Cauliflower Ear?

I am a fan of UFC Mixed Martial Arts so seeing "Cauliflower Ears" is nothing unusual for me. It's a little funny looking but other than that, it's no big deal for the just comes with the territory. So it was a little disturbing, at first, when Suede faced the possibility of getting a "Cauliflower Ear". She may be a Pit-mix - making her a "bully"- but she is by no means a fighter. Not with people or other animals. In fact she is a lover. So how the heck would she face the possibility of "Cauliflower Ear"?

One day I was playing with Suede. As I grabbed her head to give her a kiss - yes..I do kiss my dog from time to time - she whimpered. It was such a quick, soft whimper that I wasn’t even sure she had actually whimpered so we continued playing and she whimpered again. I checked her head, body, paws - just about everywhere - but couldn’t find anything wrong with her. As we continued to play she whimpered again and this time I realized it had to do with her ear. There didn't seem to be anything obviously wrong with it but clearly she was in pain because she wouldn't even allow me to exam her ear. When I was able to seize an opportunity to examine her ear I got quite a shock. It was puffy like a balloon filled with water. WHAT THE HECK?

I came to find out that she had an Aural Hematoma - or more commonly referred to as a "swollen ear flap". A swollen ear flap occurs when the space between the skin and the ear cartilage becomes filled with blood due to some sort of trauma resulting in busted blood vessels. It puffs up like a balloon filled with water. There are no real symptoms you can look out for except the actual swollen ear and pain in the area. There are however, conditions and behaviors that can lead to swollen ear flap. The two likeliest behaviors to cause this condition are extreme or excessive head shaking or ear scratching.

Jake Sneaks A Kiss
Suede had no history of ear infections or any type of ear conditions. In fact to this point I don't even think I had ever witnessed her even scratch her head. The minute I realized that this is what Suede had, I knew exactly what caused it. We had just introduced her to a new little doggy - Jake - who LOVED to lick her ears. So with the licking, Suede would shake her head quite a bit to get Jake to stop licking her ears. With Suede it was obvious that her condition had been brought on by extreme head shaking.

When Suede's ear became swollen, I went to the vet who presented me with 2 treatment options - both of which are common medical procedures for correcting a swollen ear flap.

Aspiration is the least invasive and the least expensive of the procedures, but is also likely to be the least effective over the long-term. This treatment involves inserting a needle into the hematoma and draining it. This procedure will alleviate the hematoma, but will leave a cavity or space in which blood and fluid can refill causing another hematoma. The presence of clots in the hematoma, may preclude this procedure from being performed.

Pie-Crusting Sutures is a little more invasive but is the most common treatment for Aural Hematoma. With this procedure, the vet will incise the hematoma, draining it of blood, fluids and clots. It is also possible that some cartilage could also be removed. The area around the hematoma is then "dotted" with sutures that may actually extend right through the ear. As these multiple sutured areas heal, they create scarring which prevents the space from refilling with fluids. 

There are also two other treatments that are available - Teat Cannula Placement and Laser Treatment. Depending on the severity or placement of the hematoma, surgery might be absolutely necessary since it is possible that the result could be permanent, severe injury to the ear.   If the dog has an underlying issue with the ear such as an infection or even allergies, this also needs to be addressed as it will precipitate further trauma to the ear from extreme head shaking or scratching.

Hematomas can go away on their own because the fluid becomes reabsorbed by the body. However, with an Aural Hematoma, if left alone, it can also refill with blood and fluids, become infected, scar out of control and develop into a cauliflower ear or worse yet, result in hearing loss.  If you notice a swollen ear flap on your dog, the best thing to do is to consult a vet.

Related Article:  It Can Save Your Pet's Life
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