Skip to main content

Aural (Ear) Haematoma

We see our friends shaking their head, flopping their ears from side to side.  Is it an ear infection? Might it be a grass seed?  Sometimes we hope that these conditions will just disappear, but the reality is, the more irritated the ear canal becomes, the more trauma our dogs cause themselves.  The constant shaking, with the ferocity, causes the earflaps to literally explode.  An aural haematoma is a pool of blood that collects between the skin and the cartilage of an animals ear flap.  It is typically caused by overly aggressive ear scratching or head scratching that results from an ear infection.  Dogs and cats can both suffer aural haematoma’s though dogs are more prone.

 Aural haematoma’s are caused by some type of self-trauma.  This can be due to an ear infection, an allergy or a foreign body e.g. grass seed that causes irritation.  The animal tries to relieve themselves of this pain by shaking the head vigorously.  This shaking causes the blood vessel to leak and the ear flap will have a fluid like swelling on all or part of the ear flap.  Sometimes the swelling will feel firm, other times softer and may be from the canal towards the flap or other times just involve the ear tip.

This problem is seen more often in dog breeds with more pendulous (hanging) ears e.g. Labradors and Cocker Spaniels. This is because heavy ear flaps slap against the side of the head during the head shaking process.

Surgical repair is the most effective treatment. Under an anaesthetic, an incision is made along the length of the haematoma on the inner ear surface.  After the fluid and blood clots are removed, the inner surface is sutured to the outer surface.  Blood and fluid shall continue to drain through the incision as the ear heals.  When an animal is head shaking the canal needs to examined.  Determination needs to be made as to whether an infection is the source or a foreign body the cause of the shaking.  If the examination occurs when the head shaking begins an aural haematoma may be prevented.  This is why prescription ear medications are not readily available over the counter without examination.

Treating an ear infection is much less invasive than having to deal with an aural haematoma along with the extended recovery time.