VMC, Bevyn is still my happy and energetic boy.

Bevyn is currently undergoing chemotherapy treatments with Dr. Rassnick to prevent any future regrowth or spread of the fibrosarcoma. The level of compassion and professionalism we have received from all of the staff at the VMC has been immense. I am thankful every day for the care that has been provided for Bevyn.

~Bevyn’s Mom


  • Oral Fibrosarcoma


  • Mandibulectomy surgery to remove tumor and section of affected jaw
  • Multiple chemotherapy treatments followed surgery due to his risk of tumor recurrence and spread


Safety Nets


Through some unusual circumstances, this sweet, homeless, and very broken little guy ended up in our care. We knew right away that we loved him, but such an extensive injury in a stray cat doesn't often point toward a happy ending.


We, like so many other veterinary hospitals in our area, provide pro bono care for lost and abused pets on a daily basis. The sad truth of the matter is that the combined efforts of our veterinary community and our shelter/rescue community cannot possibly treat all the issues of every homeless animal in our area. Cats in particular have very little safety net at all. In many cases, a stray cat with such a profound and painful injury would have been euthanized.

We reached out to Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse and their Leg Up Fund to see if they would be interested in sponsoring this cat's treatment.  Their answer was a resounding yes.  Almost simultaneously, one of our wonderful and compassionate Emergency Veterinarians fell in love with this lucky boy and adopted him (severely fractured leg and all) and transferred him into our surgical service for treatment. The Leg Up Fund wouldn't be necessary after all, and we're happy to report that this handsome boy is now all fixed up and enjoying his new home.

We’re proud of the Good Samaritans who went many extra miles to get this very injured kitty to a safe place.  We're proud of our talented surgical team who were able to neatly repair this complicated fracture. We have no idea how long ago this injury occurred, but it was definitely days after the ideal time for surgical repair. We're proud of yet another member of our staff who stepped in to provide a needy animal with a loving home and much needed medical care. We're proud of and grateful for Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse and their Leg Up Fund for their willingness to provide a safety net for this and other homeless pets in need, even as we didn't need to lean on them in this case.

The Leg Up Fund is a relatively new initiative in CNY, but is already making a positive impact.  From the Animal Alliance of Greater Syracuse:

In the past 14 months nine homeless and ill pets have stepped into bright futures thanks to your support of AAGS’s LEG UP FUND!

We are honored to announce a new member has joined the LEG UP team—the Veterinary Medical Center of Central New York! With its dedicated staff and wide range of specialties, VMC joins Dewitt Animal Hospital-Shelter in providing the best possible veterinary care for seriously ill or injured strays in need of a leg up.

Most pets coming through the doors of veterinary practices have families to pay for what could be complex or long-term care. LEG UP pets have no one. Since most shelters are non-profits, ill strays who come through their doors can be the recipients of fundraising drives to cover their medical treatment.

LEG UP’s veterinary partners are not non-profits; donations to them are not tax-deductible. Therefore, they are not in position to mount funding appeals for homeless animals requiring significant care.

AAGS is not a shelter, rescue, or veterinary practice. We are an animal welfare advocacy group who can provide the needed fundraising service on behalf of these unowned pets. Since we are a 501c3, your LEG UP contributions to AAGS are fully tax-deductible and go directly to support the veterinary care of homeless pets.

Because donors like you have a special spot in your hearts for these vulnerable, deserving creatures, LEG UP has been able to raise thousands of dollars for a wide range of treatments: orthopedic repairs, heartworm, generalized mange, amputation, eye surgery, and more.

We post reports about each LEG UP recipient on the journey from being a discarded, unwanted animal to a beloved pet with a forever place in the heart and home of a family.

*To contribute online: Visit our Facebook page; the DONATE tab is under the cover photo:

Or visit our website:

*To contribute by mail: AAGS, P.O. Box 94, Liverpool, NY 13088

*For all contributions, please note “Leg Up” in “Notes to Seller” or on the check.

Won’t you give a leg up?

Dorothy's Story

Dot Dot Meet Dorothy, aka Dot Dot Tater Tot.  Dorothy adopted one of our very own VMC staff members this past year. Here is her story as we know it…

Animal control officers picked up Dorothy in June 2015 when they noticed what they believed to be her lifeless body on the side of the street.  Reaching her, they realized that she was emaciated and in very poor condition, but still alive.  They searched the surrounding neighborhood and were successful in finding her owners.  The owners stated that, not only did they no longer want her, they had, in fact, brought her somewhere to be euthanized.  When they found euthanasia too expensive, they returned home with her and simply locked her out of their home in hopes she would wander off.  Eventually, she did.

