Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ear Hematoma | What Are They and How Do Pets Get Them?

Some of you who follow Pawsitively Pets may notice that Shiner's ears look a little strange. I would describe them as crinkly and wrinkly. If you've ever wondered, the reason behind Shiner's strange looking ears are ear hematomas that she had when she was young. What is an ear hematoma anyways?

Shiner's ear is wrinkled due to a past ear hematoma surgery.

Ear Hematoma in Pets

Both cats and dogs can get ear hematomas. An ear hematoma is when the pinna (ear flap) of a cat or dog's ear becomes filled with fluid. It kind of resembles a water balloon. The fluid in the pinna is mostly blood. 

I can remember back when Shiner got her ear hematomas. I was very concerned because it just looked so big and uncomfortable. I was still in college for my veterinary assisting so I decided to ask one of my teachers about it. I described Shiner's ears to her and she was quick to tell me that my dog had an ear hematoma and would need a surgery to correct it. 

In most cases, surgery is performed on the ear to correct the hematoma. A veterinarian will make a long incision down the ear flap to get rid of all that fluid and blood that's accumulated in there. Then, they can suture in some plastic stints to each side of the ear flap. 

Every veterinarian is different, and I've seen the surgery done many different ways. I've even seen some photos of post-op hematoma surgeries where they used buttons too. The ears can take a long time to heal after the hematoma is repaired.

A dog's ear pinna after a hematoma repair surgery. Source

A handful of ear hematomas can be corrected with medication. If the hematoma is very small, sometimes a course of steroids can make it go away. That's pretty rare I'd say, however.

How Do Pets Get an Ear Hematoma?

Shiner's ear hematomas were caused because of chronic ear infections. She was constantly shaking her head which caused the blood vessels in her ear flaps to burst. In turn, her ear pinna became filled with the excess blood and fluid making her ears look like water balloons. Many dogs get ear hematomas secondary to an ear infection. 

Most of the cats that I've seen with ear hematomas got them because their ears were itchy too. But the cats' ears were itchy from chronic ear mite infestations. The cats would scratch and shake their ears, causing the vessels in the pinna to burst. While an ear hematoma in a cat is a little less common than it is in a dog, it is definitely still possible. 

Another cause for an ear hematoma in pets is trauma to the ear pinna. Perhaps they got into a tussle with another pet and their ear got scratched or bitten. It's an easy way to puncture a vessel in the ear flap and can cause a hematoma. 

Cauliflower Ears

If your pet has a surgery to correct a hematoma, their ear flaps are going to be crinkly and wrinkly for the rest of their life. It's commonly called "cauliflower ears". Shiner's ears are like this now and have been this way for many years. It's not harmful to a dog or cat to have ear flaps like this and is just a cosmetic thing. 

The ear flaps also feel very hard after they've fully healed from surgery. This is because of all the scar tissue that's left afterwards. 

A "cauliflower ear" on a cat left from scar tissue after an ear hematoma. Source

You can prevent an ear hematoma in your pet by maintaining good ear health. For dogs, regular ear cleaning once every week or two is a good habit. Cats may not need their ears cleaned as often, but you should still take a peek in there every now and then.

Let your pet's veterinarian know if you see your pet scratching their ears or shaking their head. It could be a sign of an ear infection or ear mites. 

Have you ever dealt with an ear hematoma with your pet before? If so, share your experience! 

32 comments:

  1. No this is the first time i hear about this illnes .. thank you so mutch for the information

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  2. That is very interesting. As I have long flappy ears peeps is always checking them. Have a terrific Tuesday Ann.
    Best wishes Molly

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    1. That's good Molly. Dogs with the flappy and droopy ears seem to get these more often I think.

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  3. Never heard of this, very interesting. Thanks for sharing. Lee and Phod

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  4. Thanks for this post, I never heard this. Easy shakes his head very often ( but there is nothing with or in his ears) I will keep an eye on the ears :o)

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  5. We have been very lucky and haven't had any hematomas. They do not look like fun. Great information.

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  6. Yikes! We don't want any of that stuff!

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  7. Yikes Shiner, we have never heard of that. We think you have bootiful ears xxoxxx

    Mollie and Alfie

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  8. This is great information! Especially because I had lots of ear problems due to my food allergies. Mom will make sure she cleans them regularly now! Thanks! Love Dolly

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  9. This is the first time I've heard of it. I try to clean Chuy's ears a few times a week. Thanks for sharing this!

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    1. Fortunately for Chuy, I don't think chihuahuas get them very often. I don't think I've ever seen a chihuahua with an ear hematoma before.

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  10. Great info. Fortunately have never had to deal with that before. Have had cats (in the past that went outdoors) with ear mites, but that's the worst I've had to deal with. Lucky for my guys, I guess.

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    1. Cats don't get it too often it seems. Unless the ear mites go untreated for a long amount of time, they seem to avoid them pretty well.

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  11. We always wondered about that because we see so many kitties with that in the shelter. Now we can educate our potential adopters - thanks!

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    1. Yep - it is just wrinkly from scar tissue. Probably caused by an old hematoma or possibly an injury if you're not sure of their history. Just cosmetic and won't cause any health problems! Hope this helps!

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  12. Yikes, keep the surgeons away from my ears! Hope that never happens to me!

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  13. Our Golden Sheba had that once. We were lucky that hers was cleared up with medication. It may have been because I got her in to the vet very quickly that we caught it soon enough to avoid the surgery. The meds brought the swelling down. I am very diligent about keeping her ears cleaned now, I try to do it at least every two weeks.

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    1. Yea, the sooner you can catch it the easier it is to correct. Very lucky for Sheba!

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  14. Our Chizzy had one of those and wound up with a cauliflower ear! We couldn’t imagine how he got it because we had him from the time he was born. We thought he may have scraped his ear on a rough spot on the window screen that he broked but it might be mites.

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    1. Sometimes it can be a bit of a mystery CK. He could have just hurt it somehow.

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  15. Amazing. With all the crap my dogs have gotten, i have not heard of this one. Thanks for teaching me all about it. And, if you ask me, Shiner looks adorable with her crinkly ears. :-)

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  16. WOW - thanks for sharing this. Do you have a printable sheet with this info? I would like to pass this on to our chihuahua group during our next meetup (www.southsuburbanchihuahua.com) if not, is it OK to create one? WOOF!

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    1. Hey PB, feel free to print this or create your own from this information if you like. Glad you found it useful!

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  17. OMG My mom's dog Rocky has this. He's had it for a few years. My mom can't afford to have surgery done and Rocky doesn't seem to be bothered by it.

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    1. Sounds like he probably just has the scar tissue from an old healed one then. There is no surgery to correct the scar tissue. It just stays like that forever. If he had actual hematomas on his ears for years, they'd probably be quite the bloody mess by now! I couldn't afford surgery either at first, and Shiner had hers for just a few weeks before I was able to save the money for it.

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  18. Oh man that is scary stuff! I hope Joker never gets one!!

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    1. I hope not either! It's not too bad really, but it can be pretty bothersome! I have seen a lot of GSD's with it before.

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