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Dog Ear Hematomas – 7 Top Causes

Dog ear hematomas are surprisingly common and occur because of damage to the cartilage in the ear. Strenuous ear shaking is usually the cause. Scientists have discovered that dogs shake their heads at a speed of 4 Hz.

That means the dog is able to move his head back and forth a total of 4 times per second! The smaller the animal, the faster he/she has to shake in order to dry off.

This post will take you through 7 top causes of hematomas, how they’re medically treated, and what you can do at home.

*Source: Scientists Reveal How Fast Dogs Must Shake to Dry Their Fur

Watch the following YouTube video to see what dog head shaking looks like in slow motion.

Wet Dog Shaking in Slow Motion | WIRED

Causes of Hematomas in Dogs

A dog ear hematoma is a fluid filled sac that develops in the pinna (ear flap) of your dog. Long-eared dogs are especially prone.

The intensity of scratching and head shaking causes blood vessels to burst. The result is a blood blister (a localized mass of blood confined to tissue).

Cause #1: Water Removal

As seen in the video above, dogs do a lot of scratching and head shaking. As a dog owner, you know that the first thing dogs do when they come out of the water is shake their heads.

This force can cause blood vessels to burst and bleed into the space between the ear flap cartilage and skin.

Be Ready with An Ultra Absorbent Towel

It may not always be possible, but if you can quickly wrap the dog’s head in an ultra absorbent towel severe head shaking can be minimized.

Cause #2: Ear Infections

The pain and irritation of an ear infection may cause your dog to violently shake his/her head. In effort to get rid of those sensations, a dog might dig at the ear or rub it against hard objects.

Ear infections don’t cause aural hematomas in dogs. It’s the intense head shaking that causes the problem.

Treat Ear Infections Naturally

Use an ear cleansing solution to keep your dog’s ear canal healthy and balanced. Occasional cleansing is one way to stop an infection before it even starts.

If you suspect an ear infection you should bring your dog to a licensed veterinarian.

Top Dog Ear Infection Treatments Available Without a Prescription Include:

Clear Me Ear Cleaner

Cause #3: Allergies

Anytime your dog has an itch or an irritation around the ear, the only way he/she has to try and get rid of it is to shake the head, paw at it, or rub it against something.

Allergies to food, dust, pollen, mites, and other environmental pollutants can cause severe skin itching in dogs.

Cause #4: Yeast Infection/Build-Up

Dogs can develop an overabundance of yeast for many reasons. This over development of yeast can leave the skin (including the ears) extremely uncomfortable.

In an effort to relieve the itch, a dog will naturally shake his/her head violently.

Unfortunately, the severity of the head shake can cause blood vessels to break and bleed into the surrounding tissue.

Cause #5: Ear Mites

Ear mites (otodectes cynotis mites) are microscopic parasites that affect dogs and cats.

They are not visible to the naked eye; however, under a microscope they look like writhing masses of dirt. This parasite is more commonly seen in cats.

Cause #6: The Great Outdoors

Dogs can get into a lot of trouble in the great outdoors. Porcupine quills, ticks, pieces of grass, and animal bites are all causes of ear trauma.

As with any kind of ear irritation or pain, your dog will want to get rid of it as fast as possible. Naturally, the first thing he/she will do is violently shake the head back and forth.

Cause #7: Foreign Object Stuck in the Ear

Small children and dogs don’t always mix. It only takes a second for an infant/toddler to stick a Crayon or small toy in a dog’s ear. It’s not a common cause of dog ear hematomas, but it can happen.

Top Ways to Treat Dog Ear Hematomas

Surgical Intervention

Surgery is usually the treatment option that veterinarians recommend.

When surgery is performed, the veterinarian drains the fluid completely and then stitches the ear up (straight through one side to the) in a way that blocks fluids from backing up into the wound again.

After surgery, your dog will require a cone (Elizabethan Collar) to avoid harming the ear. The stitches (or sutures) will remain for up to 3 weeks to ensure good healing.

Old fashioned Elizabethan cones (hard plastic wrapped around the neck) are still used. However, if you’re looking for something a little more comfortable, have a look at the options in the gallery below.

Risks of Surgery

The main risk of surgical removal of a dog hematoma is permanent scarring.

In some cases, the scarring is minimal; in other cases, scarring can cause the entire ear to crinkle and appear disfigured.

Fine Needle Drainage

When a veterinarian aspirates the ear flap (meaning he/she draws the fluid out with a very fine needle), it leaves an empty space behind.

That space usually refills with blood and fluid within 24 hours. In other words, it might bring temporary relief to dog ear hematomas, but it isn’t a cure.

Risks of Hematoma Recurrence in Dogs

Once the underlying condition has been treated, you can reduce the chances of another hematoma occurring by:

  • Using a monthly flea preventative medication prescribed by the veterinarian.
  • Keep your dog’s ears dry and clean.
  • Make sure your dog is treated for mites. Some topical flea medications also treat mites.
  • Manage any underlying allergies.
  • If the hematoma was caused by a dog bite, take precautions to make sure that doesn’t happen again by removing your dog from danger.


Dog-ear hematomas are not life-threatening, but they do have to be treated.

Left on their own, the hematoma will grow and the larger it becomes, the more likelihood of scar tissue or a recurrence.

If you notice any soft, jelly-like lumps in your dog’s ears, the best thing to do is have the veterinarian take a look. The faster it is repaired, the fewer complications. 

Dog allergies and parasites are easy to treat if you know the basics. For more information on treating dog allergies, parasites, worms, and dermatitis, follow the links.

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Dog Ear Infection Remedy - Infographic

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