What is an Aural Haematoma?
An aural haematoma is a blood blister that forms inside an earflap (pinna) when a blood vessel inside bursts; as the vessel bleeds inside the ear, the ear flap starts to swell – it will become heavy, swollen, warm and painful. This can be caused by trauma from injury, but usually due to head shaking or ear scratching due to a skin problem or ear infection.
If you notice a swelling on your dogs’ ear, call your vet for an appointment as they will need to find the cause of the problem, and treat your dog appropriately.
Symptoms of an Aural haematoma
- Ear scratching
- Head shaking
- Head tilt – holding the head to one side
- Swollen earflap that feels hot
- The ear will droop down
- Irritation to the ear
What Causes an Aural Haematoma?
AN INJURY: If your dog has recently had an altercation with another dog or had a knock to the head then they may develop an aural haematoma.
INFECTION: This could be internal, external or in the middle ear. There is usually a foul smell coming from the ear accompanied by discharge. Your dog may rub his or her head on the ground and scratch their ears regularly. Scabs may form on the side of the face, and the ear will appear red and hot. This can be extremely painful, so your dog may yelp if you try and touch it.
If the infection is affecting the middle ear, this may affect your dogs balance and they may develop a head tilt.
ITCHY SKIN: Itchy skin causes a lot of discomfort and may be due to allergies, parasites such as fleas mites or lice, fungal infections, bacterial skin infections, a reaction to medication or food, immune system problems affecting the skin or allergic skin disease (Atopy).
EAR MITES: These guys can be a real pain – literally! Ear mites cause an intense itch which can often lead to ear infections. They can be extremely common in puppies but can spread from other pets. Ear mites can also climb into your pets’ ears from the environment.
Treating an Aural Haematoma
There a different treatment options depending on the size of the haematoma and the underlying cause – your vet will perform a full examination to determine the best way to treat your dog.
Can I leave it alone? - You should always seek the advice of a vet. In some circumstances, the haematoma may be left to heal itself, but there is usually an underlying cause such as an ear infection which will need to be treated with prescribed medication.
Draining a haematoma – DON’T TRY THIS AT HOME! Large haematoma’s will often need to be drained by a qualified veterinary professional. If they are left to heal by themselves, this can be painful for your dog and the ear tissue will likely scar; this will cause the ear to shrink, and have a thickened, crinkly appearance.
Some haematomas are drained with a needle and syringe or could have an indwelling drain placed to relieve the pressure inside the ear.
It is quite common for the earflap to refill after draining and need surgery.
Surgery- involves an incision being made into the underside of the earflap with a scalpel blade, the blood being drained, and the clots removed. The fibrinous tissue that has formed inside the ear will be removed with an instrument called a curetted and then stiches will be placed all over the earflap to hold the two walls of cartilage together to prevent the haematoma from refilling. A head bandage and buster collar will be required post-surgery.
Your vet will often prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to provide pain relief and help to reduce any swelling. If the haematoma has been caused by an underlying ear infection or parasites, other medications may be prescribed to treat this.
It is normal for an aural haematoma to leak blood after being drained, so don’t panic! If however, the bleeding continues or carries on for longer than expected then you should contact your vet for advice.
Your dogs’ ear will need to be protected post-operatively from infection and any further injury to the ear. Your dog will need to wear a protective cone, and this must ALWAYS be kept on !
Recovery from surgery is approximately 1 – 2 weeks if the ear heals with no complications.