Can Ear Hematomas Be Fatal to Dogs? Our Vet Explains the Risks

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hematoma symptoms on dog's ear

This article was updated on January 3rd, 2023

You have recently noticed your pup is shaking his head constantly and tilting his head to one side. He probably has an ear infection, you think. He’s had those frequently. But when you pet his head, you notice his whole ear is swollen. Puffy even. It seems doughy and fluid-filled. 

Your dog may be suffering from an ear hematoma. But what is it, and what should you do about it? In this article, we will review how dog ear hematomas will impact your dog’s quality of life and find out if the condition can be fatal to your dog.

What is an Ear Hematoma? 

An ear hematoma, or aural hematoma, is a fluid-filled pocket that develops when a blood vessel bursts inside the earflap. Blood pools in the space between the skin and ear cartilage. Hematomas can involve the entire earflap or just a small area. These fluid swellings often feel like a thick water balloon. 

How Do Ear Hematomas Affect My Dog’s Everyday Life?

Ear hematomas can affect your dog’s everyday life and make him feel miserable. According to Dr. Lancellotti at Your Vet Wants You to Know Podcast, two-thirds of dogs with hematomas have some underlying cause like allergies, an ear infection, or even a scratch. So usually, these dogs are already uncomfortable before the hematoma develops. 

Hematoma development only adds to the discomfort due to fluid buildup and pressure. Without treatment, your dog will probably continue to scratch and headshake, which unfortunately often makes the ear hematoma swell and fill more.  

Can Ear Hematomas Kill a Dog?

An ear hematoma is unlikely to kill your dog, but it may be immensely painful. If left untreated, it can continue for months. 

What Are the Signs Your Dog Should See a Vet Immediately? 

Hematomas often develop when your dog has an ear infection. Headshaking and itchy, red ears can be early signs of an impending infection.  If you think your dog may have an ear infection, ear mites, or even allergies, it is best to bring them to the vet when the issue starts. 

If your dog develops any fluid-filled pockets or swellings of the earflap, he should be evaluated by your veterinarian immediately. Treating a hematoma when it first starts can help minimize scar tissue and deformation of the ear – the dreaded cauliflower ear. 

What Happens if You Leave a Dog Ear Hematoma Untreated?

Leaving an ear hematoma untreated can permanently deform the affected ear – the earflap is no longer smooth but bumpy and irregular. 

While some hematomas will resolve on their own without medical treatment, it can take a month or longer for your dog’s body to reabsorb the blood and serum in the ear; your pet may experience discomfort during this time if left untreated.

If not treated, the hematoma is more likely to improve and then reoccur. This cycle may go on for months.

Additional Ear Hematoma FAQs

Can a Dog Live with an Ear Hematoma?

Yes, your dog can live with an ear hematoma, but it may be sore during the healing process. If the underlying cause is left untreated, this may also delay healing, leading to a drawn-out and painful recovery for your dog. 

Do Ear Hematomas Go Away On Their Own?

Ear hematomas sometimes go away on their own, but they may cause your dog significant pain and discomfort due to the pressure and weight of the fluid in the earflap. It may take a month or more for the blood to be completely resorbed; with appropriate surgery, on the other hand, your dog’s ear may heal in 10-14 days. 

What Happens if a Dog Ear Hematoma Bursts?

A burst hematoma is unlikely, but there is always a slight chance. If the hematoma does burst, it is likely to cause quite a mess – the blood inside the swelling will come out along with any blood clots that have formed. Your dog will probably feel some immediate relief since the pressure has been released, but he may continue to shake his head. 

If a hematoma bursts, clean the area with mild antibacterial soap and cool water. Blood is a suitable environment for bacteria to grow, so there is an increased risk of infection. If your pup seems painful, don’t force the cleaning. Get him in to see your vet for treatment as soon as possible. 

How Long Do Dog Ear Hematomas Last?

If left to heal without treatment, ear hematomas may resolve in 4-6 weeks but often have significant scar tissue formation. 

What Can I Do for My Dog’s Ear Hematoma?

  • Treat any underlying causes.
  • Continue all medications as prescribed by your veterinarian.  
  • Use a cone or Elizabethan collar to prevent your dog from scratching the affected ear.
  • Talk to your vet about the No Flap Ear Wrap – a specialized wrap that keeps the affected ear tightly in place, preventing your dog from causing further trauma by headshaking or scratching. 

How Do Vets Treat Dog Ear Hematomas?

There are as many treatment protocols for ear hematomas as there are veterinarians. Every doctor will have their preferred method but will tailor the treatment plan based on your dog’s specific needs and your budget. 

Surgery often involves one or more incisions or drains to eliminate the blood and blood clots. The vet may place sutures to keep the skin and cartilage together, eliminating the space between layers so it doesn’t fill back up with blood. 

Depending on the case, some vets may prefer to start with medical management before moving to surgery. This often involves inserting a sterile needle into the fluid pocket, draining the blood, and sometimes infusing the space with a steroid to help decrease inflammation. This approach typically does not require anesthesia; some dogs may need light sedation though. The good news is this procedure is often well tolerated by most dogs and is a more cost-effective option. The bad news is the empty space formed when the blood is removed usually refills very quickly, even overnight. Most dogs must be treated this way multiple times before the hematoma heals. 


  • Dr Sarah Graves, Veterinarian

    Dr. Sarah Graves has been a veterinarian since 2014, most recently working as a veterinarian for the Banfield Pet Hospital network. She graduated from the prestigious Royal Veterinary College at the University of London with a Doctor's degree in veterinary medicine (2014) and earned a Bachelor of Science in Chemistry from the University of Virginia (2009). Her goal is to bring accurate and accessible information to dog owners, to avoid often-inaccurate Internet content.

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Disclaimer: This website's content is not a substitute for veterinary care. Always consult with your veterinarian for healthcare decisions. Read More.

1 Comment

  1. Wondered how my dog the got the hematoma to start with?and should I take her to a vet…I really am not in the position to pay the money they’ll want up front srom seeing her

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