So your dog’s ear has swollen and it looks like there’s a big blister on it. It may be small or it may be taking up the whole ear.
Whatever the size, what you’re seeing is most likely an ear hematoma. The name sounds a bit scary and the sudden appearance of it is alarming … but there’s no need to worry.
Ear hematomas can be a serious issue but the cause is usually obvious and it’s easy to treat.
Let’s dive right in …
What Is An Ear Hematoma In Dogs?
A hematoma is the collection of blood outside of a blood vessel. It’s sometimes referred to a blood blister.
The most common type of hematoma in dogs is an ear hematoma (or aural hematoma). These happen when a blood vessel bursts and bleeds between the cartilage and skin of the outer ear.
Ear hematomas vary in size and appearance. They can be small and affect only a portion of the ear … or they can be so large that they block the ear canal and affect how the ear hangs or stands up.
They look like a blister, though they may not be as red as a regular blood blister. There will be obvious swelling and a firm swollen mass on the earflap that can feel spongy or like a water balloon. While it may look like it’s about to burst, hematomas rarely do. But they can be very painful for your dog, especially to the touch.
What Causes Ear Hematomas In Dogs?
Hematomas are the result of trauma. The most common types of trauma that cause ear hematomas are excessive scratching or head shaking. That means your dog may be more likely to get a hematoma if he’s dealing with …
Foreign objects inside of the ear can also cause discomfort that leads to excessive head shaking and scratching.
Another common cause of ear hematomas is bite wounds that don’t break the skin.
Which Dogs Are More Prone To Ear Hematomas
Your dog is at a higher risk of developing ear hematomas if he has recurring ear problems. Especially if they cause him to scratch at his ear and shake his head. Hematomas are also more likely in dogs with clotting or bleeding problems, even without obvious trauma.
Dogs with floppy ears are also more prone to ear hematomas.
What Happens If A Hematoma Is Left Untreated?
If you leave a hematoma to its own devices, the blood will eventually reabsorb. This can happen in as little as 10 days for smaller hematomas. But larger hematomas can take weeks or even months to reabsorb. And there’s a risk that scar tissue will cause permanent disfiguration that creates cauliflower ear. This is when the skin takes on the look of a cauliflower floret.
Whether this disfiguration is problematic depends on the location of the hematoma.
When To Worry About A Hematoma
There are 3 main scenarios where an ear hematoma becomes more serious.
- The hematoma is blocking the ear canal.
- Permanent disfiguration from natural healing could narrow the ear canal. This would increase the risk of ear infections.
- The hematoma is so large and painful it’s causing unreasonable discomfort.
In these cases, your options may be a bit more limited. But the hematoma is still treatable.
Conventional Treatments For Ear Hematomas
If your dog has an ear hematoma, most conventional vets will recommend surgery. The vet will drain the hematoma and remove any clots by making an incision in the hematoma. She’ll then suture the ear in multiple places to reattach the skin and cartilage. This will help prevent disfiguration while the ear heals.
The vet may also insert a drain before suturing so that any new fluid build-up can be easily drained. This procedure is invasive and your dog needs to be under sedation.
Other conventional options may include …
- Aspiration using a syringe. This will remove the fluids, but usually only provides short-term relief.
- A teat cannula (or similar drain) placement. This will make it easy for you to drain the hematoma until it properly heals. Disfiguration may still be a risk.
- A vacutainer, which creates a vacuum. This removes the blood and keeps the skin and cartilage close together to improve healing and reduce disfiguration. But you’ll have to change the drain as it fills up.
These options are less invasive than surgery and don’t need anesthesia. But there are more natural options that may be worth trying first.
Home Treatment For Ear Hematomas
To stop the hematoma from getting larger, it’s important to act quickly. You can manage hematomas at home naturally … but they can be quite serious. So be sure to consult your holistic vet.
Here are two areas you need to focus on. (You should do them simultaneously).
1. Find The Underlying Cause
Whether you choose natural or conventional treatments, you have to deal with the underlying cause of the hematoma. Otherwise, you risk another hematoma forming.
The good news is that most common causes of ear hematomas have natural remedies.
There are two main types of allergies and each has different symptoms.
Food Allergies – chronic ear infections, bronzing nail beds or lips, itchy skin, dull coat, watery eyes
Food allergies can be from any food but common culprits are corn, wheat, rice, eggs, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and lentils. The best way to narrow down the cause is with an elimination diet or allergy test.
Environmental Allergies – Itching, hives, ear infections, hair loss, chewing or licking paws.
Normally vets will treat environmental allergies with antihistamines, like Benadryl. But these medications can cause more harm than good. Instead try …
Dog ear infections are one of the number one reasons for vet visits. If your dog has an ear infection, he’ll have hot, smelly ears with a waxy discharge. They may also be crusty, or scabby looking. In serious cases, your dog may lose his balance or hearing.
Antibiotics, steroids and topical treatments are usually prescribed for ear infections. But these only treat the symptoms temporarily … and they can have nasty side effects. Luckily there are natural options to use instead.
Popular remedies include green tea, calendula, apple cider vinegar, and oil of oregano.
Ear mites are from the same family as ticks but they don’t bite. Instead they feed off the wax in your dog’s ears.
Ear mites are usually picked up while outside or from another animal like a cat, dog or ferret. If your dog has ear mites he may have:
- Droopy ears if they usually stand up
- Dark discharge
- A bad smell
There will also be pinprick-sized white moving spots … but you’ll probably only see these if you have great eyesight. To try and diagnose them yourself, you can use a cotton ball to collect debris from the outer ear canal. Place it on a dark background and then use a magnifying glass to spot whit moving spots.
Natural remedies for ear mites include olive oil, garlic oil and green tea.
Occasionally dogs will pick up ticks. Unlike mites, ticks are large enough to spot. But if they’re deeper in your dog’s ear, they may be hard to see. Make sure to look as far as you can into your dog’s ear if there’s nothing obvious on the outer canal.
The initial reaction of most people is to panic when they spot a tick, but there’s no need to. While it’s important to act fast, it’s not something that you should rush. Once you have removed the tick, any irritation it caused should resolve quickly.
2. Fix The Hematoma
There are several natural remedies you can try. Veterinarians Drs Wynne and Marsden recommend Chinese herbal medicine or homeopathy.
Yunnan Baiyao is a Chinese herbal formula made for internal use. Use 250 mg of powder per 20 lbs of body weight or 1 capsule or tablet once or twice daily.
Arnica montana 30C or Hamamelis 30C are homeopathic remedies that can help with hematomas. They’re best for simple hematomas that don’t have a lot of ear inflammation.
Drs Wynne and Marsden recommend giving one of these remedies up to twice daily for 1 week, then once a day for 4 to 5 days.
You can also use topical Arnica or Hamamelis three times daily. Both should be available at health stores. If the hematoma continues to expand, stop treatment and consult your vet.
RELATED: How to dose homeopathic remedies …
Herbalists Greg Tilford and Mary Wulff recommend yarrow as another herbal option. Apply yarrow oil topically to help strengthen the exterior capillary walls.
Witch hazel can also be effective. Its strong astringent properties help constrict weak or inflamed blood vessels.
Compression wraps and bandages keep your dog’s ears snuggly against his head. This will prevent further shaking and scratching that could worsen the hematoma or cause a new one.
Depending on the cause of the hematoma, a wrap may be helpful or it could make it hard to remedy the underlying cause. Your dog may also find the feeling of a wrap or bandage uncomfortable.
This last option is for the adventurous. But it’s also seen good results.
Humans have used medicinal leeches for centuries and still do today. In fact, the FDA considers them a medicinal device.
You may already know that they feed on blood but that isn’t all they do. Leech saliva also has healing properties that prevent blood from clotting. This helps prevent scar tissue from forming and makes them a great choice for hematomas.
Veterinary leeches can be purchased online from companies like Biopharm. But you should consult your holistic vet before using this remedy.
Can You Drain An Ear Hematoma At Home?
Draining a hematoma at home isn’t recommended. It may temporarily relieve your dog’s discomfort but it could also lead to infection. And the hematoma usually returns.
If you think your dog’s hematoma needs draining, consult your holistic vet.
Ear hematomas can seem a bit intimidating when they first appear but there are many options for managing them naturally. So before heading into surgery, connect with your holistic vet and try some of these less invasive options.
Riede F et al. Medicinal leeches for the treatment of venous congestion and hematoma after plastic reconstructive surgery. J Dtsch Dermatol Ges. 2010;8(11):881-8.
Lee NJ et al. Treatment of a sublingual hematoma with medicinal leeches. J Oral Maxillofac Surg. 1996;54:101-3.
Epstein SR. The therapy that sucks: Leeches at WAH. 2012 Jul 3.