There are a number of conditions that could cause sudden swelling of the ear. You should contact us as soon as possible for advice to ensure the best treatment is offered for whatever situation your dog is dealing with.
Injury to the ear flap (pinna)
Dogs’ ears, in particular dogs with droopy or floppy ears, can easily become damaged or injured when subject to a blow or trauma. The ear tissue responds to damage by swelling and becoming painful and these symptoms are usually best checked over by one of our vets to make sure they will heal properly.
A common cause for swelling (especially for dogs who stick their noses in all sorts of places) is a reaction to a bite or sting from an insect (or even plants such as nettles). These lumps will generally be round in shape and cause obvious (but short lived) irritation to your dog. If they have been stung but don’t seem to be displaying any severe symptoms, then they probably don’t need veterinary attention. Using a cold compress to soothe the pain may offer some relief for your pet. If your dog is having a more serious reaction with signs of difficulty breathing, collapse, as well as rapid swelling of the area, call us immediately.
Skin infections and infestations (with bacteria, yeasts or mange mites) are another possible cause of inflammation of the ear. If you notice oozing, scabs, pus or redness then this can indicate a possible infection. These can usually be treated quite simply, again contact us for an appointment with a vet.
Aural haematoma is probably the most common condition you will find refered to when scouring the internet for explanations.
What is it?
A haematoma is a collection of blood (like a blood-blister) within a tissue, in this case, the ear flap. It generally occurs consequently to another ear related problem such as ear mites or an infection. These ailments irritate your dog causing head shaking and ear scratching. The impact from shaking and scratching can cause blood to leak from damaged and ruptured vessels in the ear and gather between the skin and cartilage causing swelling within the ear flap.
How does it look?
The ear flap may be fully swollen or there may just be one part that is particularly enlarged. It may be either soft or hard to touch depending on how full it is. It will more than likely be very sore and distressing for your dog initially. Although aural haematomas will subside on their own after a few weeks it can be uncomfortable for your pet and may leave the ear badly misshapen. Therefore, treatment and immediate care by one of our vets is recommended.
There are several ways to treat a haematoma. Sometimes, using a needle to drain the fluid in the swelling is successful, however it is often necessary to drain it more than once and sometimes three or four times. Injection of steroid medicines into the ear can be tried. In many cases though the best way to treat a haematoma is via surgery. An incision is made into the swollen site under anaesthetic. The blood and fluid is drained and the inner and outer ear surfaces are sutured together to ensure smooth healing and to close the gap where the blood has been collecting. In some dogs, for example Bassetts, the ear maybe taped up and strapped around the head to keep it from dangling and getting re-damaged. Your dog may also be given a buster collar to prevent them from scratching their ears and causing further damage.
Dogs with low hanging ears are at a higher risk as they are more likely to get harmed by being knocked and scratched. Dogs prone to ear infections and parasites have an increased chance of getting a haematoma as they will be irritated by the symptoms of these problems. If a haematoma is diagnosed it is crucial to treat any other related issues (such as underlying ear infections) to prevent the same thing happening again.
If your dog has a swollen ear it is usually best to give us a ring so one of our vets or nurses can advise you on the best way to deal with it.