One minute, you’re scratching your dog’s ears, and the next minute you notice your dog’s ear flap is swollen and is now a puffy, sac-like thing about the size of a small fist, and very squishy to the touch. What happened?
While alarming, it is a common issue: ear hematoma in dogs.
According to PetEducation.com, “Ear hematomas are one of the more common ear problems seen by veterinarians. These hematomas are very painful, and if not treated correctly, can result in a permanent deformation of the ear. There is usually an underlying medical condition that causes an animal to traumatize his ear resulting in a hematoma. Proper diagnosis and treatment of the underlying problem is necessary to prevent reoccurrence.”
What is an Ear Hematoma in Dogs?
Vetinfo.com says, “A hematoma on a dog ear is when blood vessels in the pinna, the floppy part of a dog’s ear, break. This causes oozing between the layers of cartilage in the dog’s ear and the skin. Dog ear hematomas are often referred to as aural hematomas.”
Basically, your dog has a giant blood blister on his ear, which is very painful. In fact, my German Shepherd-mix is currently dealing with an ear hematoma. I have to be very gentle when I put on her collar or touch her ear, because she winces in pain. I also have to keep her from scratching it, or letting her play too roughly, as it could burst. Her hematoma was caused when my other dog bit her ear too hard during play, but ear hematomas can be the result of more serious, underlying issues.
What Causes an Ear Hematoma in Dogs?
Hematomas are most common in dogs with floppy ears that shake their heads a lot.
According to PetEducation.com, “Dogs with chronic ear infections, ear mites or allergies that cause the ears to itch are at the greatest risk of developing an ear hematoma. Dogs will scratch their ears or shake their head if their ears are itchy or painful, which can result in a ruptured blood vessel. Dogs that fight frequently or run through heavy brush are also at risk of injuring their ears and developing a hematoma.”
Sometimes the cause of an ear hematoma is because your dog smacked his ear so hard against something like a wall or coffee table that it caused the bleeding.
Webvet.com states, “The bleeding in the ear flap is irritating, which causes your pet to shake his head even more, setting up a vicious cycle. Blood and other fluid can continue to accumulate in the ear flap, and the swelling can reach the size of a lemon in some cases. Sometimes, the hematoma will rupture during a shake, spewing blood in all directions.”
The first sign is a swollen and puffy ear flap, followed by a great deal of head shaking.
Webvet.com says, “Any swelling in the ear flap is suspicious of a hematoma. The swollen area usually feels warm and squishy, like a bag of fluid. Your veterinarian will examine the ears for signs of any problems that may have set off head shaking, such as an ear infection or a bite wound. If an ear hematoma is not treated, the ear flap can eventually scar up, resulting in a deformed ear that may be prone to infections.”
PetsMD.com lists the following signs:
- Scratching or rubbing the ears and head
- Redness or swelling of the ear flap or canal
- Excessive shaking of the head or tilting it to one side
- Pain around the ears and head
- Aggressive behavior when head and ears are touched
- Head tilt
If your dog is showing any of these signs, take him to the vet to rule out any serious issues.
How are Ear Hematomas in Dogs Treated?
After a full exam to determine the cause of the hematoma, your vet will then recommend the appropriate treatment.
“The treatment will depend on how quickly the hematoma is identified and treated (the sooner the better), the size of the hematoma and the personal preferences of the attending veterinarian,” writes PetEducation.com.
Some of the treatment options include:
- Incising the skin on the underside of the ear, draining the blood and then suturing (stitching) through the ear with multiple sutures.
- Surgically opening and draining the ear, and then taping the ear up with a bandage and allowing the ear to heal on its own.
- If the hematoma is very small or old, some veterinarians will remove the fluid with a syringe and if there is no clot present, will allow the ear to heal without surgery.
- Some veterinarians will also surgically place a cannula or drain to allow blood and fluid be released and to avoid the surgery and suture placement.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.