An aural hematoma is a painful condition afflicting cats and dogs that occurs when blood pools in the ear’s cartilage layers. The animal may shake its head repeatedly and constantly, and the ear may be painful to the touch. Swollen lumps of fluid can also be visible on the underside of the pinna, the outer part of the ear. The cause of aural hematoma is not well understood, but without treatment the swelling can leave the affected ear deformed.
Head shaking is the most common symptom of aural hematoma. The affected animal will shake its head vigorously and constantly and engage in frequent ear scratching and rubbing. If its ears also cause pain when touched, a veterinarian should be consulted as soon as possible. Aural hematoma is not life threatening but can be extremely painful for the animal.
A veterinarian will examine the animal’s ears for any physical signs of aural hematoma. Signs include fluid-filled swelling on the ear’s inner surface that can become firm and thick. An ear infection, ear mites, or foreign material may also be present. If the veterinarian suspects a disease other than aural hematoma, he or she may order a radiograph of the animal’s skull.
Treatment options depend on the cause and severity of the disease. Aspirating the pooling blood is less invasive but is not a permanent solution. The chance of future occurrences is higher. As a result, surgery is commonly recommended as the most effective and lasting treatment.
The goals of surgery for aural hematoma are to remove the swelling and avoid recurrence and deformation of the ear. An incision is made on the pinna, the cartilage is exposed, and the blood inside the swelling is removed. Sutures are removed after two weeks.
Many cases of aural hematoma are accompanied by an ear infection or mites. An ear infection can be the result of bacteria or yeast in the ear. Oral antibiotics are generally recommended to treat the underlying ear infection. If ear mites are present, a veterinarian will typically flush the ears with an anti-parasite solution.
An ear deformity known as cauliflower ear will usually result when the condition is left undetected and untreated. The hematoma’s fluid-filled swelling becomes thick and firm over time, deforming the ear. The ear will be lumpy and swollen like a piece of cauliflower.
The prognosis is generally good for recovery, but a recurrence is always possible. Animals should be inspected weekly for signs of inflammation, swelling, and pain. Pet owners should avoid probing the animal’s ear on their own to prevent inadvertently damaging the ear drum or canal. A veterinarian will be able to examine the ears safely.