An ear hematoma is also sometimes known as an auricular hematoma, with auricular referring to the ears.
What Is an Ear Hematoma?
An ear hematoma is a pocket of blood that is found on the ear pinna, or the flap of the ear. Ear hematomas can occur in both cats and dogs.
A hematoma will appear as a soft, fluctuant swelling on the pinna of the ear. They may range in size from small and encompassing only a portion of the pinna to large and filling the entire pinna with blood. A large hematoma may actually make the ear pinna resemble a liquid-filled balloon.
What Causes an Ear Hematoma in the Cat or Dog?
Most commonly, ear hematomas are the result of an ear infection or of otitis which has caused the cat or dog to shake its head excessively and/or scratch at the ears. The trauma resulting from this head shaking and ear scratching is thought to cause the blood vessels to rupture and bleed into the space between the skin and the cartilage of the ear, causing the hematoma.
However, not all dogs and cats with auricular hematomas have ear infections or signs of otitis. Some appear to have perfectly normal ears, aside from the presence of the hematoma itself. It has been theorized, though not definitively proven, that some hematomas may be the result of an immune malfunction.
Treatment of an Auricular Hematoma for Your Dog or Cat
There are a number of different options for treatment of an ear hematoma. The method chosen will depend on the veterinarian, the individual pet and the pet owner's preference.
In some cases, simple drainage of the hematoma may be attempted. However, without a plan in place to keep the fluid from building up in the ear again, this method quite often results in the recurrence of the hematoma.
Various techniques may be used to keep the fluid from building up inside of the pocket. Some veterinarians make stab incisions and place a drain in the ear to drain the fluid as it accumulates. Others make a cut in the ear to drain the fluid and place sutures through the pinna or use a device that helps to hold skin and cartilage of the ear pinna close together to prevent fluid from re-accumulating.
Another technique that is sometimes used, especially in cases where the ear appears healthy and an immune reaction is suspected as the cause, is the use of corticosteroids rather than surgical drainage. In some cases, a corticosteroid is instilled directly into the area of the hematoma. In others, the corticosteroid is given orally.
Pre-Existing and Underlying Ear Infections or Otitis Must Be Treated
Any ear disease present that may be serving as the underlying cause of a hematoma must be treated while the hematoma is being addressed. If the pre-existing ear disease is not controlled, the likelihood that the hematoma will recur is higher.
Many times, ears that have had hematomas will heal with a crinkled or cauliflower appearance despite the treatment option chosen.More about: Ear Hematomas
Learn more: Ear Infections in Dogs and Cats