If you live with a dog that has floppy ears, you also live with the slapping noise caused by a serious head-shake. Coming indoors on a cold day, waking up from a nap, or turning that wrong-side-out ear right-side-in — all are accompanied by a noisy canine shimmy.
You probably know that excessive head-shaking is a sign of trouble, but did you know that the shaking itself can cause trauma to your dog's ears?
When a dog shakes its head frequently, it runs the risk of rupturing capillaries in the ear. This results in aural hematoma, a condition where blood and fluid from the damaged vessels forms a pocket between the ear cartilage and the skin.
Aural hematomas are caused by violent shaking, excessive scratching, rough treatment, and diving headlong into the brush to chase squirrels. Long-eared breeds are especially vulnerable.
Signs and symptoms
Swelling from an ear hematoma develops very quickly. You may see a small bubble-like area on the inside of your dog's ear. If enough fluid is present, the hematoma can cover a large portion of the ear flap. Aural hematomas are very painful, so a painful reaction to normal handling is also a sign of trouble.
The scratching or shaking behavior that causes aural hematomas is usually caused by irritation from ear mites or an infection. If your pet seems to be having trouble with its ears, check for these signs of trouble:
- smelly discharge
- dark brown or black ear wax
- black "dirt" or mite droppings
If the ears look clean, but your dog is still scratching, an allergy might be the cause.
If you suspect your dog has an aural hematoma, a trip to the vet is in order. Untreated ear infections or mite infestations can damage your dog's hearing.
There are three ways of treating an ear hematoma:
Surgery. The vet will cut the skin on the underside of the ear flap, then drain the fluid. The wound is either closed with stitches or taped and bandaged.
Aspiration. The hematoma is drained by inserting a syringe and drawing out the fluid. This method avoids surgery but may not be suitable in all cases.
Conservative treatment. Most ear hematomas will eventually heal on their own. The drawback to this treatment is the risk of scarring. As the ear heals, the damaged tissue can draw up and leave the flap with an irregular appearance.
Floppy ears need a little extra care. Check your dog's ears regularly for signs of trouble. If earwax is a problem, gently clean the ears. Take your pet for regular checkups, and talk to your vet if you have any concerns about scratching or shaking.
For more information, contact a vet like Canal Road Animal Hospital.