Dogs With Swollen Ear Flaps: Symptoms and Treatment
Picture of Dog Swollen Ear Hematoma
Why Are My Dog's Ears Swollen and Inflated?
Are your dog's ears swollen, inflated, squishy, almost resembling a marshmallow? Has your dog been consistently shaking his head, scratching his ear and keeping his head tilted to the side? If you answered yes to any of the above, chances are high your dog may have developed an unsightly condition known as aural hematoma.
What is an aural hematoma?
The technical term may be a bit intimidating, but "aural" simply means ear, while "hematoma" means "blood has accumulated inside the ear." If you look carefully at your dog's ears, you will likely see that the actual swollen part is the underlying surface of the pinna. Upon palpation, most dogs will display a pain signal.
Why does a dog's ear swell to such epic proportions?
When a dog subjects their ear lobe to excessive scratching and shaking, tiny blood vessels rupture causing the accumulated blood to fill up the space in the ear flap between the cartilage and skin.
The ear flap therefore swells under pressure causing the typical "ballooned experience" many owners may witness.
An aural hematoma must not be confused with an ear abscess. The basic way to differentiate the two is by seeing the vet and having the vet do a needle aspiration.
In an aural hematoma, the needle will aspirate a bloody fluid, in an abscess the aspirated substance will be of a yellowish, green tint, suggesting pus.
Symptoms of Swollen Ears in Dogs
Symptoms of Aural Hematoma in Dogs
An aural hematoma is pretty easy to diagnose, because most dogs will show distinctive symptoms. The following are symptoms of an aural hematoma in dogs:
- A swollen pinna (ear flap)
- Pain upon palpation
- Head held to one side
- Pawing at the ear
- A history of head shaking
- A history of ear scratching
*Note: Not surprisingly, most owners that bring in a dog suffering from a swollen ear will also say that their dogs were shaking and scratching their head a lot lately. If your dog is prone to hematoma, it's important to address the underlying cause of the ear shaking.
Diagnosis and Treatment for Swollen Ears
Even though an ear hematoma diagnosis may be pretty straight forward, as mentioned, the underlying cause of the itching and scratching needs to be addressed. If only the aural hematoma would be taken care of, very likely the dog will return back to the itching and scratching, again causing major damage to the delicate pinna.
Underlying causes of ear scratching in dogs may be various, but here are a few to be looked into:
- Ear mites
- Bacterial infection
- Yeast infection
- Foreign bodies
- Wax built up
Treatment for Swollen Ears in Dogs
Proper treatment will involve taking care of the underlying cause. If there is a bacterial infection, antibiotics will be prescribed, if there is a foreign body stuck in the ear canal, the vet will work it out, if there are ear mites, topical ear medications are given, if there is a history of allergies, the triggering cause needs to be found, and finally, if there is earwax, a proper cleaning is performed.
However, the aural hematoma needs to be taken care of as well. If left untreated, even though the ear may heal on its own, your dog may risk exhibiting a very cosmetically unsightly and damaged ear. The ear may develop thickness and wrinkles or worse assume a "cauliflower appearance" due to scarring.
Treatment of the hematoma would consist of a surgical procedure where the blood is drained out. Often, this is done with the dog conscious using a cannula, or needle and syringe. In a more invasive procedure, the pinna will be cut open allowing the fluid to drain out, and then the area would be sutured back. The dog is often prescribed, antibiotics to treat/prevent infections and steroids to prevent any further swelling. Unfortunately, at times, despite treatment, the ears start filling up again.
*Note: In some cases, if the ear is only mildly inflated, a more conservative approach may be taken by injecting cortisone into the flap and prescribing cortisone pills so to shrink the hematoma.
As seen, accumulated fluids within a dog's pinna needs a veterinarian attention. Please do not wait too long, or your dog may develop a very unsightly ear. If money is an issue, think that waiting for it too heal on its own may have a much higher price: your dog's ear may never look normal as before.
*Note: if you have an appointment scheduled, placing a cold pack wrapped in cloth on the ear, kept for about 10 minutes at a time should help keep the swelling down.
What Happens if a Dog's Aural Hematoma is Left Untreated?
For Further Reading
- Zymox for Dogs with Ear Infections
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- Signs of Ear Infections in Dogs
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This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.
Questions & Answers
If you have a dog that already has a hematoma and you know that shaking its head is only going to make it worse, and if it's swollen because of the hematoma already, should you try wrapping the dog's ears or just leave it?
Some dog owners have found that it helps to wrap the dog's ear to protect it from head shaking or the self-trauma that may come from scratching at it. Care is needed when wrapping it, though, as wrapping it too tight may cut off the blood supply. Some dog owners like to use Happy Hoodies to temporary manage the situation until surgery is done.Helpful 54
© 2008 Adrienne Farricelli