What is an aural hematoma?
First things first: What is an aural hematoma? “Aural” just refers to the ear and “hematoma” means a pooling or collection of blood outside the blood vessels. An aural hematoma is therefore a pool of blood that collects between the skin and cartilage layers in the earflap (the loose part of the ear furthest from the head, also called the “pinna”). Although both dogs and cats can get aural hematomas, they are much more common in dogs. Dogs with larger floppy ears are most prone to aural hematomas which are aggravated by head shaking and slapping the ears against the head.
What causes aural hematomas?
There are two things to understand here:
- The hematoma itself is generally caused by some sort of self-administered activity, like vigorous scratching or head shaking. The repeated trauma (i.e. scratching or smacking the ears against the head) breaks blood vessels in the ear flap. The blood then flows out into a pool between the skin and cartilage and forms the aural hematoma, or pocket of blood. Some hematomas are relatively small and may just reabsorb into the ear but others can be quite large and may require medical intervention. More on that below.
- The reason your pup is engaging in the scratching or head shaking will generally be due to some underlying cause, such as fleas, ticks, ear mites, an injury, an infection or allergies. Therefore, in addition to treating the actual hematoma, it is critical to identify the underlying cause and treat that as well to avoid a recurrence of the aural hematoma and allow the current one to heal properly.
How do you know it’s an aural hematoma?
Your pup – or cat in rare instances – will have a fluid-filled swelling on the ear flap. We now know the fluid will be blood and the sac can be squishy or hard, depending on how long it’s been there and how full it is. The swelling can be anywhere on the ear flap and, if it is large enough, can even block the ear canal.
So, now that I know it’s an aural hematoma, what do I do?
This is where there is significant debate among veterinarians. Some strongly advocate surgery, especially for very large aural hematomas, while others take a less invasive route and advocate a wait-and-see approach to give the body time to reabsorb the blood and others try to strike a balance between the two extremes by draining, or aspirating, the fluid without cutting the ear flap open. Here are some of your options, as explained by experienced veterinarians:
Here is Dr. Becker’s in-depth explanation of all the treatment options, including surgery, to deal with an aural hematoma:
Dr. Greg Martinez explains aspirations as an alternative to the surgical option:
Non-surgical, let the body reabsorb:
Here is Doc Pawsitive’s video on his decision to no longer do surgery for most aural hematomas:
Now that you know all about the traditional option for dealing with aural hematomas, let’s talk about some natural remedies you may want to use, either in conjunction with or instead of a traditional treatment protocol.
Regardless of whether you go either with a surgical option or decide that you would rather not treat the aural hematoma with either surgery or aspiration, you will also want to try one or more of the following natural remedies to assist your fur baby’s body in the healing process and bring added relief to your pet:
- Yunnan Baiyao: A superstar in Chinese medicine. This powdered herb was allegedly used by the Vietcong to stop bleeding from wounds inflicted during the Vietnamese war. In addition to immediately stopping internal or external bleeding, it also reduced swelling and relieves severe pain, all while disinfecting the wound. This is as a “must have” for your pet’s first aid kit to help stop bleeding of cuts and wounds. According to Jodie Gruenstern, DVM, “Yunnan Baiyao is a must-have herbal with diverse applications. Yunnan Baiyao is a proprietary Chinese herbal formulation that originated in the Yunnan province in China. Bai means “white” and yao means “medicine”. The main ingredients in this Yunnan white medicine are two types of ginseng, and several members of the yam family.”
+ How to administer:
+ Topically: Mix a small amount of the powder with just enough water to make a paste. Spread the paste over the affected are twice daily until the wound has healed.
+ Orally: The powder can also be taken orally in either a capsule form or as a powder, added to your pet’s food.
- Arnica Montana: Made from a European flowering plant in the sunflower family, this natural product is used to relieve pain, swelling and bruising caused by the aural hematoma. You can use a gel or cream to rub on the affected ear or give it to your fur baby orally in a pill or capsule.
- Hypericum (St. John’s Wort): Great for healing and acts as an anti-bacterial, anti-fungal herb for inflammation, pain and swelling associated with aural hematomas.
+ How to administer:
+ Herbal compress: Make an infusion (“tea”) by putting two teaspoons of Hypericum in a cup, adding 8 oz. boiling water and letting the mixture steep for 20 mins by covering the cup. Strain the liquid, place it in a sealed jar and store in the refrigerator. Best if made fresh daily.
+ Using a large cotton ball for each treatment, dip the cotton in the cold Hypericum tea. Squeeze out the excess, leaving plenty of fluid without being soaking wet. Apply the cool, wet compress for 15 minutes directly to the affected area, two or three times daily. Discard the remaining tea.
- Hamamelis Virginica: Can be used as a compress for seepage of wound. Follow the Hypericum instructions above.
- Sulphur: If all else fails, this will pick up where others left off. This too, is applied topically in the same manner as the Hypericum tea.
Be sure to try each of the foregoing homeopathic remedies separately so that you can determine which one is actually working to provide your pup – or cat – with the desired relief.
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