Aural Hematomas (Swollen Ear Flap)
Aural hematoma is an accumulation of blood between the cartilage and skin of the ear flap. It is caused by damage to the cartilage from vigorous repeated head shaking or scratching at the ears with the back feet. Occasionally, the damage results from the ear striking a sharp edge during head shaking. Aural hematomas can occur in both dogs and cats, but are more common in dogs.
The most common underlying causes of head shaking are ear infections, ear mites and fleas.
Important Points in Treatment
If a dog or cat is very relaxed and easy to handle, the fluid can sometimes be drained via a needle and syringe, without and sedative or anesthetic. Sedation is usually advised to do the job properly and with minimum stress. Once the fluid has been drained, a steroid (dexamethasone) is injected into the space where the fluid had accumulated. This technique only has approximately a 50% success rate though - half of these animals will refill their hematoma again, and need surgery.
Those animals whose ears fill up again after simple drainage and a steroid injection, require surgery. Surgery is performed under general anesthesia, and involves cutting away a strip of tissue on the inside of the ear flap, and placing stitches to close the gap between the cartilage and the skin, eliminating the space so that it cannot fill up. The stitches are removed 10-14 days later.
Treatment of ear infections and/or ear mites is necessary to allow healing and prevent recurrence of the conditions that caused the hematoma in the first place. The opportunity is used while the animal is sedated or under anesthetic to examine the ear canal closely with an otoscope, and the ear is flushed out to visualise the ear drum.
Post surgery or after simple drainage, the pet is given medication to help prevent recurrence. This usually consists of antibiotic ointment to put into the affected ear canal daily, for at least a week.
Instructions for care of incisions, drain tubes and/or suture
Notify your veterinarian if any of the following occur:
Your pet exhibits discomfort by rubbing or pawing at its ears or by shaking its head.
Fluid continues to accumulate under the skin of the ear.
The surgical area appears to be infected (looks inflamed, pus present, foul smell)
Do you have a pet question you need answering? Ask our caring pet advisors here: