“Dr. Rannals, my dog came up today with a fat, swollen ear. It happened all of a sudden.” Ear hematomas in dogs are somewhat common. We see them several times yearly here at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital. Fortunately, they can be repaired.
An aural hematoma is a condition where a small blood vessel located between the ear cartilage and skin breaks, usually from self trauma where the dog is kicking at his ears and shaking his head. When that vessel breaks, the blood accumulates under the skin, causing it to separate from the cartilage. This creates a large pool of blood that we call a hematoma.
An ear hematoma often can be traced back to chronic ear infections (called otitis externa) that make the ear itchy and uncomfortable. So the pet begins to scratch and shake his head excessively and actually causes the damage to occur. It can also happen due to ears mites, dog fights, and rarely, some unusual auto immune diseases.
How to Fix it
Fixing the hematoma is a surgical issue. Medicines may help knock out the ear infection, but cannot remove the blood that has formed. And just “poking a hole” in it with a needle will not adequately remove all the blood clots and fibrin that forms during the bleed. So after anesthesia, an incision is made into the ear to remove the blood and clotted material. Then there are several methods to push the skin back in contact with the cartilage so it can seal back in place. We often use buttons sewn through the ear to provide surface area to the skin to hold it in place while it heals.
Ignoring the hematoma is not a great idea, as it causes a good deal of scarring that can shrink and disfigure the ear canal, causing lack of air and even worse infection. Surgery is nearly always the best option to get it to heal.
If you have further questions, call us at the Rannals Small Animal Hospital in Whitehouse at 903-839-7235.