Cauliflower ear is a medical condition in which the ear cartilage gets affected. It is said that most animals are prone to this condition. Even humans develop this condition, especially those who engage in boxing and athletics. Cauliflower ear in dogs is mainly found in those with long ears.
What is Cauliflower Ear?
From the very name of the condition, it can be inferred that it affects the ear. Actually, it is a condition that affects the pinna or the outer ear. However, cauliflower ear is the later stage of the condition called aural hematoma. In other words, aural hematoma, if left untreated, leads to cauliflower ear.
The outer ear or pinna is made of cartilage, which is covered with connective tissues and skin. In case of trauma, the blood vessels in the outer ear rupture, and blood collects between the cartilage and the tissues. This condition is called aural hematoma, which deprives the cartilage of nutrients, which is supplied by the blood vessels. While the word 'aural' refers to a condition of the ear, 'hematoma' refers to a swelling that is filled with blood.
Such swelling may be restricted to a specific part of the ear, or may affect the entire pinna, sometimes, blocking the ear canal. If left untreated, the cartilage may wither, fold over, or shrivel, resulting in a cauliflower-like surface. This condition is called cauliflower ear.
The exact cause for this condition is still unknown, but there are various factors that may lead to aural hematoma, and eventually result in cauliflower ear. So any kind of trauma (like a blow) affecting the head may lead to aural hematoma. In case of dogs, violent shaking and scratching of the ears are considered as the possible causes for cauliflower ear. It has been observed that dogs with long dangling ears are more prone to this condition. This is more applicable for those with ear mites or ear infections, as these conditions may cause violent head shaking, ear scratching, etc. This results in breaking of blood vessels and aural hematoma.
The most common symptoms of aural hematoma in dogs are constant tilting of the head to one side, continuous ear scratching, head jerking, head shaking, pawing at the ear, swelling of a part of the pinna or the entire pinna, a red or pinkish color change of the affected area, etc. The swollen area may be slightly hot, and the dog may experience pain, as you touch the spot.
How is it Treated
In some cases, aural hematoma heals without any treatment. However, it is advisable to provide timely treatment to avoid complications. If not treated, it will result in scarring and other cosmetic problems, like cauliflower ear. Another point is that if the underlying condition (if any) does not get treated, it may lead to severe complications. While the blood in the hematoma can be removed through needle aspiration, it may not solve the problem in some cases, as swelling may recur. So, in order to avoid that, surgery may be required. Apart from that, underlying conditions, like ear infection should be diagnosed and treated.
In short, cauliflower ear is a condition that can be prevented with proper care. Regular examination of the dog's ear (including the outer ear) is recommended. Adopt a strict parasite control strategy, so that the dog does not get affected with ear mites and other such problems. Clean the ears regularly, and dry the inner ear of the dog, as and when the animal goes out in the rain, or takes a swim or a bath. So, prevent aural hematoma and protect your dog from cauliflower ear.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert advice.