Ear hematomas are very common clinical skin/ear complaints of dogs and cats that present to the small animal practitioner. An ear hematoma (or aural hematoma) is actually a blood filled balloon-like swelling of the ear flap(s) that is often due to leaky or broken blood vessels in the ear(s). In many cases, traumatic head shaking and/or scratching of the ears may result in the development of ear hematomas in pets; however, often an ear hematoma may spontaneously develop on its own.
While traditional veterinarians typically do not understand why certain pets develop these frustrating lesions, holistic veterinarians have long suspected that, like most other chronic diseases of our pets, the causation is immune mediated inflammation of the blood vessels of the ears, resulting in the bleeding into the ear flaps. Ear hematomas may be very uncomfortable for many animals, but they are typically not health threatening. Many of these pets do have underlying inhalant/environmental skin allergies (known as atopy), which predispose them to not only ear infections, but in some cases the secondary development of ear hematomas from self-trauma to the ear flaps.
Treatment of these lesions usually involves surgical drainage (through a variety of potential techniques), which does typically require general anesthesia. There is usually post-op care and rechecks needed in the subsequent few weeks after the ears are drained. While many animal guardians are tempted to simply ask to have their vet drain the hematoma with a needle, in the vast majority of cases this fails and only results in usually a return of a bigger ear hematomas, as well as the risk of infection. If these pets have underlying ear infections and/or allergic skin/ear disease, these also must be addressed so as to avoid recurrences or relapses.
In some cases, I have found homeopathic remedies such as belladonna occasionally helpful in helping resolve the lesions without surgery. In other cases, if the hematomas are not too big or bothersome, they will typically slowly resolve on their own over a few months; however, in these cases, the ears will typically heal with much scar tissue.