An aural hematoma literally means an accumulation of blood in the ear flap (pinna). How does this happen? Well, any sort of trauma to the ear can cause one of the vessels in the pinna to burst. The result is bleeding between 2 of the layers of the pinna- the cartilage and the skin. The blood gets trapped between these 2 layers and the pinna ends up filled with blood, resembling a water balloon!
The trauma that causes an aural hematoma is usually due to the dog vigourously scratching the ear or shaking his/her head, almost always secondary to an ear infection or foreign body in the ear canal. I have on occasion seen an aural hematoma after the dog has been accidentally hit in the ear with something such as a ball or a bat. Theoretically, aural hematomas can occur in other species, such as cats and rabbits, but these are less common than in dogs.
Aural hematomas are painful, like a really bad blood blister. Aural hematomas treatment involves surgery under general anesthetic. The skin is incised to allow drainage and several sutures, sometimes with stents, are used to hold the layers of the ear together and allow healing. Very occasionally, drainage of the haematoma followed by the instillation of a steroid medication into the space may resolve the problem, but success is rare using this method. It is also important to treat the ear infection, if present, or remove the offending foreign body. If left untreated, the painful hematoma will eventually resolve but the result will be a 'cauliflower ear' much like the UFC fighters!
Did your dog ever have an aural hematoma? Tell us about it in the comment section below.