Animal control brought Dorothy to the CNY SPCA where a volunteer posted her information on Facebook.  That’s where her life takes a turn for the better.  A staff member here at VMC saw the post, asked for more details, and learned that Dorothy was a senior dog who was struggling with both the shelter environment and with an obvious ear problem.

Our staff member asked that Dorothy be brought to the Veterinary Medical Center of CNY to have her health assessed and took financial responsibility for the assessment.   Both of Dorothy’s ears were deformed and scarred, most likely due to untreated past infections and hematomas.  Both the outer tissues and the ear canals were scarred and thickened in both ears.  This thickening had caused both of the ear canals to close.  Dorothy was suffering from extreme pain caused by years of untreated ear infections and had lost much of her ability to hear.


Our staff member fell the rest of the way in love with Dorothy during her visit, and began the adoption process with the CNY SPCA.   While the application was being processed, she quickly convinced the rest of the family (read: her husband) that a senior, mostly deaf dog with severely infected ears that would almost certainly require surgery, would, in fact, be a perfect pet (!).

I-phone Deba 8-2015 674

While pain medications gave Dorothy some relief, she was quickly scheduled for a Bilateral TECA (total ear canal ablation) in hopes that this would permanently relieve her pain and infection.  At this stage, this procedure was the only option to improve Dorothy’s quality of life.  Preoperative bloodwork showed that Dorothy’s kidneys were failing (a relatively common finding in senior pets).   Additional diagnostics tests were performed, adjustments were made to her medications and anesthetic protocol, and she was carefully managed during anesthesia and surgery.  The surgery was very successful and Dorothy recovered very well.  Dorothy was monitored day and night and kept comfortable with pain medications.  She was (mostly) good about keeping her head wrap on, and she seemed less painful and anxious right away.


Dorothy’s ears are now fully healed and her quality of life has significantly improved.  Her kidneys are being closely monitored, and she is being treated with medications and a special diet.  She has not lost her love for people, even after everything she has been through.   She has a feline sister and “smiles” at her every so often, especially when the cat’s path is close to Dorothy’s food or toys.

Like many pets with compromised hearing, Dorothy barks VERY LOUDLY because she lacks a bit of perspective about her volume.  At least that's what we think...she is, in short, a character!  Dorothy is enjoying frequent walks around the neighborhood, playing with her rubber ducky, learning new tricks, the love from her family, and—most importantly—her pain free life.

Learn more about how TECA surgeries give pets with chronic ear infections a whole new lease on life!

Chronic Ear Infections and Total Ear Canal Ablation

dog scratching ear Chronic ear infections are a common and frustrating disease for owners and veterinarians. For the pet, however, the condition is much more than frustrating.  Pets suffering from chronic ear infections and inflammation are often in severe pain, and both cats and dogs can be affected.  Chronic ear infections would be defined as multiple infections per year or infections that never really resolve.

Also referred to as chronic otitis, this condition affects some breeds more frequently than others.  Cocker Spaniels are predisposed, as are other spaniel breeds, Labrador Retrievers, and other breeds with “floppy” ears.  This is probably due both to the conformation of the ear as well as tendency for those breeds to have allergies – the perfect situation for development of chronic ear infections.

Signs of otitis depend on the severity of the infection and degree of inflammation but may include:

  • Shaking the head
  • Scratching at the ears
  • Rubbing the head and ears on the floor or furniture
  • Crying or groaning as they rub and scratch ears
  • Discharge from the ears, which can sometimes have a foul odor
  • Redness of the ear canal and ear flap (the ears may also feel warm when touched)
  • Ear hematoma, evidenced by a severely swollen ear flap
  • Aggression or avoidance when the head or ears are approached

Appropriate medical management is often successful in curing acute otitis.  Unfortunately, treatment often only works temporarily.  Painful ears can prove challenging to medicate, and if the underlying cause of the infection is not addressed, the treatment may fail to work at all.  Once the condition becomes long-term, or “chronic”, treatment becomes increasingly difficult to manage and antibiotic resistance also becomes a concern.

