Ear Hematomas in Dogs: Symptoms, Diagnoses and Treatment

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Is your dog shaking their head excessively? Is their ear red and swollen? Well, they may be suffering from an ear hematoma. But what is that exactly? Keep reading to learn more about this painful condition and how to treat it! 

What are Ear Hematomas in Dogs?

dog laying on table with ear hematoma
Photo Credit: PetCoach

An ear hematoma in dogs, or aural hematoma, is the result of a blood artery rupturing in the ear and bleeding into the area between the ear cartilage and the skin. A dog’s ear hematoma is can cause excruciating ear pain, and the severe swelling might be frightening. A hematoma will heal on its own if it is not treated, although this might take weeks.

They have the appearance of a blister, albeit they are not as red as a typical blood blister. Swelling and a hard enlarged lump on the earflap that feels spongy or like a water balloon will be seen. Hematomas seldom explode, even if they appear to be on the verge of doing so. However, they can be quite uncomfortable for your dog, particularly when touched.

What Causes Ear Hematomas in Dogs?

An ear infection or other inflammation within the ear is the most prevalent cause of an ear hematoma in dogs. Ear infections in dogs induce inflammation, which leads to head shaking, which leads to ear hematoma. Ear mites, having anything lodged in their ear, and underlying conditions like allergies can all induce headshaking and result in an ear hematoma. Ear hematomas in dogs are more usually caused by skin allergies, immunological diseases, trauma, or blood coagulation deficiencies.

What are the Symptoms of Ear Hematomas?

The appearance of the ear is one of the most prevalent indicators of an ear hematoma. The ear may appear thicker and inflated as a result of the lump or fluid-filled pocket, which is frequently referred to as “cauliflower ear.” The swelling might be hard or soft, and it can fluctuate.

Here are some symptoms to look for:

  • Fluid in the ear flap
  • Excessive itching
  • Excessive ear-scratching
  • Excessive headshaking
  • Titling their head sideways

It’s important to remember that these symptoms don’t just indicate an ear hematoma but might be pointing to an underlying condition that needs to be treated. If your dog is showing these signs, veterinary intervention is required as soon as possible.

Who’s at Risk of Developing Ear Hematomas?

Ear hematomas are more likely to occur if your dog has a history of ear problems. They irritate him much more if they cause him to itch his ear and shake his head. Even if there is no obvious trauma, hematomas are more likely in dogs that have clotting or bleeding disorders. Dogs with long, floppy ears like Basset Hounds and Blood Hounds are more susceptible to getting ear hematomas.

How Can Ear Hematomas Be Prevented?

Regular grooming is the greatest method to avoid a hematoma. A dog that is brushed on a regular basis is less prone to develop matting that tears the skin. Infections, which are another cause of dogs shaking and clawing at their ears, may be avoided by keeping their ears clean. Regular ear cleaning can also help prevent ear hematomas in dogs. 

How are Ear Hematomas Diagnosed?

Physical examination is used to diagnose ear hematomas. The veterinarian can easily see the earflap that is heated and swollen on the outside and red, inflamed on the inside. Theyll also take into account the dog’s medical history and the other physical signs such as head shaking.

Diagnosing the exact cause of the headshaking that led to the hematoma is an important step. The veterinarian will usually use an otoscope to inspect your dog’s ear and may consider obtaining a sample or ear swab for cytology. This entails examining the swab under a microscope to see whether bacteria or yeast are present.

What is the Treatment for Ear Hematomas?

dog with buttons in ear after ear hematoma surgery
Photo Credit: Homesteading Today

Surgical repair of the hematoma is the chosen treatment approach. The exact surgical procedure varies depending on the conditions and preferences of the veterinarian, but it always follows the same fundamental principles. To drain the blood and remove any blood clots, the skin over the hematoma is surgically incised. The empty area (known as dead space) is then eliminated by threading multiple sutures into the ear, promoting regulated scar tissue growth, reattaching the cartilage to the skin, and aiding in the prevention of future recurrence. To aid drainage, a surgical drain may be used. Finally, the pinna is supported in order to prevent additional injury and encourage recovery. You may see some dogs with buttons sewn to their ears follwing an ear hematoma surgery. This is done to give the skin more surface area and keep it in place as it heals.

Other conventional treatments include:

  • Using a syringe to aspirate. This will drain the fluids, but it will only give temporary comfort.
  • Using a vacutainer to create a vacuum. To enhance healing and decrease disfiguration, the blood is removed and the skin and cartilage are kept close together. However, when the drain fills up, you’ll need to replace it.
  • Placement of a teat cannula (or equivalent drain). This will make draining the hematoma much easier until it heals correctly. Disfigurement is still a possibility.

What Happens if Ear Hematomas Are Left Untreated?

If you let a hematoma heal on its own, the blood will eventually reabsorb. This can happen in as short as 10 days for minor hematomas. Larger hematomas may take weeks or months to disappear. There’s also the possibility that scar tissue will cause lifelong deformity, leading to cauliflower ear. You’ve reached this stage when your skin resembles a cauliflower floret. Whether or whether this disfiguration is problematic is determined by the location of the hematoma.

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