Is your dog shaking his head a lot or scratching his ears? Have you noticed that his ears are swollen? If so, your dog could be suffering from an ear hematoma. We’ll help you recognize the signs, know when to seek treatment and what you can do to help prevent this condition from reoccurring.
Ear or aural hematomas are firm, swollen blisters on the inside of your dog’s ear flap. They occur when blood vessels within the ear flap burst and bleeding occurs in the space between the ear cartilage and the skin.
Hematomas can form due to trauma caused by excessive head shaking or scratching, usually as a result of ear mites or an ear infection. They can also form when a foreign object is lodged inside your dog’s ear or as a result of a bite wound.
Dogs with long, floppy ears have a higher risk of developing ear hematomas. And dogs with clotting or bleeding disorders may also develop hematomas more easily, even without the trauma of shaking or scratching.
Dog ear hematomas are fairly easy to spot. Signs to look for include:
- Swelling on the ear flaps
- Deformity in the ear shape
- Pain and aversion to touch
- Scratching or head shaking
Hematomas can cause your dog discomfort, so he’ll likely shake his head and scratch even more. This can exacerbate the problem and cause even more blisters to form. That’s why getting a diagnosis and proper treatment is important.
If you suspect that your dog has an ear hematoma, consult with your vet. Your vet will perform a physical examination and a simple needle extraction of the blister — the presence of blood confirms an ear hematoma.
Seeking veterinarian care is also important because your dog could be suffering from ear mites or an infection that’s causing the head shaking and scratching.
Dog ear hematomas aren’t life-threatening, but you should seek treatment as soon as possible. Without treatment, the hematoma may eventually heal on its own, but it likely will scar and cause a permanent ear disfigurement referred to as “cauliflower ear.”
There are several ways to treat a dog ear hematoma, and your vet will choose the best method on a case-by-case basis.
For smaller hematomas, some vets may opt to make a small incision in your dog’s ear flap and insert a tube to help the blister drain. Some vets prefer to use a drainage tube called a teat cannula, a tube used to treat mastitis in cows.
This method involves diligent follow-up care by the owner. You’ll have to gently massage your dog’s ear to keep the fluid draining over several days and then return to your vet to remove the tube and close the incision.
The downside of solely using a draining tube is that it doesn’t do a good job of compressing the cartilage and skin back together. So there’s a greater risk of disfigurement, especially with larger hematomas. That’s why many vets prefer surgery.
Can I Drain My Dog’s Hematoma?
While you can find some instructional videos online on how to drain your dog’s ear hematoma at home with a syringe, we don’t recommend it. Using a syringe to drain the fluid rarely solves the problem because the fluid returns repeatedly. And you run the risk of injuring your dog.
Surgery is usually the best option to reduce the risk of disfigurement and to prevent recurrence. However, surgery requires your dog to undergo anesthesia and post-operative recovery.
Specific surgical techniques vary by the vet’s preference and your dog’s unique circumstances but typically involves the same basic steps.
- The skin over the hematoma will be surgically incised to drain the blood and remove any blood clots.
- Numerous sutures will be placed through the ear to reattach the cartilage to the skin and eliminate the formation of scar tissue. This helps prevent the recurrence of hematomas.
- A surgical drain may be placed to promote drainage.
- The pinna, or ear flap, will be bandaged to minimize damage and promote healing.
- Your vet may recommend a no-flap ear wrap, like the Happy Hoodie, to keep your dog’s ears secure while he heals.
Your vet will remove drainage tubes or bandages after 3-14 days, and the sutures may be removed after 2 weeks if the ear is completely healed. If not healed, some or all of the sutures may need to remain for an additional 2 weeks.
You might be wondering, how much does dog ear hematoma surgery cost? The cost can run anywhere from $250-$500 or more depending on the size of the hematoma and the extent of follow-up care by your vet. Having pet insurance can be a smart way to avoid unexpected treatment costs, like dog ear hematoma surgery or even more serious conditions that could arise at any time. See our pet insurance reviews to learn more.
Are There Natural Alternative Treatments?
Some holistic veterinarians find moderate success using homeopathic remedies, like arnica oil or colloidal silver, to treat very small ear hematomas. But often this isn’t a long-term solution because the hematoma starts to clot and harden, making homeopathy less effective.
As we mentioned above, your dog could have an underlying ear infection that’s led to a hematoma. Read our guide on dog ear infections to get tips about how to spot, treat and prevent this common condition. Preventing ear infections is one of the best ways to prevent hematomas from forming.
And while we’re on the subject, you may want to check out our tips on how to clean your dog’s ears.
Has your dog ever had a hematoma? If so, how was he treated?