What is an aural hematoma?

by Robert B. Duncan, DVM
Spring Branch Veterinary Hospital


What is an aural hematoma?

An aural hematoma is a swelling of a pet’s ear due to bleeding within. Most commonly this occurs in dogs due to ear infections. Due to the irritation within the ear, the dog will shake the head to the point where a blood vessel inside ruptures. Commonly the ear will swell to roughly 3-4 times its usual size. Occasionally, trauma can be the cause of an aural hematoma.

What dogs are at risk of developing aural hematomas?

Dogs at risk of developing aural hematomas are dogs with chronic ear disease. Also ears of sufficient length and mass are more likely to hit the head with more force. Laborador Retrievers are commonly seen with this problem at our hospital.

How is an aural hematoma treated?

The first priority for treating an aural hematoma is to determine and treat the underlying cause. If there is an infection, a cytology (microscopic exam of ear exudate) will be done to determine the cause. If a bacterial infection is present, a culture may be recommended to determine the appropriate antibiotic for the infection. Next, treatment of the ear swelling will be addressed. Medical treatment may be possible if the hematoma is minimal in size, especially if no infection is present. Often times, however, surgery is needed.

How can an aural hematoma be prevented?

Aural hematomas can potentially be prevented when they occur from ear infections. If your dog has ear infections routinely, it is important to recognize the signs. These symptoms can include head shaking, scratching ear with foot, and holding the head differently. Many dogs need to have routine ear flushing with a prescription strength ear flush to control ear disease. Allergy testing or a hypoallergenic food trial may also be discussed as allergies may be an underlying cause of chronic infections.