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Health & Wellness

Ear hematomas in dogs: symptoms and treatments

Here’s what the redness and swelling means

If you notice your dog excessively scratching their ears, you may want to put a stop to it and call your vet. Too much scratching (usually due to an ear infection, allergies, insect bites or trapped water) can cause aural hematomas — here's what that means.

What is an aural hematoma?

A hematoma is the collection of blood outside of a blood vessel that can occur anywhere in the body. For example, if you or your pup is bruised after an injury — that's a hematoma. In the case of an aural, or ear, hematoma, blood from broken blood vessels pools in the ear flap, which causes a bump, Dr. Aliya McCullough, Fetch's on-staff veterinarian, says.

Hematomas in dog ears are usually a reaction to a pup's excessive scratching. "Aural hematomas are most commonly caused by trauma to the ear flap, such as head shaking and scratching due to an ear infection," Dr. McCullough adds. Scratching because of insect bites, allergies and trapped water can cause ear hematomas, too. 

Symptoms of ear hematomas in dogs

According to Dr. McCullough, an aural hematoma can cause your dog's ear flap to puff up and swell — here are some other signs to look out for: 

  • Tilting or shaking of the head
  • Ear scratching
  • Ear discharge and odor
  • Ear redness

Treatment options for ear hematomas in dogs

As soon as you spot a hematoma in your dog's ear, visit your vet — they'll be able to determine the cause and recommend treatment options. Dr. McCullough says that the main treatment goals for aural hematomas are to alleviate swelling, prevent the hematoma from recurring and minimize scarring.

To reduce the swelling, your veterinarian may place a drain in your dog's ear (via surgery) to catch excess fluid until the tiny, broken blood vessels in the ear flap have healed. Your pup may be sent home with their ear bandaged and will also likely be required to wear an e-collar while they recover. Since their ear is draining, you'll want to keep your pup in a separate area of your house that allows for easy clean-up, she adds.

Non-surgical treatment options usually involve putting liquid steroids into a dog's impacted ear flap. If your vet suggests this treatment option, they may send your pup home with a daily oral steroid to combat inflammation.

Home treatments for ear hematomas in dogs

There aren't any home treatment options for ear hematomas in dogs because they're usually due to an ear infection, which requires a vet visit, Dr. McCullough says. 

You should never take matters into your own hands — ever. "Pet parents should not try to release the trapped fluid themselves," she says. "This can lead to infection and further injury to the ear flap."

What happens if you leave a dog's ear hematoma untreated?

While finding a hematoma in your dog's ear isn't necessarily an emergency, you should seek treatment as soon as possible. Untreated hematomas in dogs' ears can cause damage to the blood vessels in the ear flap and lead to dead tissue. 

According to Dr. McCullough, the ear flap can also scar, leading to a wrinkly and slightly firm outer ear, otherwise known as cauliflower ear in dogs.

"While the ear hematoma can resolve on its own, the underlying cause must be treated to prevent recurrence and discomfort," Dr. McCullough says. "The underlying ear infections should always be treated to prevent the infection from worsening, the hematoma from recurring and to alleviate pain and itchiness."

How to prevent your dog from getting ear hematomas

Unfortunately, there's no way to prevent a hematoma from forming in a dog's ear. Dr. McCullough recommends monitoring signs of an ear infection and visiting your vet as soon as possible after spotting symptoms. 

The Dig, Fetch Pet Insurance's expert-backed editorial, answers all of the questions you forget to ask your vet or are too embarrassed to ask at the dog park. We help make sure you and your best friend have more good days, but we’re there on bad days, too.

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