Ear Hematomas In Dogs

Ear hematomas in dogs can be startling for pet owners to witness.

The sudden swelling of their ear is not only unsettling, but their constant head shaking may leave you in a panic.

Ear hematomas most often develop after some form of ear trauma in our canine friends, ranging from injury to the pinna or a chronic ear infection.

In this article we will discuss the details of ear hematomas in dogs, and help you better understand why your furry friend has suddenly developed this condition.

What Is A Hematoma In Dogs?

Ear Hematomas In Dogs

A hematoma is a blood-filled pocket that’s trapped within some type of tissue.

Hematomas can develop in multiple areas of the canine body, ranging in severity based on the underlying cause.

Hematomas are also referred to as blood blisters, though the term hematoma typically refers to large localized masses of blood.

What Is An Ear Hematoma In Dogs?

Now that you understand what a hematoma is, it’s easier to picture an ear hematoma in our canine friends.

Ear hematomas are simply a large pocket of blood that has formed under the skin of the pinna, resulting in sudden swelling of the ear affected.

Ear hematomas can range in size, but are known for suddenly appearing in an otherwise healthy furry friend.

Many describe their pup’s aural hematoma as if their ears were a small balloon, as they almost appear inflated.

How Do Dogs Get Ear Hematomas?

An ear hematoma will develop in dogs when the blood vessels within the ear tissue suddenly burst.

This causes blood to flood into the space between the skin and the cartilage, resulting in sudden swelling.

Though there are a few potential causes of an aural hematoma in dogs, the most common cause is trauma to the ear.

When we think of trauma, we often think of injuries like scratches or bite wounds. While these injuries can certainly cause an ear hematoma in dogs, the most common ear trauma is violent head shaking.

Dogs are unable to make sense of ear discomfort, causing them to shake their heads in effort to find relief.

Violent head shaking can cause a hematoma in any breed of dog, but especially those with large or floppy ears.

Some of the most common causes of head shaking in dogs include:

  • Ear infections
  • Chronic skin allergies
  • Itchy skin conditions
  • Ectoparasites
  • Objects lodged in the ear

Some other types of ear trauma that can lead to aural hematomas include ear scratching, dog fight wounds, and foreign bodies in the ear.

Dogs with clotting disorders may also fall victim to ear hematomas, as they are prone to excessive bleeding with minor trauma.

Not only can head shaking cause the ear hematoma in itself, but it can also worsen the hematoma as it develops.

This is why we always suggest having your dog seen the moment you notice ear swelling, as they will likely continue to shake their head as it grows more and more painful.

Signs Of Ear Hematomas In Dogs

The most obvious symptoms of an ear hematoma in dogs is swelling of the ear, but there are other potential signs to be aware of as well.

Every dog will vary based on the severity of their ear trauma, as well as how long the condition has been brewing.

The most common symptoms of ear hematomas in dogs include:

  • Sudden swelling of the ear
  • Head shaking
  • Pawing at the ear
  • Head tilting
  • Pain of the ear and face
  • Sensitivity of the ear or face when touched

If you notice any of the above symptoms in your pup, we suggest contacting your vet as soon as possible.

Ear hematomas can be very painful, and often require immediate attention to prevent the condition from worsening.

Not only can these symptoms point to a developing ear hematoma, but they may also be a result of an underlying ear condition.

Both of these factors combined prove just how important it is to seek veterinary guidance.

Will Ear Hematomas Go Away On Their Own?

Many pet parents wonder what can happen if you leave an ear hematoma untreated in dogs.

Ear hematomas can occur outside of your vet’s regular office hours, leading many to wonder if they can wait it out at home.

While some minor ear hematomas will go away on their own, this is not as common.

In rare cases, the blood within a dog’s ear hematoma can be absorbed by the body.

However, this is not a quick solution for the dog affected. Allowing the body to absorb the blood on its own can take days to occur, and the process can be extremely uncomfortable for a dog.

Not only will it take time for the hematoma to resolve, but it will also result in permanent inflammation of the tissue.

This process is what causes most cases of cauliflower ear in humans and animals alike.

When To See The Vet For An Ear Hematoma

We always suggest contacting your vet from the moment you notice an ear hematoma in your dog.

Ear hematomas can be painful, and may worsen if your dog continues to shake their head.

For the sake of saving your pup from prolonged discomfort, it’s best to reach out to your vet from the moment their symptoms begin.

Treating An Ear Hematoma In Dogs

If your dog has an ear hematoma, there are a few different ways your vet may approach the situation.

Before any treatment method is explored for the hematoma itself, your vet must first address the underlying cause of their ear trauma.

For example, if a severe ear infection is the cause of your dog’s constant head shaking, your vet will need to also send home treatment for their current infection.

If the hematoma is resolved without tending to the ear infection, your pup will only continue to shake their head and cause more damage.

Treating the underlying cause in addition to the hematoma is the best way to offer a full recovery.

Once your veterinarian diagnoses the most likely cause of your dog’s aural hematoma, they will likely explore one of three common treatment options.

To help you better understand what to expect at your vet’s office, let’s list the standard treatment methods below.

Surgical Repair

Surgical repair is the most effective treatment option when dealing with ear hematomas in dogs.

This approach involves putting the dog under anesthesia to allow your vet to make a small incision on the affected ear.

Through this incision, your vet can allow the blood to drain from the hematoma and remove any blood clots in the process.

Once the blood has been drained, your vet will begin to place multiple sutures throughout the ear to prevent any dead space that could allow blood to pool again.

This process will prevent any excessive scar tissue from forming.

Once the procedure is finished, your vet will likely place a secure bandage that wraps around your dog’s head, as this will prevent them from additional trauma throughout recovery.

Your vet will also send your dog home with an e-collar to wear at all times.

Your vet will then inform you of the dates you should return to have their bandage and sutures removed.

This procedure may be performed with or without the addition of a drain tube placed in the pinna.

Draining With Aspiration

If surgery is not an option, or your dog has a mild ear hematoma, your vet can drain the ear through aspiration.

This procedure involves offering your dog pain relief (or light sedation if needed) to allow them to drain the ear with a needle and syringe.

Once the blood is drained from the hematoma, your vet can then inject a steroid into the dead space to reduce any inflammation that’s present.

However, it’s important to keep in mind that most ear hematomas will fill back up with this method, and that the process will need to be repeated in 1-3 weeks.

Can You Treat Your Dog’s Ear Hematoma at Home?

Unfortunately, there is no effective option when it comes to treating your dog’s ear hematoma at home.

There is a chance for some minor ear hematomas to resolve on their own without draining, but this is typically uncommon.

Over the counter anti-inflammatory and pain relief medications are also extremely toxic to dogs, so there are no acceptable options in terms of treating their discomfort.

Ear Hematoma Prognosis In Dogs

When seeking veterinary care and proper treatment from the moment the ear hematoma develops, most dogs have a successful recovery.

A positive prognosis will also require strict adherence to any aftercare needed, which your vet can always guide you through based on your dog’s situation.

Things can become a bit more complicated if the underlying cause of the hematoma is not addressed, or if the hematoma is left untreated for a prolonged period of time.

These pups do have a higher risk of recurring ear hematomas, in addition to continuing to struggle with the underlying cause of their head shaking.

The best way to offer your pup a full recovery is by contacting your vet at the first sign of a developing ear hematoma, and following their guidance throughout the recovery process.

Final Thoughts

Ear hematomas are an uncomfortable complication that most often develops due to constant head shaking.

As long as you reach out to your vet at the first sign of a developing ear hematoma, your pup should have a full recovery ahead.

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