A hematoma is a collection of blood outside of the blood vessels and can occur just about anywhere in the body. In the case of an aural hematoma, the blood pools in the ear flap because of broken blood vessels inside the tissue. Generally, the blood vessels are broken due to excessive head shaking. Aural hematomas occur in both dogs and cats, but are more common in dogs. They are unmistakable in appearance – the ear flap swells up just like a balloon!
Often, the root cause of an aural hematoma is an ear infection. Ear infections can be quite itchy, causing your dog or cat to shake his head in an attempt to alleviate the discomfort. There doesn’t always have to be an ear infection present, though. Anything that causes that itchy feeling, such as a bug bite or allergy, can lead to extreme head shaking and aural hematomas.
There are several different treatments for an aural hematoma, and if you ask 10 different veterinarians their preferred method, you’ll likely get 10 different answers! The main goal of most therapies, however, is to alleviate the swelling. In order to alleviate the swelling, the pocket of fluid will need to be drained. Because the broken blood vessels are probably still bleeding, your pet’s vet can’t simply drain the fluid and call it a day, as the pocket will just refill almost immediately.
Most veterinarians will either use some sort of drain to remove the fluid from the ear flap or place a series of stitches in the flap to prevent fluid from accumulating. Your pet may come home with his ear wrapped and wearing the much maligned e-collar, or “cone” collar. You may also need to give oral medications or apply topical medications for an ear infection.
If you discover that your pet has a hematoma, don’t worry – it’s not an emergency. But, you will want to make an appointment at your veterinarian as soon as you can. Failure to treat the hematoma will lead to scarring inside the ear flap and cause a shriveled appearance to the ear (known as a cauliflower ear).