Many dog owners will have encountered an aural hematoma at some point, particularly if they’ve owned more than one large, active, floppy eared pup. However, if you’ve never heard of them or seen them, and your dog develops one, it can be a very alarming sight! Let’s take a closer look at what these hematomas are, how they are caused, and how they are treated.
What Is a Canine Aural Hematoma?
The term “canine aural hematoma” is actually a little bit misleading, because the truth is, hematomas can occur in cats and dogs (or even other animals!) However, they are much more common in dogs than other animals, and among dogs, they’re more likely to happen in dogs with longer, floppier ears that typically hang down, like Golden Retrievers or Labradors.
The hematoma itself is a large lump or swelling on the flap of the ear, that is filled with fluid, and can happen suddenly and become quite large. This can cause generalized swelling in the ear, and can cause your pet a considerable amount of pain.
Usually, a hematoma will only affect one ear, but it can occur in both, at the same time.
What Causes a Hematoma?
An aural hematoma occurs when a blood vessel inside the ear ruptures, allowing blood and fluid to leak into the ear itself, between the skin and the blood vessel. Since there’s nowhere for this fluid to go, it builds up under the skin, causing the telltale swelling of the ear that is known as a hematoma.
Vigorous shaking of the head, particularly in dogs with floppy ears, can cause the initial leak to occur, and that’s why this condition is more common in certain breeds. It’s also why hematomas commonly occur in dogs with ear infections or mites, who tend to shake their heads more vigorously and more often than non-affected dogs.
Treatment for Hematoma
Generally, the sooner a hematoma is treated, the better, so if you notice swelling on the ear or ears of your dog (or any other pet), it’s a good idea to visit your vet sooner rather than later.
Treatment for the hematoma will include several steps:
- First, the hematoma will be drained. This may occur by means of a syringe (in the case of small or older hematomas), or more commonly by making a surgical incision in the ear.
- Once drained, the ear will be sutured or taped, depending on the nature of the hematoma. It should be noted that taped wounds will need a lot more care and attention, and may not be suitable for dogs that are very rambunctious.
- Your vet will examine your dog’s ears to determine the root cause of the shaking that caused the hematoma in the first place, and a treatment plan will be created.
After surgery, there will be home care instructions that you need to follow to ensure that your dog’s ear heals properly, and to help prevent recurrence of the hematoma. It is important that those instructions be followed carefully, and that you report any swelling or pain to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Secondary infection or recurring swelling is always a possibility when dealing with a hematoma.