Search Menu
goldyrocks/Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

A dog’s ears have two main functions: to detect sound and help maintain balance. The part of the ear you can see is called the “pinna” or “earflap,” which can be long and floppy or short and pointy. The pinna funnels sound into the ear and keeps dirt and debris from entering the ear canal. Unfortunately, this also leaves the pinna vulnerable to developing a painful blister called an aural hematoma or dog ear hematoma.

Dogs with allergies or an ear infection might scratch or shake their head so vigorously that it causes the blood vessels in the pinna to rupture. As blood begins to pool under the skin, this can result in a dog ear hematoma. If you search “ear hematoma dog,” you’ll see images of the inside of a dog’s ear looking red and inflamed.

The accumulation of blood in the earflap can cause a great deal of pain and discomfort. It’s important to seek veterinary attention since an untreated hematoma can lead to permanent damage. Learn more about ear hematoma in dogs, including the symptoms, causes, and treatments.

Symptoms of an Ear Hematoma in Dogs

A hematoma is a pool of blood that collects under the skin. It can occur after some kind of trauma to a tissue or organ. “An ear hematoma appears as a swollen, enlarged portion of the earflap,” says Dr. Jamie Whittenburg, DVM, director of Kingsgate Animal Hospital in Lubbock, TX. Besides the ear feeling soft and spongy, you might notice an unpleasant odor or discharge, especially if your dog has an ear infection.

Dr. Linda Simon, MVB MRCVS, veterinarian, veterinary surgeon, and member of the British Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons says the hematoma itself tends to look like a “water balloon within the earflap.” “It can be small like a grape or large like an orange,” she explains.

©Christian Müller -

Ear hematomas can occur in one or both ears. Symptoms include:

  • Vigorous head shaking
  • Pain in the ear
  • Ear feels squishy
  • Reduced appetite
  • Crust or debris in the ear
  • Redness
  • Swelling of the pinna
  • Skin feels thick and hot to the touch

Any breed is susceptible to an ear hematoma, but it tends to be more common in dogs with floppy ears. When a dog shakes their head, having a longer ear is more likely to cause injury to the delicate skin of the pinna. Plus, a floppy ear can trap moisture or debris, creating an ideal breeding ground for bacteria, yeast, or ear mites.

Causes of Aural Hematoma

An ear hematoma can develop because of excessive head shaking or scratching that leads to the rupturing of blood vessels in the pinna. This can occur in dogs for a variety of reasons, such as allergies, bacterial or yeast infections, or even secondary to trauma, such as bite wounds or bee stings. When the vessels break, blood fills the space between the skin and cartilage. Since the blood has nowhere to go, the earflap begins to swell, Dr. Simon explains.

The underlying cause for injury to the pinna is most commonly an ear infection, according to Dr. Whittenburg. “It can also occur from trauma like a dog bite,” she adds. In addition, if a foreign object like dirt or an insect gets into the ear canal, your dog may try to dislodge the material. Shaking their head too vigorously or persistently can put them at risk for an aural hematoma.

If your dog is showing any signs of excessive scratching their ears or shaking their head, you should have them looked at by a veterinarian to determine the underlying cause. During this examination, your vet will examine the ears and may collect a sample for examination under a microscope. Once the veterinarian identifies the source of the infection, they can recommend an appropriate course of treatment.

Treatment for Dog Ear Hematoma

There are several options for treating dog ear hematoma including surgery, cannulization, oral medications, and injecting medication into the hematoma, Dr. Whittenburg says. Cannulization involves inserting a tube into the hematoma to drain the blood. “The treatment that is right for your dog depends on many factors, including your dog’s age, health, and the size of the hematoma,” she adds.

In simple cases, the veterinarian can drain an ear hematoma using a needle or treat it successfully with oral steroids. They may also inject steroids to prevent the hematoma from refilling, Dr. Simon explains. Often, the hematoma will need to be drained more than once. For this reason, surgery tends to be more effective in avoiding repeat visits to the vet.

“For larger or more persistent hematomas, we may need to perform minor surgical procedures, such as tacking the earflap together with sutures for a short period,” Dr. Simon says. Surgery requires anesthesia and typically involves making an incision, draining the blood, suturing the skin, and finally, applying a bandage to support the earflap’s healing. Since hematomas are often linked to an underlying ear problem, your dog may also need antibiotic ear drops or anti-inflammatory medications, she adds.

German Shepherd Dog getting a check-up at the vet.
©New Africa -

How to Treat a Dog Ear Hematoma at Home

“A small ear hematoma may resolve on its own,” Dr. Whittenburg says. In such cases, the hematoma would get reabsorbed into the body. “Still, it is imperative to treat the underlying cause, or it will recur,” she says. Large ear hematomas shouldn’t be left untreated since they can be painful for your dog. Your dog can also cause further injury to themselves if they shake their head too forcefully.

Dr. Simon advises against treating an aural hematoma at home. “You can, however, prevent further trauma by protecting the ear with a buster collar,” she says. Cleaning out wax or debris with an ear cleaner and keeping the ear dry can also help reduce your dog’s discomfort. Following treatment, the vet will provide you with a discharge sheet outlining which medications to give and for how long, as well as guidance on using a pressure bandage or buster collar, she says.

Ear Hematoma Prognosis and Prevention

If an ear hematoma is left untreated, it can become infected. “The dog may start to feel quite poorly,” Dr. Simon says. Along with excessive head shaking and scratching, dogs may cry out in pain or seem agitated. Untreated hematomas can also lead to thickening of the earflap and permanent scarring. “While uncomfortable, this would not cause a dog to pass away,” she adds.

Dr. Whittenburg agrees, explaining that an ear hematoma “is not typically fatal but can be very painful.” If your dog has an ear infection that goes untreated, this can lead to serious issues including hearing loss, she adds. While it’s not always possible to prevent an ear hematoma, making a regular habit of inspecting and cleaning your dog’s ears can help you notice changes in their ear health. You should also consult with your veterinarian if anything seems out of the ordinary.
Get Your Free AKC download

Puppy Vaccination Schedule

Download and print this vaccination schedule to help keep your puppy on track for its first year of life!
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download
*Turn off pop-up blocker to download