What Happens if a Dog’s Aural Hematoma is Left Untreated?


Many dog owners wonder what happens if a dog’s aural hematoma is left untreated. If your dog has an aural hematoma, it could be that you do not feel comfortable putting your dog through the surgery either because your dog is sick or old or perhaps you cannot afford the surgery. It could also be that you are simply hoping for a home treatment for dog aural hematoma or at least something you can do to reduce the swelling so your dog won’t need to anesthetized. So what’s the worse that can happen if your dog’s aural hematoma is left untreated? The answer is that unless you own a show dog,  the consequences aren’t as bad as thought. And for those who have been wondering, no, left untreated, a dog’s ear hematoma won’t explode or implode in a horror-movie fashion.

What happens if a dog’s aural hematoma is left untreated?

A Closer Insight

To better understand what happens if your dog’s aural hematoma is left untreated, it helps to take a little lesson in anatomy and what happens exactly when your dog’s ear is affected by an aural hematoma.

In a normal, healthy ear, the pinna (ear flap) is normally flat and smooth. The blood vessels are intact and are doing their normal job of supplying oxygen-rich blood to the ear.

Problems start when the dog scratches and shakes his head vigorously and perhaps ends up hitting his ear flaps against something hard such as a wall, branch or table leg.

A dog’s repeated head shaking is often seen when a dog has allergies or an ear infection. Dogs may also shake their ears vigorously when their ears are wet or there is some foreign item stuck in their ear.

This vigorous shaking causes trauma that creates dead space between the cartilage, and, soon a pocket of blood forms right in between the skin and cartilage of the ear. As the blood fills up the space, the  dog’s ear flap is no longer flat and smooth, but appears swollen like a small balloon.

Did you know? The term aural derives from the Latin word “auris ” meaning ear, while the word hematoma derives from the Greek word hemato meaning blood and oma meaning growth. Put all together and you get  “a growth of blood in the ear.

Dog Aural Hematoma Treatments

When it comes to aural hematomas in dogs, the faster treatment is sought the better. There are several  dog aural hematoma treatment options that may vary based on personal veterinarian technique, the amount of swelling, the age and health of the dog and how long the hematoma has been present.

A non-surgical treatment for dog aural hematoma (generally the smaller ones) consists of draining the fluid from the ear flap very carefully using a sterile syringe and needle. Once the ear flap is drained, the dog is put on medications in hopes of preventing the ear from filling up with blood again.

Unfortunately, since the skin and cartilage remain separated, the dog’s ear flap has a tendency to fill up again and the ear may not look as great as before.

Surgical intervention is another option. In this case, an incision or multiple incisions are made on the bottom of the flap and the pocket is emptied. A drain is often placed to prevent further fluid from accumulating. The skin is then stitched up in such a way so that the skin and cartilage heal together again, leaving no dead space which prevents it from filling up again. Some vets prefer to use laser for the surgery.

And then there is home treatment, in other words, not doing much about it.

“The best way to allow the skin and cartilage in her ear to heal appropriately would be to have the hematoma lanced and then for your vet to place sutures through the ear to hold everything snug together. The sutures will also prevent more bleeding which is also a problem with just lancing it (more bleeding).~Dr. Matt

What Happens if My Dog’s Ear Hematoma is Left Untreated?

Fortunately, dog ear hematomas are not very painful to dogs per se’, however, the built-up pressure may feel uncomfortable to the dog. Imagine carrying the extra weight of a swollen ear.

Left untreated, an ear hematoma may take quite a long time to heal, but it can heal on its own over the course of time, mostly months rather than weeks.

Leaving a dog’s ear hematoma to heal on its own does not pose any danger to your dog at all, points our veterinarian Dr. Christy. It’s more of a cosmetic issue than a health one. At some point, the blood is gradually absorbed back by the body, but unfortunately, Mother Nature doesn’t care much about looks.

Often dogs are left with an unsightly looking ear, that is often referred to as “cauliflower ear.” This deformity is due to presence of granulation tissue and the contraction of the tissue as the ear crinkles back to normal proportions.

For those considering leaving a dog’s aural hematoma untreated, veterinarians may prescribe steroids to bring down the swelling and reduce the chances for excessive scarring to take place.

A word of caution is needed though about preventing recurrence: if the underlying cause is not addressed, the dog’s swollen ear flap is likely to swell up again. So part of your dog’s ear flap treatment should also entail addressing those allergies and ear infections and preventing them from recurring.

“If the hematoma is not treated the body will eventually reabsorb the blood but the ear may become disfigured (cauliflower like)… You can speak to your family veterinarian about dispensing an anti inflammatory medication like prednisone to try to prevent the scarring that may occur. “~Dr. Peter

Can I Lance My Dog’s Aural Hematoma at Home?

The answer is no as this can lead to infection, pain and an ear that fills up again. Lancing is a surgical procedure that needs to be done in a sterile setting and with the dog on some type of pain control. It also needs an experienced hand to know how much tissue should be lanced.

Lancing a dog’s ear hematoma at home would lead to a huge mess with the dispersion of blood and serum everywhere, warns veterinarian Dr. Kara. On top of that, without sutures in place, the ear flap will continue to bleed, not to mention the pain the dog will have to endure considering that dogs ears are very sensitive.

Another reason to avoid lancing at home is that your dog may not have a hematoma to start with. There are some other conditions that mat resemble an ear hematoma. For instance, an abscess of the ear may resemble an ear hematoma, only that instead of a pocket of blood forming, a pocket of pus forms.

The only way to differentiate the two is through a needle aspiration. The vet will aspirate the fluid with a needle and the abscess will contain yellow/green pus while the hematoma will contain blood, explains veterinarian Dr. Nicholas Trout.  Both conditions may require different treatments.

” Lancing his ear at home under non-sterile conditions is fraught with all sorts of dangers – in particular causing an infection and an ear that simply fills up with fluid again. I would definitely avoid doing this.” ~Dr.  M D Edwards veterinarian.

 Cost for dog broken toeCosts of Dog Aural Hematoma Treatment

How much does it cost to treat a dog’s aural hematoma? Dog aural hematoma prices may vary based on several factors such as location and the chosen treatment.

If choosing non-surgical dog ear hematoma repair, you would likely incur the office visit fee along with steroids to take home. This can range anywhere between $80 to $300.

If choosing to have the ear simply drained by your vet using a needle and syringe, you will have to pay for the office visit, medications to reduce pain, the procedure and medication to promote healing, and this can range anywhere between $300 to $500.

For the surgical procedure consisting of lancing, placing a drain, suturing to prevent recurrence, bandaging along with medications, it may all cost anywhere between $500 to $1,000.

Of course, these are just rough estimates, every location and every vet may charge more or less. If you are shopping for prices, your best bet is to call around several clinics and compare their pricing. How much did fixing your dog’s ear hematoma cost? And what were the results? Feel free to share your comments.

For further reading: what causes dog aural hematoma to come back after surgery? 

Photo Credits:

Wikimedia Commons,  Dog with ear hematoma, Lucyin,  Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0

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