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Swollen Ear Flap

Our customer asked;_

My dog is 10 years old, she is a cross I think with a blue merle boarder collie. I noticed a few days ago that her ear was floppy. When checked over it was sore to touch and has a bump on the top of her ear. I thought she may have been stung but her ear is getting worse and is completely flopped over. There doesn't seem to be any puss or leakage and it doesn't seem to bother her, only when touched. Our neighbour's dog had similar problems and cost £500 in operations. Due to a low income, I can't afford to take her to the vets. I am very worried it could get worse. Is there any help available?
Any advice would be greatly appreciated, Thanks

We replied:-

I cannot be sure what is happening with your dog without seeing it, but I suspect it has an aural haematoma. This presents as a rounded, fluid-filled swelling of the ear flap, which gets heavy a droops down. The ear canal might be healthy or not, but is not the main problem usually. The swelling can take up just a part of the ear flap, or can extend to make the whole flap look like a swollen balloon. Normally it starts small, but increases in size for a while, then stabilises.

This is not a life threatening condition, but is usually a bit uncomfortable for the dog. Depending how large the swelling gets and how tense it is, it can remain very minor, or can be quite bothersome to the dog. If you do nothing at all, it will almost certainly heal in time, but can take a few weeks. When it does heal, the ear flap will shrink down a bit and look like a "cauliflower ear". When this has happened it is healthy and comfortable, but is cosmetically not the same.

Essentially if it sounds like I have correctly identified what is happening, you have to decide if your dog is stressed/unhappy/in pain or whatever to the point that it needs treatment. If it is not bad, it is acceptable to wait and see if it heals, as long as you do not mind the ear flap ending up a little crumpled in appearance. If it seems unfair to leave your dog, you need to go to the vet.

Treatments vary. Some are best treated surgically with padded sutures and require a general anaesthetic. Some can just be drained by needle with the dog fully conscious. Often a small amount if steroid is placed inside the ear flap after drainage to help prevent it re-filling. This last approach is very commonly used these days and costs a lot less than surgery, though it might need doing 2 or 3 times altogether.

I hope this helps, but if you are unsure, you should get a vet to look at it, then decide what to do. Ask about draining by needle if you do. I have treated dozens like that and they almost always heal well.

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Sunday 20th January 2013