The underlying cause of otitis is often allergic.  These patients get stuck in a cycle of inflammation and infection which eventually leads to thickening and scarring of the tissues, collapse of the ear canals, ruptured ear drums, and accumulation of debris and infection within the middle ear. Over time, the scar tissue blocks the canals, preventing topical medications from reaching the diseased portions. The blocked canals also prevent the natural shedding of wax and hair.  This debris accumulates in the canals and within the middle ear, adding to inflammation and pain.

We see many of these cases here at VMC, where the cycle of pain, itching, chronic pus and infection, head shaking, chronic medication, and owner fatigue have led the pet owner to seek a surgical specialist and a permanent solution.

A Total Ear Canal Ablation (or TECA) is a procedure that removes the vertical and horizontal ear canals down to the level of the middle ear. Due to the high incidence of middle ear involvement with chronic otitis, the middle ear is also cleaned out using a technique called a lateral bulla osteotomy.  That procedure removes some bone and any infected tissue to allow for continued healing.  While TECA procedures are most often performed to treat severe cases of chronic otitis and infection, the procedure is also performed in the treatment of other ear diseases, such as traumatic ear canal injury and when removing tumors in the ear.

Canine ear anatomy

This may sound dramatic, but the permanent treatment is much better than the chronic pus, pain, and constant medicating that most pets are experiencing.  During the surgery, it is normal to find a large amount of debris, hair, and pus in the bulla.   It is easy to understand then, why these cases of chronic disease have not resolved medically, given the amount of debris within the middle ear.   We submit samples of the tissues in the bulla to a lab for culturing, and we commonly find that antibiotic resistant bacteria (such as MRSA) are present.

The most common complications with the TECA are facial nerve paralysis and vestibular problems or “vertigo.”  Facial nerve paralysis and vertigo are usually temporary and resolve without specific treatment.  A very small percentage of cases can experience an abscess in the area months or years later. During surgery, the bulla cavity is cleaned of all recognizable tissues, but if any microscopic cells remain, they have the potential to grow and begin to shed cells again. This debris can accumulate in the bulla, sometimes becomes infected, and may develop an abscess.   All associated risks increase with the severity of the condition, so considering this treatment early in the disease process is recommended.

As with any other surgery, there is a risk of anesthetic complication.  In general, most anesthetic problems can be prevented with complete assessment of the patient.  The physical examination and preoperative bloodwork will provide baseline information and guide recommendations for additional diagnostic testing prior to anesthesia.  All surgical patients at VMC are monitored using multi-parameter equipment and a Licensed Veterinary Technician dedicated to your pet.  There are no anesthesia complications unique to TECA surgery, although each patient is unique with his/her own limitations and concerns to be managed.

Many owners are concerned about deafness after the surgery. While the TECA removes the apparatus that transmits sound via the air (i.e., the ear canal and ear drum) sound can still be sensed via the vibrations that come to the cochlear apparatus through the sinuses and skull. This is similar to the level of hearing one experiences when wearing earplugs or when underwater. No sound reaches the cochlear apparatus through the air, but we can still hear sounds and voices.  The reality is that most dogs with chronic otitis are already hearing at this low level due to the collapse and obstruction of their ear canal and middle ear, where no sound waves are being transmitted via the air. Most owners do not report a change in the pet's ability to hear after a TECA.

A TECA surgery is often a very rewarding surgery for the patient, the pet owner, and the veterinarian. Most owners report a dramatic improvement in the attitude of their pets post-operatively, and they frequently report an increase in activity level and play behaviors – sometimes behaviors they have not seen in months or years.  A more social and playful pet, combined with relief from daily ear cleaning and medicating, offers the owner a huge sense of relief.

Girl Petting Crossbreed Dog

In summary, a TECA surgery will:

  • Eliminate ongoing ear pain, odor, and infection
  • Eliminate the need for and cost of ear medications and veterinary visits to treat chronic ear infections
  • Improve your relationship with your pet (no odor, no pain, no difficult ear treatments)
  • Improve your pet's attitude, activity and general well being with the removal of chronic pain, inflammation, and infection

Some pets, particularly those with long ear flaps, may still require topical cleaning post-surgically.  Surgery will not correct the allergic reaction that creates a good environment for bacteria and yeast to grow under those flaps (or ear pinnae), but, overall, the pet’s comfort will be much increased.

