Our Portland vets often see dogs with painful ear hematomas, but what are they, what causes them, and what are the symptoms? Read on to learn more about aural hematomas in dogs, and what to do if your dog has one.
What Are Dog Ear Hematomas (Aural Hematomas)?
A hematoma is a localized pocket of blood that develops within an organ or tissue, sometimes referred to as a 'blood blister.' Hematomas vary in size and location, but in the case of dog ear hematomas (aural hematomas), they appear between the skin and cartilage within your pup's ear flap (pinna). The swelling from your dog's hematoma could extend across the entire ear flap making it appear thick and spongy, or just in one area of the ear.
Ear hematomas can be very painful for dogs, and left untreated may lead to uncomfortable scarring that blocks the ear canal and affects your pup's hearing. If your dog shows signs of an ear hematoma (see below) it's important to book an examination with your vet right away.
What Causes Ear Hematomas In Dogs?
A network of blood vessels runs between the skin on your dog's ear and the cartilage beneath. A hematoma occurs when these blood vessels become damaged and bleeding occurs below the surface of the skin.
Most ear hematomas in dogs occur due to self-inflicted injuries stemming from scratching or vigorous head shaking due to ear irritation.
Ear irritation in dogs can occur due to allergies, inflammation, parasites, trauma (bites or other wounds), foreign bodies in the ear, or immune-mediated disease.
What are the signs of ear hematomas in dogs?
If your dog has an ear hematoma you will first notice soft, warm swelling on the inside of your dog's ear flap. In the later stages, this soft swelling will give way to scar tissue that will result in the hard, distorted appearance of the 'cauliflower' ear.
How Are Ear Hematomas In Dogs Treated?
Each case is unique and your vet is in the best position to recommend the treatment option that's best for your pup.
In some cases, dog ear hematomas will be drained and the area injected with a steroid. However, it's important to be aware that this form of treatment may need to be repeated over time.
Surgery is typically the quickest and most effective way to treat ear hematomas in dogs.
How Is Ear Hematoma Surgery On Dogs Performed?
This surgery is broken into three steps:
The blood that has accumulated in the ear flap is removed either by making a small incision at each end of the hematoma and inserting a drain tube or by opening up the hematoma completely.
Next, your veterinary surgeon will close the pocket where the blood had accumulated by stitching the skin on both sides of the ear flap to the cartilage.
Finally, the ear is bandaged directly against your pup's head, or using supports, to prevent head shaking or scratching which could cause further injury to your dog's ear.
Is There A Follow-up Required?
Depending on your dog's unique case, bandages and draining tubes will be removed at some point within about 14 days.
Any drainage holes still apparent in your dog's ear from the surgery will be left to heal on their own.
If your dog's ear has healed sufficiently after 14 days stitches will be removed, however, it is not uncommon for stitches to be left in place for longer.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.