Different causes

There are a number of conditions that could cause sudden inflammation of the ear, so we will concentrate on the most common reasons in this blog. However, should you notice some unexpected ear trauma then you should contact us ASAP to ensure the best treatment is offered for whatever situation your pooch is dealing with!

Injury to the ear

Dogs’ ears, in particular dogs with droopy or floppy ears, can easily become damaged or injured, such as on wire fences or hard surfaces. The response of the tissue to damage is to swell and become painful, so these are usually best checked over by one of our vets to make sure they will heal properly.

Allergy/Insect bite
A common cause for swelling (especially for nosy dogs who stick their snouts in all sorts of places) is an allergic, or slightly extreme, reaction to bite or sting from an insect (or even a plant, such as nettles). These lumps will generally be round in shape and cause obvious (but short lived) irritation to your dog. If they have been stung but don’t seem to be displaying any severe symptoms, then they probably don’t need veterinary attention. Using a cold compress to soothe the pain may offer some relief for your pet. If they are having a more serious reaction (such as difficulty breathing, collapse, rapid- or spreading swelling), give us a call right away.

Skin infections and infestations (with bacteria, yeasts or mange mites) are another possible cause of inflammation of the ear. If there is any sort of oozing, scabby bits, pus or redness then this indicates a possible infection. These can usually be treated quite simply, again contact us for an appointment with a vet.

Aural Haematoma
This is probably what you will find when scouring the internet for explanations, so this will be the condition explained in the most detail here.

What is it?
A haematoma is a collection of blood (like a blood-blister) within a tissue, in this case, the ear flap. It is generally a secondary effect of another ear related problem such as ear mites or an infection. These ailments will irritate your dog and cause excessive head shaking and ear scratching to try and gain some respite from the itching. The impact from this can force blood to leak from damaged and ruptured vessels in the ear and gather between the skin and cartilage, causing the swelling.

How does it look?
The ear may be fully swollen or there may just be one part of the pinna (or ear flap) that is particularly enlarged. It may be either soft or hard to touch, depending on how much clotting of the blood there is. It will more than likely be very sore and distressing for your dog initially. Although aural haematomas will subside on their own after a few days, this can be uncomfortable for your pet and leave the ear with scar tissue and slightly misshapen. Therefore, treatment and immediate care by one of our vets is recommended.

There are several ways to treat a haematoma. Sometimes, using a needle to drain the fluid in the swelling is successful, but it is often necessary to drain it more than once, and sometimes three or four times. Injection of steroid medicines into the ear can, however, make it more effective. In many cases though, the best way to treat a haematoma is via surgery; an incision is made into the swollen site under anaesthetic. The blood and fluid is drained and the inner and outer ear surfaces are sutured together to ensure smooth healing and to close the gap where the blood has been collecting. The ear is often taped up and strapped around the head to keep it from dangling and getting re-damaged. Your dog may also be given a cone-collar (they really aren’t a fan of these, but it is best to keep it on!) to prevent them from scratching their ears and doing further damage.

Dogs with low hanging ears are at a higher risk as they are more likely to get harmed by being knocked and scratched. Dogs prone to ear infections and parasites also have a higher chance of getting a haematoma as they will be irritated by the symptoms of these problems – for instance, dogs who swim regularly. If a haematoma is diagnosed it is crucial to treat any other related issues (such as underlying ear infections) to prevent the same thing happening again.

If your dog has a swollen ear, it’s usually best to give us a ring so one of our vets can advise you on the best way to deal with it.