An ear hematoma is a firm, fluid-filled, swollen mass that is visible on the inside of the earflap. Usually it affects only one ear at a time but occasionally both ears are affected. A dog will get an ear hematoma from shaking its head or scratching at its ear because it has an underlying allergy or ear disease. The scratching or shaking of the ear ruptures the tiny blood vessels in the ear’s cartilage causing them to bleed under the skin of the earflap forming a pocket of blood.
The dog may have an infection or inflammation in the ear canal, a foreign body in the ear or ear parasites. Sometimes the dog simply has lots of fleas and ticks. These all cause pain, itchiness or irritation that a dog would seek to alleviate by shaking or scratching. Occasionally the hematoma is caused by a dogfight where the fight has ruptured the blood vessels- in this case the haematoma may also be infected.
There are several procedures for treating aural hematomas; the approach will depend on the severity of the dog’s condition. One method involves the placing of a soft drain securely into the tip of the ear allowing the fluid to drain. This is left in place for two to three weeks as the earflap seals.
Another method performed under general anaesthesia involves making a surgical incision into the swelling on the ear, allowing the fluid to drain. Then multiple sutures are stitched into the ear to seal it back together. After about ten to fourteen days following the procedure, the sutures will be removed.
Failure to treat a hematoma can lead to enlargement of the swelling to encompass the entire earflap. Over time, scar tissue formation within the hematoma will result in a severely wrinkled, thickened deformed earflap that can predispose the dog to further ear problems.
To help prevent an ear hematoma forming again, it is essential that we determine what is making the dog shake its head or scratch its ears. A thorough examination of the ears will be necessary.
When the dog is brought to the clinic we use an otoscope to look down into the ear canals to determine the presence of a foreign body or inflammation in the ears.
Ear swabs are taken and the material is evaluated under the microscope to look for causes of otitis (ear infection) such as yeast, ear mites or bacteria. Allergies can also cause irritation to the ears. Wounds of the pinna or earflap should be treated to prevent further trauma to the ear caused by shaking and scratching.
The dog with the ear haematoma may be placed on ear drops containing antibiotics, antifungals and anti-inflammatories to stop the irritation to the ears. It may also be recommended that the dog is treated for fleas and ticks.
At the first sign of your dog shaking or scratching at her ears, be sure to have her examined by a veterinarian so the problem can be diagnosed and treated properly.
With Dr. Karin O’Connor from Vanuatu Vet Clinic, Port Vila.