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Ear (Aural) Hematoma

What is an aural hematoma?

An aural hematoma is a pool of blood that collects underneath the skin of the external part of a pet’s ear or ear flap.  Both cats and dogs can suffer aural hematomas but it is more common in dogs. A hematoma develops from either a direct trauma or from violent shaking of the head.

What are the symptoms of an aural hematoma?

A hematoma will appear as a swollen, blood filled sack on the animal’s ear flap or in the ear canal.  It may be firm or soft and fluid. The hematoma could go on to irritate your pet further causing more scratching and rubbing of the area, with some pets tilting their head to one side.

What are the causes of an aural hematoma?

An aural hematoma is commonly caused by scratching and shaking the head due to irritation suffered by the pet.  The irritation could be caused by a skin allergy, ear mites, an ear infection or a foreign body lodged in the ear. A hematoma can also occur as a result of a direct trauma such as a bite wound or a blunt injury.   Dogs with large ears are more at risk.

What are the risk factors of an aural hematoma?

Hematomas are not harmful to your pet’s health but may well cause scarring.

How is an aural hematoma diagnosed?

An aural hematoma is easily diagnosed by a visual examination but you vet will want to investigate the underlying cause. It is very likely a swab of the ear will be taken which the vet will examine for signs of parasites or an infection.

What treatment is there for an aural hematoma?

Where possible the area will be drained using a syringe followed by a cortisone injection to reduce swelling and aid healing.  In most cases your vet is likely to recommend surgery to open and drain the hematoma and apply sutures (stitches) to hold the skin tightly in place, effectively preventing further accumulation of blood.  Anti-inflammatory drugs and antibiotics will also be given. The sutures will need to remain in place for several weeks and your pet will need to wear an Elizabethan collar (a cone shaped hood) to prevent itching.  Dogs with long ears will often have the ear flipped over and bandaged to the head to prevent any head shaking harming the healing ear.  The vet will advise you on how to keep the wound clean once your pet is home.  A follow up appointment will be needed so the vet can check there has been no further accumulation of blood, that the wound is healing correctly and to remove of the sutures.