It’s normal for dogs to shake their heads and scratch themselves when they itch. But excessive head shaking and ear scratching could result in the formation of a dog ear hematoma.
These blisters can also be caused by a few different underlying conditions, and surgical removal is generally recommended. Dog ear hematoma surgery can cost up to $2,000 or more, so it’s important to be financially prepared.1 Keep reading to learn more about hematomas and how pet insurance may be able to help you pay for treatment.
A hematoma in a dog’s ear — also known as an aural hematoma — is a swollen blister on the inside of the ear flap that’s firm to the touch. When the blood vessels in a dog’s ear pop, causing bleeding between the skin and cartilage of the ear to occur, the hematoma forms.2
Dog ear hematomas can be caused by trauma to the ear, a foreign object in the ear, or excessive head shaking and scratching due to an infection, inflammation, allergies, skin diseases, or ear mites.3 Dogs with longer or larger ears, as well as blood clotting disorders, may be more prone to hematomas.2,3
If your dog has an aural hematoma, you’ll likely see some swelling in their ear and potentially spot the part of your dog’s ear that’s filled with fluid. Some of the other signs of hematomas can include:2
- Discoloration in the ear
- Head shaking or ear scratching
- Distortion of the ear shape
- Your dog avoiding being touched near their ear
If your dog’s displaying any of these signs, it’s a good idea to schedule a vet exam, as more scratching could cause additional ear damage or more blisters to form.
To diagnose an aural hematoma, your vet will likely use a needle to take a sample of the contents of the blister to confirm there’s blood present. Your vet may also run bloodwork and other diagnostics tests to determine the root cause of the hematoma if it’s not immediately identifiable.
Aural hematomas may go away on their own if you decide not to treat it. However, due to the inflammation that occurs, this could cause additional problems, such as permanently distorting the shape of the ear or obstructing the ear canal. Because they’re also painful for your pup, it’s recommended that you treat aural hematomas.3
Here are two methods for treating dog ear hematomas.
With small hematomas, vets may drain the blister. They do this by making an incision in the ear flap so a small tube can be inserted to help drain the fluids. The tube is left in the ear for 3 – 14 days.3 To help the process, you’ll likely be instructed to gently massage your dog’s ear once in a while. You may need to go back to the vet a few times to get the drain replaced, but it’s eventually removed.2
Your vet may also prescribe steroids with this treatment method.3 While draining can work, it usually takes longer, and there’s a greater chance the cartilage and skin may not come back together fully — meaning some inflammation may be permanent.
For most hematomas, especially larger ones, vet’s may recommend surgical removal. This is typically the quickest and most effective dog ear hematoma treatment method. While the exact surgical process may vary depending on the vet and your dog’s condition, the following are general dog ear hematoma surgery steps:3
- The blood in the hematoma is drained, either by making an incision and inserting a draining tube or by opening the skin over the entire hematoma.
- Using sutures that go completely through the ear flap, your vet will close the open space between the skin and cartilage of your dog’s ear where the blood was. This is done to prevent blood from pooling in the area.
- Your dog’s ear flap is stabilized by applying bandages around the head to hold the ear to the head, or by directly supporting the ear with bandages and other materials. This is to prevent scratching and shaking that could cause more damage.
If an underlying condition caused the hematoma, your vet will likely treat it after the hematoma is removed.3
Dog ear hematoma surgery can cost around $300 – $2,000, but the exact cost will depend on factors like where you live, the vet you see, and your dog’s condition.1 When treating aural hematomas with surgery, make sure you account for other costs — such as the vet visit and diagnostics for the initial diagnosis, the anesthesia and hospital stay, as well as any medications and post-op check ups required by your vet — to come up with the total cost.
You can typically ask your vet for a quote on all costs before you schedule the surgery.
Whether your pup’s hematoma was treated with a drainage tube or surgery, they’ll likely need a couple of weeks to recover. Administer any medication and follow your vet’s post-op instructions, such as keeping an Elizabethan collar on them or limiting activity, to ensure your dog recovers as quickly and comfortably as possible. Stitches are usually removed after 2 – 4 weeks, depending on how your dog’s ear is healing.3
Watch out for any abnormal discharge around the hematoma site. This could indicate an infection and will need to be treated by your vet.
It’s not always possible to prevent hematomas in dog’s ears, but keeping their ears clean and in good health, and managing their allergies can help.
MetLife Pet offers customizable dog insurance policies that could help cover the cost of exams, diagnostics, surgery, and medications related to dog ear hematomas. Let’s take a look at Trooper’s story to see how pet insurance helped his owners save money.
Trooper is a fun-loving dog from Virginia. After playing around in the fields for a day, he started scratching at his ear. A couple of days of excessive scratching later, his owners noticed a bump on the inside of his ear. They took him to the vet, where he was diagnosed with an aural hematoma. Between the exam, treatment, and medication, the vet bill came to around $1,250. Fortunately, they had a MetLife Pet policy and were reimbursed for just about $1,000.4
Imagine having coverage that allows you to get the care your pet needs without having to worry about the cost. Start by getting a free quote today to see your personalized rates for a dog insurance policy.