Aural haematoma in dogs

Isolated dog

Overview

  • An aural haematoma is a blood blister that forms inside an earflap after a blood vessel bursts.
  • Aural haematomas usually develop due to head shaking or ear scratching, usually because of an ear infection or skin problem.
  • Occasionally, a haematoma will form after a knock or injury.
  • As well as treating your dog’s haematoma, your vet will try to find out why it happened in the first place.
  • Treatment often includes surgery to drain the ear - don’t try to treat an aural haematoma yourself.

When to contact your vet

Call your vet for an appointment if you notice an aural haematoma – they will find the cause and treat your dog.

What is an aural haematoma?

An aural haematoma is a blood blister that forms inside an earflap due to a burst blood vessel. As the vessel bleeds, your dog’s earflap will become heavy, swollen, warm and uncomfortable.

Illustration of an aural haematoma

An aural haematoma is a blood blister in the earflap

Symptoms

Photo of aural haematoma on a dog's ear

An aural haematoma forms when a blood vessel bursts in the ear.

Causes

Aural haematomas often form when there is a problem such as:

Treatment

Treatment options depend on the size and cause of the haematoma as well as how painful and irritating it is.

Leaving alone

  • You should always take your dog to your vet if they develop an aural haematoma. Your vet will find out and treat the underlying cause (i.e. ear infection, ear mites or allergic skin disease). In some circumstances however, the swelling (haematoma) itself can be left to heal without treatment. This will only be the case if your dog’s haematoma is small and causing no pain or irritation.

Draining

  • Large haematomas often need draining. Left to heal by themselves, they are likely to scar and cause a thickened, crinkly earflap – like a rugby player with ‘cauliflower ear’.
  • Some haematomas are drained using a syringe and needle, some need an indwelling plastic drain, and some need surgery.
  • If your dog’s haematoma refills after being drained – they are likely to need surgery.

Surgery

  • If your dog’s aural haematoma keeps refilling, your vet may advise surgery. This involves making a slit in the earflap to drain it before compressing it with stitches so it can’t refill.

Medication

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs are often used to reduce swelling and provide pain relief.
  • Your vet may prescribe other medication depending on what caused your dog’s aural haematoma to form in the first place.
Photo of aural haematoma drain

Ideally this drain will stay in place for a few days to remove new blood

Ongoing care and outlook

After your dog’s haematoma has been treated, you will need to keep their ear protected from infection and further injury. If your vet prescribes a head cone, make sure your dog wears it 24/7. You will need to keep their ear clean, give all prescribed medication and monitor for pain, swelling and redness. It’s normal for an aural haematoma to leak blood after being drained, this is nothing to worry about. However, if it bleeds more, or for longer than expected, call your vet for advice.

Your dog should recover within 1-2 weeks if their ear heals without complications.

Cost

Treatment for an aural haematoma can become expensive, especially if your dog requires surgery. Consider insuring your dog as soon as you get them, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.

Published: May 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst