Swelling of the Ear (Aural Hematoma) in Cats and Dogs
Aural (ear) hematomas form when blood vessels rupture under the skin of the ear flap. This is the most common reason for swelling along the outside of a dog or cat’s ear. Continue reading to learn more about the signs, causes, and treatment of aural hematomas in dogs and cats.
Signs of an Aural Hematoma
- A swollen ear flap: the swelling can vary in size, and usually feels firm and fluid-like
- Discomfort: your cat or dog may tilt their head, often with the sore ear towards the ground.
- Ear infection: dirty, hot, red or smelly ear
Causes of an Aural Hematoma
An aural hematoma forms when capillaries, or small blood vessels, are broken under the skin of the pinna (ear flap). Blood accumulates between the two layers of cartilage that form the ear flap, resulting in a large “blood blister”.
This often occurs when the pet has chronic ear infections, allergies, ear mites, fleas, or a traumatic injury.
What Can I Do to Help My Pet?
- Monitor your pet for signs of ear disease such as redness, swelling, itching, or discharge.
- Treat all pets if there is a risk for fleas or ear mites.
- Seek veterinary advice for help managing these common underlying conditions.
Treatment of an Aural Hematoma
Aural hematomas can be challenging to treat. There are several common approaches that your vet will discuss with you. The least invasive approach is to leave the affected ear alone to see if it heals by itself. Unfortunately, the pet might continue to shake their head and healing may not occur. Some of the cases that do heal result in a “cauliflower-ear” appearance.
The most simple medical approach is to drain the fluid using a sterile needle and syringe. The ear is often bandaged against the head for several days to prevent the ear flap from filling back up with blood. Anti-inflammatory medication may be prescribed by your vet for pain relief. While this method can be successful for minor cases, large hematomas often recur and may require surgery to fix.
The third option is a minor surgery requiring general anesthesia. With the pet under anesthesia, the fluid is drained. A temporary drain to remove fluid is placed in the ear flap, or small sutures are placed across the ear flap to encourage the cartilage layers to stick together. An Elizabethan collar must be worn to protect the ear until it has fully healed.
Aural hematomas can recur, so it’s important to identify and treat any underlying causes, such as ear disease and allergies.
When to See Your Vet
- If you notice any of the signs of an aural hematoma listed above
- If your cat or dog is persistently shaking their head, or scratching their ear(s) or skin
Book a video appointment to chat with one of our vets.