A hematoma is nothing but a collection of blood outside the blood vessels, which usually occurs due to a hemorrhage. A hemorrhage can occur when the wall of the blood vessels are damaged, allowing the blood to escape and enter the tissues. This in turn, can cause the development of a hematoma, which can be as tiny as a dot, or large enough to cause significant swelling, redness, and pain.
This condition is quite common in pets, including dogs and cats. Dogs are more likely to develop this condition, as compared to cats. They usually develop localized swelling on the inside of the ear flap, which is known as an aural hematoma. It usually results from an itchy ear, which compels the animal to continuously scratch the ear and shake its head vigorously. This can eventually cause the blood vessels of the ear flap to rupture. As a result, a localized swelling, filled with blood develops on the ear flap.
Aural hematomas are usually caused by the rupture of the blood vessels present in the ear flap. This can result from a self-inflicted trauma like constant ear scratching and head shaking, or other types of injuries.
The factors that usually cause itchy ears, and thus compel a dog to scratch his ears constantly are, allergies, ear mites, accumulation of excess wax and debris in the ears, excessive growth of hair inside the ears, and the presence of foreign objects and parasites in the ear.
Yeast infections or bacterial infections of the ear can also cause this condition. The condition is however, more common among dogs having long and floppy ears. This condition is more frequent in humid areas, as compared to the cold and dry areas of the world.
Signs of Canine Hematoma
If your dog is constantly scratching or rubbing its ear with its paw, then it could be a sign that something is wrong with its ear. It can also shake its head vigorously, which can indicate that it is trying to get rid of something present in the ear.
You can also observe a firm and small, or large swelling inside the ear flap or at the base of the ear. If the hematoma is quite large, then a larger area of the ear can look swollen and red. You can feel warmth on touching the swollen area. If it is painful, you can observe your dog yelping or whining while touching the ear. Head tilting is another symptom that can be observed in dogs with aural hematomas.
This condition can be easily identified by veterinarians by examining your dog's ears. However, a confirmed diagnosis may require the fluid to be withdrawn from the swollen area. The presence of blood in the fluid confirms the diagnosis. As far as the treatment is concerned, this condition can be treated in several ways.
For minor hematomas, veterinarians may opt for simple aspiration, wherein the fluid is drained from the swollen areas with the help of a syringe. Veterinarians usually opt for hematoma correction surgery, and the placement of a teat cannula for treating this condition.
A teat cannula is generally employed for draining milk or infected discharge in cattle. But it could be used for treating aural hematomas as well. For placing a teat cannula in the dog's ear, the animal is first sedated. The teat cannula is then placed on the tip of the ear, so that it can drain out the fluid from the affected area. Usually, this device is placed for a period of three weeks, which can be a bit uncomfortable for your dog.
Another option for treating this condition is surgery. General anesthetic agents are used to sedate the dog, after which a surgical incision is made in the swollen area, in order to drain the accumulated fluid. The incision is then sealed with multiple sutures. The sutures are removed once the incision heals completely, which usually takes 9 to 10 days.
Hematomas can be quite painful at times, and they can cause scarring, if left untreated. So, it is better to seek medical attention than letting them heal on their own. It is possible to prevent this condition in the future, if the underlying causes of irritation or itching can be ascertained. Regular grooming can help avoid ear irritation by keeping the ears free from any foreign objects. Similarly, conditions like ear mites that can cause itching and irritation of the ear, need to be properly treated to prevent the recurrences of aural hematomas.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be treated as a substitute for the medical advice of a veterinarian.