Treatment of Ear Hematomas in Dogs

Canine Hematomas Can Be Painful
A hematoma is the pooling of blood beneath the skin. In dogs it occurs most frequently in ears, when the skin separates from the underlying cartilage and blood leaks from the capillaries. It collects under the skin and is unable to drain, causing a swollen ear, sometimes called puffy ear or pillow ear.

Causes of Canine Ear Hematomas

Dogs may develop hematomas in their ears from a variety of causes. They may be caused by trauma, such as another dog biting the ear or the ear being slammed in a door, for example. Hematomas can also occur without such trauma, simply by vigorous head-shaking or ear-scratching.

Care should be taken to make sure that the underlying cause of head-shaking and ear-scratching, such as ear mites, fungal infections or allergies, is eliminated at the same time the hematoma is corrected.

Symptoms of Canine Swollen Ears

Hematomas develop rapidly, first noticeable as a slight swelling of the ear either on the inside or outside. Other symptoms are head-shaking and holding the head to one side.

The swelling usually increases until the dog is in obvious discomfort, holding the head down, and to one side from the weight of the hematoma.

The swelling will be obvious, and often hot to the touch.

Canine Hematoma Surgery is Simple, But Damage may be Permanent

A veterinarian will usually attempt to drain the hematoma with needle aspiration and steroid injections, although this is usually not effective.

Surgery requires incisions at either end of the swelling, draining the blood and then stitching the skin back to the underlying cartilage in a quilted pattern so that the hematoma does not redevelop.

This is a permanent correction, but often leaves the ear scarred and the cartilage damaged so that dogs with erect ears will no longer be able to hold up the ear. In some cases, the ear can flop down to such an extent that it increases the chances of ear infections developing.

Post-surgical treatment usually includes oral antibiotics and analgesics, such as Rimadyl. A return to the vet’s office is required to remove the stitches.

Preventing Ear Hematomas in Dogs

Prevention includes making sure to stay on top of any ear problems that cause scratching and vigorous head-shaking, such as mites and fungal infections, by taking the dog to the vet for treatment. Persistent allergies can be difficult to treat and may require strict attention to diet and avoidance of allergens to manage effectively.

Often hematomas treated with aspiration and steroids recur if the skin is not restitched to the cartilage through surgery. Scarring may increase with repeated attempts to treat without surgery.