If your dog or cat is frequently shaking his head and pawing at an itchy ear, it's not too unusual to find a swelling in his ear flap known as a hematoma. An ear hematoma happens when a vein or capillary leaks blood, collecting between the skin and cartilage of the ear flap. Although a trip to the vet is advised, there are several things you can do at home.
Check the ear out
According to the Mar Vista Animal Medical Center, both dogs and cats are susceptible to aural hematomas. The condition usually occurs when the animal has an ear infection or ear mites that cause irritation and itching. As your pet seeks to quell the annoying sensation, it irritates and sometimes breaks blood vessels in the ear flap, causing a hematoma.
As opposed to bruising, an ear hematoma involves one or more clots of blood surrounded by fluid. The clot can cause scarring that permanently damages your pet's hearing or result in unsightly "cauliflower ear."
The swelling can feel a bit like a water balloon and is sometimes heavy enough to make your pet's ear droop abnormally. Sometimes swelling can block the ear canal completely, cutting off much of the animal's hearing in that ear and setting the stage for infection.
Cat ear hematoma natural treatment
Cats, particularly, have delicate cartilage in their ears, which means that they're much more likely to suffer permanent hearing loss due to scarring from the hematoma. A hematoma or resultant scarring blocking the ear canal can seal in infection, setting your cat up for a lifetime of ear trouble.
Even with prompt veterinary intervention, your cat is more likely to have a disfigured ear after a hematoma. With a cat ear hematoma, natural treatment or home treatment will usually not be effective. Surgical intervention is necessary as a cat's ear canal is very likely to be left in a permanently narrowed condition after hematoma.
Dog ear hematoma home treatment
If you find a swelling that you suspect is a hematoma, you should make an appointment with your veterinarian. It's crucial to find out the source of the hematoma — such as discomfort from an ear infection or ear mites — and render prompt veterinary treatment.
However, while you're waiting to see the doc, there are a few things you can try to make your pup more comfortable. With a dog ear hematoma, home treatment might be possible, but check with your vet before applying any home remedies.
Canine Journal notes that some naturopathic vets use homeopathic remedies such as colloidal silver or arnica oil on very small hematomas. Both remedies are easily found in your health food store, along with Hamamelis, recommended by Roccos Pets. Witch hazel's strong astringent properties can also help soothe the swelling.
If the hematoma gets larger or more inflamed, wash your dog's ear with cool water and let your veterinarian know immediately. Pets can have allergic reactions to any home remedy that can make the problem much worse in a short time.
Although most hematomas will eventually heal on their own, keep in mind that your dog is in discomfort, healing can take several months and the heaviness and scarring of the hematoma can cause permanent damage to her ear.
Drain the hematoma
Don't attempt a cat or dog ear hematoma drain at home. Your veterinarian can aspirate the lump with a needle; however, this is not always a permanent solution and you may have to return several times as the hematoma heals.
Some vets opt to do "pie crust sutures" where the ear flap is essentially quilted to prevent refilling with fluid. Another solution is to implant a tube known as a teat cannula to keep the swelling draining for several weeks while healing takes place.