Treating dogs with ear hematomas
One of the more common ear questions I get over the many years of answering pet questions, particularly in dogs, is when animal guardians report a swelling of one or more outer ear flaps in their dogs, and less frequently in cats. The history on such cases can be variable, from pets with a history of ear infections and shaking their heads and itching their ears a lot, to pets with no symptoms at all.
The most common diagnosis of this soft, balloon-like swelling of the ear flaps in our pets is what is known as an ear hematoma. This is usually due to a broken blood vessel in the ear flap. While the condition can look unsightly and certainly enlarge the ear flap considerably, this is not a health threatening or emergency situation in our pets the majority of the time. While many animal guardians and some vets will request and/or try draining the swelling with a needle, unfortunately that technique is highly unsuccessful in most cases, and the swelling usually quickly returns.
If the pet is not bothered by the swellings, often with time and patience the swelling will go down on its own, with the ear usually healing with a slight crease on the ear flap. However, if the pet is extremely bothered by the swelling, and/or the swelling persists or enlarges, then the treatment of choice is surgical drainage under anesthesia by a veterinary surgeon. There are many different surgical techniques that are used, and most of them are successful, although on rare occasion the ear hematomas can recur.
It is of course important in these cases to treat any secondary ear infections of the ear canals with appropriate medications prescribed by your veterinarian, and to treat underlying causes of chronic ear problems such as inhalant/contact allergies and/or food allergies, or the recurrent ear infections and/or ear hematomas can recur.