If your dog's ear swells up, take him to the veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment. Such ear swellings usually result from an abscess, or pus-filled infection inside the earflap, or a hematoma. The latter refers to blood filling up a space in the body where it shouldn't. When it occurs in the earflap, it's known as an aural hematoma.
Your dog's earflap -- also known as the pinna -- consists of thin cartilage covered with hair and skin. Earflap trauma resulting from dog fights or other causes -- along with excessive scratching from ear mites or other parasites -- are the most common reasons for hematoma formation. There's a broken blood vessel inside your dog's earflap, filled with blood, clots and other fluid.
Earflap Hematoma Symptoms
You'll probably notice that your dog's ear is swollen. If it's a small swelling, you might realize there's a problem if you touch your pet's ear and he yelps in pain or growls at you. Aural hematomas often feel warm when touched. If you touch the ear gently, you can feel the fluid within. The bulk of the swelling occurs on the inside of the earflap. Sometimes, the blood and clots inside the hematoma become so large that the ear canal is obstructed.
Aural Hematoma Treatment
Your vet might aspirate the built-up fluid via a syringe. While inexpensive, this method is often just a temporary fix, as more fluid returns. If your dog has large ears, your vet might insert a drain in the earflap, allowing the fluid to drain over a period of weeks. This procedure is also inexpensive, as long as your dog will tolerate a drain in his ear. Your vet can perform surgery on your dog's ear, placing sutures around the hematoma and earflap to prevent refilling after drainage. While the operation is effective, it's probably costly.
Aural hematomas eventually resolve on their own, but they take time. If you can't afford the surgery, your dog will recover. However, expect serious cosmetic changes in the ear's appearance. Dogs with untreated hematomas usually develop "cauliflower ear," or thick, wrinkled earflaps. It's likely that the entire ear becomes disfigured. In dogs whose ears stand up, the affected ear will stay down permanently without surgery.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.