Locally-Owned in Oakdale and St. Paul, Minnesota

Aural Hematoma in Pets

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If your pet is profusely bleeding from any wound, this is considered a “RED” – or true emergency – on our Fast Track Triage system. We advise you to seek immediate veterinary care. Please call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you!

If your pet has a small wound, this is considered a “YELLOW” – or semi-urgent case – on our Fast Track Triage system. We recommend having your pet evaluated by your family veterinarian or local animal urgent care or emergency hospital within 24 hours. Call ahead of your arrival so the veterinary team knows to expect you, and if your pet’s condition worsens, call the team back to inform them of the status change.

If your pet has red ears (that are not caused by heat exhaustion) this is considered a “GREEN” case on our Fast Track Triage system. This means emergency care isn’t needed, but your pet should be evaluated by your family veterinarian within the next few days.


It’s a beautiful summer day at the lake and of course, you brought along your dog! After all, our dogs love swimming, boat rides, and all the great wonders of lake life, too! But after a long swim, you notice your pup is scratching his ears. A lot. And he won’t stop shaking his head. So, you decide to head home and go straight to bed after a day of fun in the sun.

Next day, your dog’s ear has swollen up to the size of an apple! He’s also whimpering, hiding, not eating, and not letting you near his poor, painful ear. You immediately call your family vet (or local animal urgent care or ER) and they recommend getting him in as soon as possible. After an examination, your dog is diagnosed with an Aural Hematoma.

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Aural Hematoma 

An aural hematoma means there is an accumulation of blood between the skin and cartilage inside of the ear flap (called the pinna). Essentially, there is a large blood blister that is causing pressure and pain in the ear flap.  

Causes of an Aural Hematoma 

Aural hematoma is a very common occurrence in dogs with floppy ears, especially those who develop ear infections – because they tend to scratch or shake their head often. The process of scratching or shaking the head causes the blood vessels inside the ear to rupture which leads to the blood buildup. Often, the underlying cause is from an ear infection, but other possibilities include ear mites, a foreign object in the ear, hair growing in the ear canal, or an ear tumor.  

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Treatment 

Aural hematomas need to be addressed on two fronts:  

  1. The first step is to relieve the accumulation of fluid causing pain for your pup.
  2. The second step is to address the underlying reason it occurred.    

Depending on the size of the hematoma and your pet’s overall health, there are different recommendations for removal of the blood buildup.  

  • If the hematoma is very small, sometimes the fluid can simply be drained with a needle and syringe by a veterinarian. While this is the easiest method to remove the fluid, it is also the highest risk for the blood to immediately refill the area and not resolve the issue.  
  • Often, the most successful option to cure the hematoma is surgical. The surgeon will open the pocket and drain it. Stitching is placed to reduce the area in which blood can accumulate while leaving an opening at the bottom to allow any blood to drain out, instead of build up.  
  • Note that this surgery does require heavy sedation or general anesthesia. This can be a concern for pets with underlying health concerns (such as heart disease, lung disease, or moderate to severe kidney or liver disease). Your veterinarian will consider all of the risks and benefits of each option for addressing the hematoma before pursuing surgery.  

After addressing the hematoma, your veterinarian will recommend treatment for the underlying cause of the hematoma. They also may recommend your pet wear a No-Flap-Ear-Wrap or an e-collar to prevent further shaking or scratching. Your pet will be sent home with pain medication to keep them calm and comfortable while they recover from their aural hematoma, and strict doctors orders to stay out of the lake until they are fully healed!

aural hematoma in pets, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, pet health

Prevention   

To prevent future hematomas, your veterinarian will recommend a regimen of ear cleaning and products to keep your pup’s ear clean, dry, and healthy. You’ll also want to be sure to clean your dog’s ear after swimming  

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s scratching or shaking, or if there are any signs of a blood blister, consult with your family veterinarian. They may also choose to have your pet seen by a board-certified veterinary dermatologist to help determine and manage the underlying cause.   

If you have any questions or concerns about your pet’s scratching or shaking, or if there are any signs of a blood blister, consult with your family veterinarian. They may also choose to have your pet seen by a board-certified veterinary dermatologist to help determine and manage the underlying cause.

Nikki Scherrer, DVM, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

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