A very common problem for territory dogs is aural haematomas. This is when the ear flap suddenly swells up like a balloon. This is usually caused by the dog shaking its head. The centripetal force of shaking can cause the bloods vessels that run through the ear flap to burst. The leaking blood fills up the space between the layers of cartilage in the ear. The swelling can involve the entire ear flap, or just a section of it. This condition is most common in dogs but any animal with an ear flap can develop an aural haematoma. We have also seen it in cats, a sheep, a camel, possums and lots of wallabies.
Anything that causes the animal to shake its head or scratch its ear may lead to the formation of an aural haematoma. The most common reason is an infection of the ear canal but grass seeds, ticks, flies and fleas are common contributors as well.
The swollen ear is often tender and causes discomfort to the dog. If left untreated the fluid in the ear flap will be slowly absorbed back into the body. However, as this happens the ear scars up and becomes shrunken and twisted: a “cauliflower ear”.
If your pet develops an aural haematoma we recommend booking an appointment to have us assess the ear flap and the inside of the ear canal. We usually advise surgery to remove the blood and clots, and place temporary stitches to keep the ear flap from refilling with blood.
There is only a fairly short window of opportunity to treat the haematoma before the fluid becomes solid and scarring occurs, so it is important to get your dog checked out as soon as you notice a problem. Haematomas can also reoccur if the reason for the haematoma is not found and fixed.