What Is Ear (Aural) Hematomas in Pets?
An ear/aural hematoma is a pool of blood that collects between the cartilage and skin of the ear flap of a pet. This is usually caused by overly aggressive head shaking or ear scratching that results from an ear infection. Both cats and dogs can be afflicted with ear hematomas, however canines, especially those who get skin allergies and ear infections, are more prone to ear hematomas.
Any breed of dog or cat can develop an ear hematoma, and since allergic skin disease is a common cause, pets that are prone to skin allergies are very likely to develop an ear hematoma.
What Causes Ear Hematomas?
Self-trauma is a leading cause of ear hematomas. An example of this is when a pet fervently shakes their head or scratches at the ears. This results in their ear flaps slapping against the skull. When this happens, the trauma causes blood to leave the vessels and pool in a pocket on the outer part of the ear flap, between the cartilage components and skin. Ear mites or yeast/bacterial infections are commons causes of a pet shaking their head and scratching.
What are the Symptoms of Ear Hematomas?
Pets that are suffering from ear hematomas will have fluid-filled swelling on either all or just part of their ear flap. The swelling will sometimes seem firm and other times it will be soft and fluctuant. This may involve the very tip of the ear or it may occlude the ear canal.
How are Ear Hematomas Diagnosed?
Ear hematomas can be diagnosed during a physical exam. The doctor will inspect the ear canal, swab it for a sample and then examine the sample under a microscope for parasites or signs of an infection.
How Are Ear Hematomas Treated?
The most effective form of treating an ear hematoma is surgery. Your pet will have to be under anesthesia, and from there an incision will be made along the length of the hematoma on the inner surface of the ear.
Once fluid and blood clots are removed, the inner surface of the ear will be tacked down to the outer surface of the ear with sutures. These sutures will hold the inner and outer surfaces against each other so that when scar tissue forms, the two surfaces will be smooth and not lumpy. The sutures will generally stay in place for several weeks while the incision will be left open so that fluid will continue to drain as the ear heals. The incision will then eventually heal on its own.
Another option of treatment is the placement of a small drain (or rubber tube) in the external part of the ear. This drain will stay in place for several weeks as the ear heals and the fluid resolves. In some cases, vets may draw out the fluid with a needle and syringe—medication may also be injected to reduce swelling and inflammation.
Left untreated, an ear hematoma will eventually heal on its own, but the pet will experience discomfort for weeks. Both sides of the ear will often form thickened, wrinkled scar tissue, so the ear won’t look or feel natural. This is merely a cosmetic issue, however.
If your pet is experiencing any of the above symptoms or you have further questions about this condition, please contact us at 907-479-0001.