Why do Dogs’ Ears Swell Again and Again?

My dog Sadie has gone thru 2 aural hematoma surgeries in the past 2 months on the same ear flap. She seems to get thru...

Dr. Eric Barchas  |  Apr 26th 2010

My dog Sadie has gone thru 2 aural hematoma surgeries in the past 2 months on the same ear flap. She seems to get thru the 3-4 week stitching/antibiotic procedure just perfectly and then within 2 weeks the hematoma returns. It has returned again and we’ll be seeing our vet tomorrow. She is a 7 year old Golden Retriever. There were no infections in her ears nor was there any foreign material.

Have you ever encountered such a situation with these hematomas reoccurring?? Is there something that my vet might be missing?? She’s done the lacerating of the vessel and drain along with the pie crust stitching both times.

Everett, WA

Aural hematomas are notoriously frustrating. Recurring aural hematomas are painfully common.

Aural hematomas occur when blood leaks into the ear flap and causes it to swell. Injury to blood vessels due to chronic head shaking is the most common cause. Trauma to the ear, problems with blood clotting, and especially fragile blood vessels also can cause the syndrome.

There are several ways to treat aural hematomas. Placing a series of sutures into the ear generally is the most effective. This is the technique your vet has employed.

The best way to prevent aural hematomas is to prevent head shaking by addressing underlying causes such as ear infections, allergies to fleas, pollen or food, and foreign objects lodged in the ear. It sounds like you have already done this.

You have a few options. You could consider leaving the stitches in for longer. Keeping them in place for six or eight weeks may finally get the job done.

Alternatively, you could consider a less aggressive treatment option. Some aural hematomas resolve over time with regular draining or with a course of cortisone and antibiotics. These tactics don’t always work as well as surgery, but they are less invasive and less expensive.

The last resort treatment for intractable aural hematomas is amputation of the affected ear. But the key words in the above sentence are last resort. You’re a long way from this step at this time.