When a dog has an ear irritation, he will shake his head, scratch his ear and even rub the side of his face along the ground. As you can imagine, this can cause trauma to the flap of his ear, which is also known as the pinna. The inside of the pinna can become quite red and inflamed and, in extreme cases, this scratching may lead to development of a hematoma or blood blister.
A hematoma occurs when a blood vessel between the skin and the cartilage on the pinna becomes broken. The ear flap becomes swollen with blood, and is very uncomfortable. Your dog is then even more likely to scratch and shake his ears.
Hematomas are most likely to occur secondary to infection or allergies in the ear canal. Your vet won’t have any trouble confirming the diagnosis of a hematoma; the swollen pinna is a giveaway.
Treating a Hematoma
How your vet treats a hematoma depends to a large extent on its size. If it is only a small blood blister, your vet may decide it can be left alone. The blood in the pinna will clot and shrink, and your dog’s ear may become crinkled. This is called a “cauliflower ear”; it doesn’t cause your dog any problems at all, but it may look a little odd.
It is very important that the underlying cause of the hematoma is treated. Most dogs that develop a hematoma have a chronic ear problem that has gone undetected for some time. If this isn’t managed properly, your dog will continue to scratch, and things may go from bad to worse.
Larger hematomas respond best to surgery. The blood is drained from the ear flap and stitches are placed through the pinna to hold it together while it heals. The ear may then be bandaged to your dog’s head, which will look quite funny for a little while.
How to Prevent a Hematoma
Prevention is better than cure, so if you can avoid your dog developing an annoying unsightly hematoma, he will be much happier.
Here are the steps you can take to prevent a hematoma developing:
1. Stay on top of your dog’s allergies. The skin in his ear canal is very similar to the skin on his body, so if he’s scratching himself a bit, it’s worth having a quick look in his ears to make sure they’re not also affected. If they’re red, smelly or the skin is thickened, it’s time to have them looked at by your vet.
2. At the first sign of ear irritation, make an appointment with your vet for a check-up. By doing that, you’ll prevent any infections becoming more serious, and stop your dog scratching at his ears. This reduces the likelihood of him breaking a blood vessel in his pinna.
3. Preventative care of his ears is critical. An ideal product to keep his ears healthy is Ear Aid. Clean his ears regularly with Ear Wipes to remove any dirt and wax. They contain colloidal silver and witch hazel to cleanse his ear canals, and prevent the growth of bacteria. When this is done, apply Ear Clear drops to his ear to soothe and heal any ear inflammation. By following this regime twice weekly, you’ll help prevent any irritation that may lead to hematoma development.