A dog ear hematoma can be a painful experience for your pooch… and a scary one for you. A hematoma is basically a collection of blood that occurs outside of a blood vessel. It will often develop from scratching and head shaking due to a problem such as an ear infection. Knowing the signs of hematomas in dogs – and the reasons why they happen – will help you take the action needed to bring relief to your beloved companion.
How a Dog Ear Hematoma Develops
Ear hematomas, also known as aural hematomas, occur when a pocket of blood develops in the area of your dog’s ear flap. Aural hematomas are the result of self-injury. For example, a hematoma dog ear can occur when your pooch shakes their head. This leads to the ear flap banging against the skull. When this happens, the blood vessels in the ear rupture. The blood from the blood vessels then pools between the skin and cartilage.1
A hematoma dog ear is pretty easy to recognize. The ear flap becomes filled with fluid and swells. The entire flap could become swollen, or just a part of it could swell.
Diagnosing Ear Hematomas in Dogs
In order to successfully treat hematoma in dogs, a veterinarian will need to determine the underlying cause of the head shaking and scratching that led to the problem in the first place.
There are typically several different causes of aural hematomas. A dog can have ear mites, a yeast infection, or some sort of bacterial infection in one or both ears. If you have a dog who tends to develop skin allergies, they will be susceptible to an ear infection as well. This could eventually result in a dog ear hematoma.2
Your vet will very likely perform a thorough examination to get to the root cause of the aural hematomas. They may choose to swab the ear canal to get a sample, and then put the sample under a microscope. That will show whether there are any parasites present, or if an infection has developed.
If your dog has a food or environmental allergy, testing might be needed to find the trigger of that allergy. All breeds are susceptible to ear hematomas, but those more prone to skin allergies are at a higher risk. Dogs with larger ear flaps tend to develop aural hematomas more than shorter-eared dogs. The reason is their flaps will slap against the skull when head shaking occurs.3
Solving the Problem
It is generally believed that the best way to deal with a hematoma in a dog ear is to repair it surgically.
The surgery involves making an incision along the hematoma and then removing any blood clots and fluid that are present.
Sutures are then placed in the ear. These sutures will usually need to remain as the ear heals. This allows fluid to drain. After a few weeks, the incision will heal.4
If your dog has larger ears, the affected ear may have to be secured to the head with a bandage. This will be needed in order to protect the blood vessels by preventing head shaking while recovery takes place. Your vet may also recommend placing an Elizabethan collar (plastic cone) over the dog’s head to keep them from scratching the area and creating a hot spot.5
There are other options used to address aural hematomas, however. One involves the insertion of a drain, or a small rubber tube, near the hematoma until the ear is healed to help prevent additional fluid from building up. Vets will sometimes use a syringe to drain the hematoma and inject medication to reduce swelling.6
When aural hematomas are the result of head shaking and scratching due to mites or an ear infection, ointments usually need to be applied in order to resolve the issue. If the cause is an allergy, there is a high likelihood that a dog ear hematoma will return unless the source of the allergy is identified and addressed.
Ear hematomas should never be ignored.
Although a dog ear hematoma will usually heal on its own, it can take months to do so. Another potential consequence of not treating aural hematomas include deformation of the ear (somewhat like a “cauliflower” ear).7
Preventing a Dog Ear Hematoma
The best way to prevent aural hematomas is to keep your dog from scratching and head shaking. An ear infection is one of the most common causes of this behavior, and one of the most preventable. If you keep your dog’s ears as clean as possible, you can greatly reduce the risk of a dog ear hematoma.8 (Learn more about ear infections in dogs here.)
To keep your pup’s ears clean, the first thing you should do is purchase an ear cleaning solution or even make a dog ear cleaner at home. Talk to your vet about the best one for your pet’s specific needs. Once you do that, fill your dog’s ears with the solution and massage the solution from the outside of the ear. This will help dissolve the debris and bring it out of the canal. Use gauze to gently clean out the canal.
If you use a cotton ball or a paper towel, that could leave behind fibers. So watch out. These fibers might lodge inside the ear canal and cause irritation. So instead, you can use cotton swabs to clean your dog’s ear flaps. Just don’t use them in the ear canal, because that could push debris down the canal and cause problems.9
Final Thought on Hematomas
Aural hematomas are the result of ruptured blood vessels that cause blood to pool in a portion of your dog’s ear. The blood vessels rupture due to head shaking and scratching. Identifying the root cause of this behavior is key to not only preventing hematomas in dogs, but also resolving the underlying condition. The faster you get the problem addressed, the faster your beloved pet will find relief.