Dogs and even some cats are prone to aural hematomas. An aural hematoma is a pocket of blood and fluid that forms in the pet’s ear flap, between the skin and the cartilage.
The hematoma will look like a small balloon on the pet’s ear flap.
What Causes Ear Hematomas in Dogs and Cats?
Hematomas can form for a number of reasons. Head shaking is among the most common causes of ear hematomas. Head shaking is often associated with play (as some dogs will shake their head back and forth when they have a toy) and ear infections. Head shaking is a common response to an ear infection. Aggressive head scratching can also lead to a hematoma.
The hematoma forms when a blood vessel breaks and the blood fills the area between the ear cartilage and the skin. It’s essentially a superficial bruise. The underside of the pet’s ear will often look very red or even purple in appearance, due to the pocket of blood.
Unfortunately, once a cat or dog has developed an ear hematoma, he/she is more apt to develop the same problem in the future, as the structures within the ear will be slightly scarred.
Curing Aural Hematomas
Aural hematomas will not go away on their own; your pet will require veterainary attention, especially because an abscess can look a lot like an aural hematoma. An abscess is a pocket of infection that forms beneath the skin’s surface. An infection can be very serious, as the infection can spread to other parts of the body.
There are two basic methods that are used to treat a pet’s ear hematoma. Firstly, the hematoma is drained with a needle and syringe. Then, the vet makes a small incision and a rubber drain is inserted into the “pocket” that was formed by the hematoma. The drain is stitched in place to prevent the pocket from “inflating” with fluid. Over the course of the next few days, the pocket will heal closed and the drain will be removed. This procedure is typically done with a local anesthetic and a mild sedative.
The other treatment option also involves draining the hematoma. In addition to inserting a drain, several stitches are placed in the ear to hold the “pocket” closed. This is suitable for recurring and large hematomas. A bit more stitching is required, so the dog may be placed under general anesthesia for a few minutes while the stitches are put in place.
Unfortunately, if you leave the aural hematoma in place, it will take weeks or even months for the fluid to be re-absorbed and during that time, scar tissue will form, resulting in deformity and slowed healing. So bring your pet to the vet if you suspect that he or she is suffering from this ailment!
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(Photo by Mia Carter)