Ear issues have always been a common problem faced by pet owners. It is a well known fact that many chronic ear abnormalities are actually a result of other internal organ diseases, hormonal imbalance or most commonly, allergies.
Beside ear infection and its normal typical presentation, another abnormal outcome can arise, known as Aural Hematoma.
The ear flap consists of cartilage, small blood vessels, covered by skin and fur. When the ear is irritated, a normal reaction of pets is head shaking. When the pet shakes its head vigorously, it can often snap one or more of the blood vessels supplying the ear flap (pinna).
As a result of the blood vessel breakage, blood accumulates under the ear flap skin. This pocket of blood is called in medical terms Aural Hematoma.
Aural hematoma can occur in both dogs and cats, but significantly more common in dogs. Aural hematoma is typically characterized by a warm, painful swelling on the inner side of the ear cartilage. Depending on its size, the swelling can be either soft or hard. The swelling typically appears acutely (all of the sudden and not in a gradual manner).
Aural hematoma can only seldom heal on its own without a medical intervention. It is not recommended to leave the hematoma untreated due to few reasons.
The blood pocket itself, can be a perfect medium for bacteria to overgrow, spread and cause a severe infection. The blood in the pocket tends to clot, its ability to dissolve and get reabsorbed to the body is very limited to not existent. Last but not least, it is important to remember that Aural hematoma, in the vast majority of cases, is secondary to a primary problem in the ear that caused the initial vigorous head shaking and scratching. If the primary ear problem is not addressed and treated, the problem will recur.
There are few medical possibilities to treat Aural hematoma. If the hematoma is addressed very closed to its formation, it may be resolved by simple aspiration. However, unfortunately in most instances a short surgical procedure is required in order to treat the problem and reduce the likelihood of recurrence.
Beside surgical drainage, the ear canal is tested for presence of infections, foreign body or any other irritant that led to the head shaking. Very commonly, an oral antibiotic is prescribed to treat and prevent infections, along with pain control medication and anti inflammatory medications.
Sometimes, the ear cartilage does not go back to its original shape and scar tissue in a shape of wrinkling occurs. Treating the hematoma as close as possible to its formation, reduced the chances of any secondary complication that may arise. Being diligent, and addressing any ear issues, that may manifest by repeated scratching, and or head shaking, before the hematoma even forms can save both you and your pet a lot of grief.
Dr. Moshe Oz is a West Kelowna veterinarian.