The TECA should not be viewed as strictly a salvage procedure or last resort.  The benefits of the procedure argue for it to be recommended much earlier in the course of the disease process.  Many dogs and cats with chronic otitis are excellent candidates for the surgery once it becomes clear that the otitis is a chronic problem.  Additionally, potential complications will be fewest if the surgery is performed early in the disease process, and both you and your pet can appreciate the benefits earlier!

Read this post for the story of a dog who has benefited from this surgery!


After your pet is under anesthesia, his/her ears flaps and surrounding skin are shaved, and the ear canal is cleaned. The area is prepared for sterile surgery.

An incision is made around the cartilage of the external/outer ear canal, and the canal is removed down to the level of the middle ear. The middle ear (also called the "bulla") is a boney, eggshell-like structure on the side of the skull. The eardrum normally is stretched across the opening between the external/outer ear and the middle ear. In the majority of dogs requiring a TECA, the ear drum has been ruptured for a long period of time. The middle ear is cleaned of infected material and tissue, and then flushed with sterile saline. A culture sample is taken at this time to help identify any remaining bacteria.

Canine ear anatomy

The surgery is completed by sewing the tissues closed in several layers, ending with sutures in the skin completely closing what used to be an open ear canal. A temporary drain will be left in place for 1-2 days.


Your pet will stay in the hospital for at least 24hrs so we can manage recovery and pain control.  Patients are often more comfortable if their head and ears are bandaged snuggly to prevent ear flapping or bumping the incision.

I-phone Deba 8-2015 680

An antibiotic will be prescribed for up to 2-4wks. Pain medications will also be prescribed for the first week post-operatively.

Sutures will need to be removed 10-14 days after surgery.

Read this post for the story of a dog who has benefited from this surgery!

March Patient of the Month

Sophia's Story

Sophia Robinson


Sophia is a 6 ½ year old German Shepherd. She has always been an old soul whose demeanor  has changed the minds of numerous people who used to be apprehensive of German Shepherds. She brings countless joy to everyone she meets. Unfortunately, when she was two, she was diagnosed with hip dysplasia. The medications she was put on made her a zombie, so we proceeded to seek out alternative pain management. After asking countless dog friends, the answer was unanimous that we must go see “Dr. Polly.” Her acupuncture treatments became a true pleasure for Sophia. She looks forward to seeing Dr. Polly Fleckenstein, Sue and all the CCRs at VMC. She goes from obvious pain on the way there, to acting like a puppy when she is done with her treatment.

About 8 months ago Sophie fell going up the stairs at our house. We immediately went for an acupuncture treatment and then to Dr. Lee.  Between Dr. Polly and Dr. Lee they realized that Sophie was suffering from nerve pain in her back. Dr. Robinson was suggested by many friends and vets as our next step.  After looking at her x-rays he determined that she needed an MRI at Cornell to confirm that she had Lumbosacral Syndrome.  Once that was confirmed she was put on a medication and acupuncture therapy.  It didn’t take my husband and I long to realize that we needed to treat this more aggressively, as she was not getting better. She was no longer “our Sophia” as she was sad and zombie-like.

Sophia Robinson 2

After a wonderful consult with Dr. Robinson discussing exactly what the surgery and rehab would entail, we then decided surgery was our best option. Post-op after surgery, we saw an immediate change; her eyes were SO beautiful and back to how they were before all of the pain! Since surgery we have been back to acupuncture and even added physical rehabilitation with Lis! Sophia loves all the attention of doing her exercises and massages with me! The WHOLE team at VMC has made it so that I have my Sophia back. Not only me, Sophia will be headed back to her role as a therapy dog as well!  Because of VMC and Sophia’s “team” she is again bringing joy to everyone she meets and living a full, pain-free life!

~Robinson Family



  • Chronic Mild Hip Dysplasia
  • Lumbosacral Disease
  • Thoracolumbar Osteoarthritis


  • Dorsal Laminectomy surgery
  • Electroacupuncture
  • Low Level laser therapy
  • Myofascial Trigger Point Release
  • Massage & Joint Mobilization
  • Underwater Treadmill Therapy
  • Therapeutic Exercise  Program
  • Cosequin DS
  • Duralactin
  • Gabapentin
  • EFA supplementation