Dog with Swollen Ear Flap
Willie, our three-year-old poodle has a large blister-like puffiness inside his ear. A friend said his dog had a similar swelling that was full of blood. Can you tell us what is wrong and what we should do?
The problem sounds like an ear hematoma. Something has caused Willie to shake his head and pop a blood vessel in his ear. Often when this happens, the bleeding separates the skin from the cartilage and causes swelling in a large portion of the outer earflap. Your veterinarian should examine Willie to confirm this diagnosis and treat the problem. Generally, he or she will anesthetize Willie and open the swollen tissue to allow the blood to drain. Sutures will be used to reattach the skin to the cartilage. The veterinarian will probably review for you the different techniques used for this surgery. In any case, the healing will be slow.
Pet owners sometimes question the need for such surgery. The answer is that as blood is reabsorbed by the body, the cartilage and ear surfaces will become disfigured. Usually the pet will wind up with a "cauliflower ear" that is all wrinkled. You also need to investigate why Willie was shaking his head. Many times we find that the cause is an ear infection down in the vertical canal. It may be hard to see unless an otoscope is used to examine the canal near the eardrum.
It is not unusual in many breeds to find an ear infection caused by excessive amounts of hair growing in the ear. This is one reason to examine a dog's ears regularly and keep them clean. If an ear infection is ruled out, the culprit may be fleas. They would cause the ear to itch and make Willie shake his head. Your veterinarian can identify the source of the problem and explain how you can prevent it from recurring. Instead of infection or fleas, he or she may find an insect sting or tumor. If it is a tumor, the earliest it is detected the better the prognosis.