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What is a Aural Hematoma?

By C. K. Lanz
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments
By anon1005827 — On Nov 30, 2021

Is there a need to leave an open wound on the ear to treat an aural hematoma? No. The surgeon leaves an open wound to allow the blood to escape and pressure to not fill the hematoma region after he installs stitches. This is counter productive to healing.

The blood and serum are what heals the hematoma, and by letting it release out of the ear and into your home, the hematoma will not heal. It is only after enough blood clot has formed that the blood vessels will seal and stop filling the hematoma. The Auralsplint is the only treatment that accomplishes this using medical established facts.

It takes pressure against the broken blood vessels to stop them from bleeding. And, it takes splinting the ear tissues against one another to insure they reattach in proper form and position. It's a Class 1 Medical Device and Dressing for the veterinary industry and for the public.

By anon1002862 — On Mar 05, 2020

The simple description of surgery in this article is not nearly graphic enough. The vet removes a section of skin to allow the blood to release outside of the ear into a medical dressing or into the air, ground, walls, sheets, bedding or any other item near them. It also takes six months to heal. I do not recommend surgery. It is most important to find the affliction before one week has gone by. After 6-7 days the blood will clot, and only a surgical procedure can get the clot out. Go see a vet early and have a hypodermic needle aspiration, only.

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