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Treating 'Cauliflower Ear' in Dogs

Has your dog's earflap partially or completely swelled so large that the opening of the ear canal is blocked off? It's a condition called Aural hematoma (cauliflower ear).

Aural hematoma looks terribly painful, and it is. The swelling of a dog's earflap is often caused by chronic allergies and ear infections. Often it does not heal without treatment, causing your dog to fling his or head head and further trauma to the ear.

Hematomas in the earflaps (aural hematomas) causes swelling that is created by a broken blood vessel after bleeding has occurred inside a tissue. An untreated ear infection leads to head shaking which breaks a blood vessel within the earflap. The earflap may partially or completely swell with blood and block off the ear canal. The earflap will feel fluid-filled, like a water balloon.

The condition is more common in dogs but can happen in cats.

How Do We Treat It? 

A visit to the veterinarian is strongly recommended, especially if the ear canal has closed completely. The following are some commonly performed procedures:

Aspiration 

 This simple procedure involves using a syringe to remove the fluid contents from the hematoma. The disadvantage is that a space is left behind which usually refills with more fluid, it can introduce infection, and it may require multiple attempts. The benefits are that it is inexpensive and relatively easy to perform.

Surgery

An incision is made in the earflap. The hematoma is drained of fluid and blood clots. To prevent the hematoma from refilling with fluid, multiple sutures are placed in the hematoma area. Ear cartilage may have to be removed. Sutures are left in place for about three weeks to allow good scarring to take place to avoid refilling.

Teat Cannula

A teat cannula is a small device used in the treatment of udder inflammation in cattle. It is placed in the teat opening to allow drainage of milk or infection. Teat cannulas can be placed in a dog’s aural hematoma if the earflap is large enough. The hematoma is drained of fluids and allowed to heal over several weeks. This method can be successful if the dog can tolerate the gadget inserted in the earflap for several weeks.

Leaving it Alone

If left alone, the ear hematoma will cause your dog much pain and discomfort, and eventually heal, but the ear will not be cosmetically appealing afterwards (it becomes a permanent cauliflower ear). It can several month to heal, causing your pet suffering.

If the anesthetic risk for your pet is too significant, it is reasonable to forgo surgery.

How to Avoid Aural Hematomas

There is a reason why a dog has been shaking his/her head, and it is usually an ear infection. Do not ignore this symptom. An ear infection is present that requires immediate treatment. The ear will need cleaning, microscopic examination of the discharge, and medication. Treat the ear infection right away, it will save you and your dog the expense and discomfort of treating aural hematoma.

There accompanying video explains aural hematoma and shows surgery. Viewer discretion is advised.

FRANK MADEY June 03, 2012 at 06:45 AM
CAN I LANCE THE PUFFINESS AT THE OUTER EAR, AND TREAT W ANTIBIOTICS?
joanette lee January 14, 2013 at 09:25 PM
you said it was inexpense how much? i'm on a fix income and i love my dog very much , but every vet alway says that it is real expense and they don't tell me a price. i live in jacksonville florida and if anyone can help please e-mail me joanettelee@yahoo.com
Daniel Whitton June 24, 2013 at 08:29 AM
For all of us out here with little or no money to spend on surgery, try the Auralsplint from Auralsplint.org to heal the hematoma.
Jeannene Heinrich February 21, 2014 at 11:52 PM
My vet just did one on my dog and it was about $500, including after-care and antibiotics. This is a low price for a "straightforward" case, and there is no guarantee it won't come back.

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