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Is Your Dog’s Ear Swollen? Here’s Why and What to Do

Updated by Sheryl on Dec 30, 2021

Ears are your pup's best asset - they're super-sensitive, the cutest 'fluff', and laughably expressive. They come in all shapes and sizes, and often don't match the body. As telling as their ears can be, these shaky little beings do a great job at neither taking good care nor giving us an early inkling if something is wrong with them. If your dog's ear swells all of a sudden you may justifiably expect it to be the commonly feared 'dog-ear infection'.

But dog ear hematoma is not that uncommon either. In hematoma, the ear flap is usually swollen, red, itchy, heavy, or puffy. Ear infection does not directly cause the outer ear to swell up or hurt but can cause a hematoma.

Knowing the tiny differences and the signs of danger can weigh a lot since your dog doesn't know better than to scratch and shake their heads.

outdoor dog
  • How and Why do Ear Hematomas occur
  • When to See the Vet
  • How is a Hematoma Diagnosed in Dogs
  • Care and Home Treatment
  • How to Take Care of Dog's Ears
  • Final Thoughts on Swollen Dog-Ears

Ear hematoma occurs in dogs for many, but trivial reasons. It can be because of anything from itching to serious infections, and it can be a little late when many begin to wonder "why my dog's ear is swollen?"

Beneath any length of coat, your furry buddy's ears are of delicate design. Dog-ears are structured by a flap of paper-thin cartilage in turn scantily surrounded by some tissue and then covered by a layer of skin.

But this frail structure is also burdened with tiny blood vessels, numerous nerves, and a great range of motion, all while operating a powerful sense of hearing. It's a pity though, that our big little babies do not know when to stop their itching or happy shaking, because aggressive scratching and shaking can injure the ear pinnae. And although such damage is minute and extremely unnoticeable, it can lead to hematoma. Other causes include bite wounds, careless procedures, thorns or insect bites from playing outside, etc.

dog ears

'Hematoma' literally means 'blood' (Hema-) forming an abnormal growth (-oma). The compromised blood vessels may not cause that much pain or discomfort to your dog but can cause blood to fill up in the space between the cartilaginous film and the skin. Since it is happening on the ear pinna, it is termed 'aural hematoma'.

And how can an ear infection cause hematoma in dogs? As the case is, ear infections are extremely painful, itchy, and uncomfortable situations. If you have ever experienced one, you may know that your head feels heavy and your sense of hearing is dampened by them. Dogs do not know why their head feels weird or hurts, or why they can't hear well enough. Their instincts will make them shake their heads with all their might to get rid of the irritation. This, in turn, can damage blood vessels and cause a hematoma.

The sad part is, painful and heavy, only at this point may do a lot of pet owners find their dog's ear red and swollen.

inside structure of dog ears

Regardless of the symptoms, age, breed, or the owner's experience, this is a globally common question to ask regarding pets. Luckily in the case of dog ear swelling instances from hematoma, it is easy to tell when to do to the vet, if you are in the know.

Small hematomas happen all the time with both active dogs and breeds with larger, heavier, or furrier ears. Neither you nor your dog may notice these small lesions while the body deals with the injury and absorbs the blood back in.

But ones that are larger, translucent, heavy, seemingly painful, or scary/cringy to look at, in general, may need the vet's eyes and hands on them. Not only do you need to have them drain and treat the area, but also rule out and prevent microbial or parasitic attacks.

As a rule of thumb, if you can notice a growth in your dog's ear pinna that seems like a liquid-filled balloon, then it needs attention. Dogs usually love ear-rubs as much as belly-rubs, so it shouldn't be hard to find. It is best to get them to the veterinarian asap, as hematomas are filled with blood and can clot to harden or burst, making things much worse.

dog with echometer

It is very important to have a veterinarian examine the case if your dog is showing any signs of ear discomfort. It can be anything from a trapped bug to hematoma to ear infections. Regardless, the reason needs to be rooted out.

If the doctor's office sees your dog's ear swollen among other symptoms, they may run an extensive physical exam. The first would be making sure if it is a blood-filled growth at all, in which case it will feel not unlike a water balloon. The doctor will also light their clinical pen torch on the cyst to figure out whether it is filled with blood, pus, or capillary serum.

Since ear or aural hematomas are the most common of the kind and also the easiest to treat, they may start the draining procedure right away.

But if the doctor suspects an infection on the puffy earlobe or inside the ear, or that the hematoma has grown underneath the skin beyond the ear, X-rays or scans may be needed.

You need not worry about your buddy or the cuteness of that ear though - the procedures would be simple and quick enough to ward off the discomfort with a few treat nibbles. Later on, you only need to follow the doctor's instructions for after-care and further prevention of such conditions.

vet checks the dog's ears

Although it is not a very serious illness, dog ear hematoma home treatment is not advised. Of course, if the swelling is very small (say, the size of a pea), not heavy, and not causing much discomfort to the pet, you can wait for a couple of days for it to drain out naturally.

You see, the vet uses sterilized medical equipment to remove the fluid scientifically. It may not seem very sophisticated and something you can 'DIY' at home, but isn't. Once the fluid is drained completely out, even the doctor may resort to multiple sutures to keep blood and fluid from coming in anymore. The cannular drains may need to stay in for a couple of days to prevent fluid retention.

Clearly, dog swollen ear flap home treatment is not something you can or should try your hand at. However well may you know your dog, you can never cut open its ear skillfully enough to not rupture a vein, damage the cartilage, or cause pain. Home remedies (like leeches) and fads are also found commonly over the internet and should be steered clear of.

Rather than keeping the doctor away, your priority must be keeping your furry bundle of joy out of harm's way.

What you can do is prevent allergies, mites, ticks, mosquitoes infections, etc. and get your dog to the vet if you notice something unusual with them.

The dog's ear is being treated

Swollen or not, your dog's ears are too valuable to always not take care of. Their ears function in unique ways to help them focus on the sounds they choose and to balance while zooming.

If your dog or pup is shaking their heads vigorously or too often, scratching an ear all the time, or showing other signs of discomfort, check their ears inside out for swelling, traces of blood, or pus. Once you find anything or if the discomfort continues for no obvious reason, take them to the vet at the earliest.

Ideally, warm up your dog to get their ears clean, as early as possible. Puppy ears are easier to deal with as they are small, soft, not as furry, and have not yet collected much wax and dirt. But if you accustom them to having their ears looked into regularly, they won't be upset during checkups later on. Put a cone collar on them until they get to the vet and keep other pets away from them.

The dog cocked its ears

Your dog's ear pinna and canal are not the same as yours. Just like the fad of using q-tips for cleaning your ears, many misconceptions freely stride the world of pet health care. It must be our pleasure as it is our responsibility to keep your dog's most valuable sense and cutest feature safe and sound.

Droopy or pointy, you may clean and check the ear lobes regularly, but not try to treat any condition, including hematoma yourself. It may do more harm than help. The L-shaped ear canal that extends to the top of a dog's head may also not show apparent signs of infection to you.

Never skip a regular vet checkup either. Your vet will suggest either the frequency of visits or give you a date for the next visit each time. And if you are not home for a large portion of the day regularly, you can install monitoring systems to check-in and make sure that your dog is not showing any signs of discomfort.

If you have a pet, you are undoubtedly someone who wants the best for them, while they exude as much joy as their little lives on earth can. Let us make that possible by taking as much care of them as we can.

Sheryl is an editor from iPetor, owns extensive pet care experience. As a professional writer, she can provide useful pet care tips for all "parents".
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