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  • Jennifer Misfeldt, MABTR

Chronic Ear Infections and Hematomas in dogs

Updated: Feb 23, 2022

Ear infections are extremely painful for any dog. Unfortunately so many go unnoticed. Just like children with ear infections there is no such thing as just one so monitoring your dog's ears is critical.

Symptoms of Dog Ear Infections

Some dogs show no symptoms of ear infection to the human eyel. But ear infections often cause significant discomfort and affected dogs may show signs such as:

  • Head shaking

  • Scratching at the affected ear

  • Dark discharge

  • Odor

  • Redness and swelling of the ear canal

  • Itchiness

  • Crusting or scabs in the ears

What Causes Ear Infections in Dogs?

The canine ear canal is more vertical than that of a human, forming an L-shape that tends to hold in fluid. This makes dogs more prone to ear infections. Ear infections are typically caused by bacteria, yeast, or a combination of both. In puppies, ear mites can also be a source of infection.

If your dog is showing any of the common signs of ear infections, make an appointment with your vet immediately. Quick treatment is necessary not only for your dog’s comfort, but also to prevent the spread of infection to the middle and inner ear and a hematoma. Cleaning your dog's ears at home is not the solution at this point..

Ear hematomas are common in dogs, cats and people especially when they are prone to chronic ear infections. Allergies is the most common reason for ear infections. What happens is the ear gets a vigorous shake, and pop goes the vessel. This can also happen when a pet inadvertently smacks an ear against a hard surface, such as a wall or a coffee table.

But there are other causes, too. Less often, an ear hematoma can occur as a result of a blood clotting disorder. In these cases, failure to clot normally means that even an everyday whack to the ear can lead to a pendulous pinna.

If ear hematomas are left untreated, they can take a reasonably long time to resolve on their own but worse the results are not pretty. When not treated by a vet the ear reabsorbs the blood in a way that’s unevenly accomplished, causing what’s usually referred to as “cauliflower ear.”


· In some cases you can wait for the clot to reabsorb, however this is really only feasible if the clot is very small.

· The clot can be drained by placing a needle into the ear and syringing out the blood. The ear would then need to be bandaged to the head to try and prevent refill. This method can also result in the ear healing a bit misshapen,

and there is a significant risk of a hematoma recurring if the dog shakes their head or scratched vigorously.

· The most effective treatment is surgery. The ear flap is opened up, clot removed and then the ear is stitched in multiple places to bring back together the pocket created by the hematoma. Recover after surgery can be a sore time as the wound will be left open to drain fluid as it heals, but surgery gives the best chance of a fairly normal looking ear and more importantly results in less likelihood of another hematoma forming in the future, although there is some risk still.

There are four things to know when it comes to ears that you need to follow

1. clean ears using rubbing alcohol, NOT ear cleaner (rubbing alcohol evaporates)

2. know how to properly clean ears (see instructions below)

3. ears should be cleaned once every twoweeks

4. recognize signs of discomfort or infection to catch any problems early (scratching the ear, shaking of the head, yelping when ear is touched, inside of ear smells and/or red)

-have a spare tube of ear medication in your refrigerator.

-Apply medication as soon as you recognize a potential ear infection. Being proactive will reduce treatment to three to four days. Waiting till it becomes a major program will extend treatment out to 10 to 14 days plus possibly the need for a steroid shot and visit at the vet office

Some ear problems are so painful the dog must be anesthetized to do a good job of cleaning the ears. You may find your dog does not like to have his ears cleaned because it is uncomfortable. Talking to him during the process, stopping momentarily to give him a treat if he is doing well (we do not want to reward fussiness!) and doing something fun afterwards will all help.

After the ear is clean, let the dog shake his head and allow some time for the ears to dry. Then you can apply any ear medication that was prescribed should an infection exist.


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