I wanted to start a series of posts in which we look at various health problems dogs sometime can suffer because knowledge can help you spot an issue and maybe give some idea of treatment and prevention options. The information is general guidance you should always consult a vet with any health issues your dog has.
I have already posted about Lyme Disease as I have experience of this with my dog, so I thought I would post today about another health issue that we have first hand experience of – Aural Haematoma.
An Aural Haematoma is a medical name for a blood clot in the ear, that is to say the ear flap rather than the internal part of the ear. An aural haematoma is not life threatening, but can be very painful and while blood clots can be reabsorbed by the body over time, an Aural Haematoma usually requires medical intervention relieve the discomfort.
Aural Haematomas are usually caused by a trauma, however this is rarely a knock or bump while playing – usually they are a result of excessive scratching or head shaking, often caused by an irritating ear infection.
Conservative approach – In some cases you can wait for the clot to reabsorb, however this is really only feasible if the clot is very small. It is highly likely that the ear will be misshapen upon healing, a cauliflower ear type of effect. It should also be noted that if left to absorb, scar tissue can leave the ear thicker than it was and of course during the healing discomfort could be suffered, along with the risk of further bleeding, causing the clot to become larger.
Draining – The clot can be drained by placing a needle into the ear and syringing out the blood. The ear would then need to be bandaged to the head to try and prevent refill. This method can also result in the ear healing a bit misshapen, and there is a significant risk of a haematoma recurring if the dog shakes their head or scratched vigorously.
Surgery – The most effective treatment is surgery. The ear flap is opened up, clot removed and then the ear is stitched in multiple places to bring back together the pocket created by the haematoma. Recover after surgery can be a sore time as the wound will be left open to drain fluid as it heals, but surgery gives the best chance of a fairly normal looking ear and more importantly results in less likelihood of another haematoma forming in the future, although there is some risk still.
Fundamentally, whatever treatment option you take there is almost always a need to treat the underlying problem – the irritation that caused the scratching/head shaking.
Number one factor in preventing Aural Haematoma is maintaining your dogs ear health. Regularly checking their ears and seeking medical attention if any redness or irritation is present. If your dog frequently has ear irritation it may be advisable to clean the ears with an ear cleaning solution – your vet can recommend suitable products and advise on their use. Generally its necessary to clean your dogs ears routinely, however you should check with your vet if you feel your dog might benefit from regular cleaning.
Dylan’s Aural Haematoma
Dylan developed an Aural Haematoma when an ear infection irritated causing him to scratch a bit too much. At first it was fairly mild, however the blood vessel had further leaks until it became massive. The vet told me it was the worst he had operated on in his career and the chances of a normal looking ear were minimal.
After the surgery he was unhappy for a couple of days, which is understandable when you see all the stitches in his ear – each stitch goes right through the ear. There was also a wedge left open to drain which you can not see on the photo.
His stitches remained in place for a month to ensure the tissue had fully attached and the open wedge required cleaning twice a day. The end result however has been fantastic. His ear appears almost normal in comparison to his other ear. On close inspection there is some puckering to a small part of the ear and a couple of ears are a little thicker than they were, but all in all he has a lovely looking ear.
Finally, pet insurance is something worth maintaining. An operation to resolve a haematoma can cost more than £800.