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"Dog ear hematoma refers to the accumulation of fluids or blood in between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap, or pinna, of the ear. It is a common ear problem in dogs, particularly in dogs with long ear flaps. Other names for canine ear hematoma are “Aural Hematomas” or “Auricular Hematomas”.
Certain underlying ear problems such as allergies, parasitic infestation and infections are associated with an ear hematoma. Symptomatically, extensive head shakes, pruritus (itch), self injury from scratching and trauma are some common causes of a hematoma. Painful swelling with fluid contained in the external ear is noticed as a primary symptom while associated symptoms of the underlying problem will also be noticed such as pruritus (itch), skin lesions, alopecia (hair loss), all of which can help in making a diagnosis. Proper care is essential; otherwise it can cause permanent deformities in a dog’s ear. Surgical drainage of the hematoma followed by the filling of the cavity with glucocorticoids is the most effective way to treat hematoma specifically. Any underlying cause should be properly diagnosed and treated to prevent a recurrence."
Overview and Underlying Causes
Canine ear hematoma or auricular hematomas are considered to be a secondary problem that is triggered by another underlying cause. An ear hematoma is specifically defined as the accumulation of fluids (blood) in between the skin and ear cartilages. It occurs when delicate blood vessels on the flap of the ear rupture due to extensive head shakes, itching and scratching or any traumatic injury.
Any symptoms such as itching, scratching or extensive head shakes are surely related to any underlying cause which can be:
- allergies (atopy, food allergy, flea bite allergy etc.)
- ear infections
- mange (Mite infestation)
Hematomas may develop soon after the blood vessels rupture, and in the viewpoint of some researchers, an ear hematoma in dogs is a subtype of a “closewound”.
Symptoms of Dog Ear Hematoma
Ear hematomas in dogs is a condition which occurs as the result of an underlying cause. It can be termed as a severe symptom itself. Painful swelling on an ear that contains fluids is the primary representation of the condition. When touched, swelling feels warm and displaceable to some extent.
Blood fills in an ear pocket between the skin and cartilage, thus when the blood clots it may cause deformity in the dog ear if left untreated. Symptoms of underlying causes include severe itching, scratching, skin lesions; marginal bleeding at the ear flap, alopecia (hair loss) and generalized illness from infections. These symptoms can help in making a diagnosis and in understanding the etiology (why it occurred) of the ear hematoma.
Diagnosis of Dog Ear Hematoma
Clinical examination by a veterinarian is enough for diagnosing an ear hematoma in dogs specifically, but as far underlying causes are concerned, laboratory procedures might be required. A detailed inspection of the ear and the status of any swelling is essential prior to undergoing surgical drainage, as it will help in assessing the required approach and post surgical care.
Treatment of Dog Ear Hematoma
Timely surgical drainage is the most appropriate approach towards treatment. It is always recommended that some of the ear hematoma content be collected and examined before operating. This will help in assessing the status of the problem. Surgical incisions on the skin surface, preferably vertically, can completely drain the contents of the pocket.
After careful drainage, flushing of the cavity is required. This is done with an antiseptic solution containing an appropriate quantity of buffer in it. Topical glucocorticoids, available in the form of powders can be used to fill in the pocket to hasten recovery.
There are two different approaches for the closure of surgical wounds; several mattress sutures are applied or the skin surface is covered with a sticky tape bandage. Suturing is an effective option but there are concerns such as disfiguring of the ear, particularly in show dogs. Placing a sticky tape bandage on an incision can prevent disfiguring but requires extensive postoperative care.
In severe ear hematomas, it is always recommended that a catheter be placed in the ear for continuous drainage till the vascular supply becomes stable. An IV catheter or a simplified butterfly cannula connection can help in this regard.
Any underlying cause should be carefully identified and should be treated specifically. This is a very necessary step to prevent any recurrence of the dog ear hematoma.
Natural remedies can be used as effective option for post operative care of surgical wounds and itching caused by underlying problems, along with specific prescriptive topical preparations and cleaning. Homeopathic products such as WoundDr. can help to speed recovery from any minor surgical wounds. Another homeopathic product, EarDr., can help with symptoms such as scratching, itching and overall health issues.
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MerckVeterinary Manual (Merck & Co. 2008)
K. Fedrek. Indications of Small Animal Surgery(California Press. 1997)
Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine