What causes an air pocket in a dog's ear?

 |  Jun 7th 2007  |   0 Contributions


I have a dog who one week ago developed what
seemed like an air pocket on the thin inner part
of her ear. Now it has doubled in size, and the ear
is drooping. It doesn't seem to hurt upon touching.
What might be the cause, and what if anything can we
do?

Debbie

It sounds like your dog is suffering from an aural hematoma. In other words, I suspect that a small amount of blood has filled a portion of her ear, making it swollen.

Dogs and cats have ears that consist of two layers of skin, with a piece of cartilage (connective tissue) between them to make the ear firm. Blood vessels run through the ear to supply nutrition to these tissues.

If an animal's ear suffers trauma, or if she shakes her head a great deal, the blood vessels can break and blood will flow into the ear, causing it to swell. Sometimes this is painful, but that is not always the case.

The first step in treating an aural hematoma is to eliminate the cause of the problem. In most animals, head shaking is the culprit. Your vet should be able to identify whether your pet has an ear infection or a foreign object in her ear. If you don't treat the underlying problem, it will complicate healing of the hematoma.

Next, the hematoma itself must be dealt with. Small hematomas sometimes resolve spontaneously. However, since your dog's situation has been worsening over the last week, that almost certainly won't happen in your case.

As a first step, I treat aural hematomas by draining the blood from the ear with a syringe. This is effective in many cases, although repeated drainings are sometimes necessary. Other treatments include placing a device into the ear to drain it continuously for several weeks (this is messy and uncomfortable for the pet), or performing a surgery to correct the matter.

All hematomas have the potential to be frustrating, chronic problems. If you deal with this matter and go to the vet immediately, your dog's chances of a straightforward recovery will be higher.

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