A Primer On Ear Hematomas

A hematoma is a localized swelling filled with blood. It is caused by a break in the wall of a blood vessel Ear hematomas in dogs are not uncommon.

Dog ears come in many sizes and shapes.  Some are big and floppy. Others are smaller and pointy. Unfortunately, all dog ears have the potential for developing an ear hematoma in common.

Although ear hematomas can occur in dogs or even cats, they are most common in dogs with floppy ears.

A Primer On Ear Hematomas: Although ear hematomas can occur in any dog or even in cats, they are most common in dogs with floppy ears.


Dogs often shake their heads. They shake when they are wet or when the ear is irritated, such as with an ear infection.

As the ears fly back and forth, tiny blood vessels in the ear flap can rupture. That leads to bleeding under the skin.  

What does it look like

Bleeding can also start if a dog strikes an ear flap against something (e.g., a coffee table) while shaking.  The bleeding in the ear flap is irritating. As a result, your dog shakes their head even more, setting up a vicious cycle.  Blood and other fluid can continue to accumulate in the ear flap. The swelling can reach the size of a lemon in some cases.  Sometimes, the hematoma will rupture during a shake, spewing blood in all directions.

Any swelling in the ear flap is suspicious of a hematoma.

The swollen area usually feels warm and squishy, like a bag of fluid.  Your veterinarian will examine the ears for signs of any problems that may have set off head shaking, such as an ear infection or a bite wound.

Treatment of ear hematomas

What happens when you don’t address your dog’s hematoma? The ear flap can eventually scar up, resulting in a deformed ear that may be prone to infections.

Although your vet can drain the fluid out of an ear hematoma with a syringe, the problem almost always returns, requiring more extensive treatment. Many therapies are used, including surgery to open the hematoma and to insert a temporary drain that will continue to allow fluid to escape.  Often, the ear flap is bandaged alongside the head to allow it to heal.  Your vet will discuss the various treatment options and what is best for your pet.

Related articles:
Swelling (Edema) in Dogs

Further reading:
Hematoma of the Ear in Dogs

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