One of the most frustrating ear issues seen in dogs, and less commonly cats, is the development of a balloon-like swellings of the ear, known as an ear hematoma. This is more accurately a collection of blood within the cartilage flap of the ear, usually as a result of trauma to the ear, or excessive itching or shaking of the head due to underlying ear allergies and/or infection. When these conditions occur, some pets are prone to breaking a blood vessel in the ear, leading to an accumulation of blood.
In some cases this swelling will be small, while in other cases the swelling can progress to involve much of the ear flap. While many guardians will ask about removing this fluid with a syringe and needle, any temporary reduction of swelling will often recur quite quickly recur within hours or days. Needle aspiration of these swellings may also lead to complications and additional infections as well. It is for these reasons that most veterinarians will recommend surgical drainage of the ear hematoma, done under short acting anesthesia. There are many possible surgical techniques available, with the key aspect being to remove the blood and close up the residual dead space with sutures, and/or special kind of tubing. These are left in place for 1-2 weeks to allow adequate drainage while the incision heals.
It is also important to treat any secondary ear infections or the hematoma may reform. In some cases, if the hematoma is not too big or a bother to the pet, some will shrink in size on their own without any surgical intervention; however, excessive scar tissue may develop as healing proceeds on its own. Occasionally some of my clients have found homeopathic remedies such as belladona or phosphorus helpful alternatives in treating ear hematomas in pets.