Why is my Dog’s Ear Swollen?

My retired seeing-eye Golden Retriever, Age 11 has a painful swelling in his right ear flap that measures about 3" x 3". I don't know...


My retired seeing-eye Golden Retriever, Age 11 has
a painful swelling in his right ear flap that
measures about 3″ x 3″. I don’t know if he
banged it on something, had an insect bite, or
what. . . I clean his inner ears with a solution I
got from my vet to deal with the brownish soil
that irritates him. Don’t know if this is a
related issue or not–thought I’d pass it on
anyway. Ideas??


Vancouver BC/now Duncan BC, Canada

I suspect that your dog is suffering from an aural hematoma.

Aural hematomas occur when blood accumulates under the skin of the external ear. They appear as swellings on the outer ear. Aural hematomas are most common in dogs with prominent, loose external ears (that is to say, floppy ear flaps). However, they also occur in cats and dogs with small, perky ears.

The most common cause of aural hematomas is head shaking. And, the most common cause of head shaking is ear infections. The brown debris in your dog’s ears may be related to chronic irritation of the ears, which may have caused head shaking and therefore may be linked to the hematoma.

There are several ways to treat aural hematomas. Common options include draining the hematoma with a syringe, placing an indwelling drain (called a cannula) into the area, or performing a surgery in which the ear skin of the ear is sutured into the proper position. Some veterinarians advocate treating with antibiotics and oral cortisone as a first step.

I advocate trying less invasive options before resorting to surgery. And, no matter what, I recommend addressing the underlying cause of the hematoma. If you don’t, the problem is likely to recur.

Your dog will need to see a vet to confirm that the swelling is a hematoma. You can discuss treatment options and prevention of further problems during the visit.

Photo: Nala recovers from an aural hematoma.

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