Hematomas are painful pools of blood that form outside of blood vessels. They are fairly common occurrences for dogs and cats, especially on their ears. When play involves biting or scratching, it's easy to burst a blood vessel, which can cause a hematoma. Hematomas under the skin are the most common, but they can also occur anywhere else in the body, in organs or in the brain, which can present serious complications.
Possible Causes of a Hematoma in Dogs and Cats
Hematomas can be started by a number of activities or illnesses, but are ultimately caused by a broken or leaking blood vessel. When the hematoma is on the ear, the skin will often separate from the cartilage, forming a pocket that fills with blood. This could be the result of some kind of trauma injury, like when dogs bite one another's ears while playing. Dogs with long ears are at greater risk of ear hematomas because there is more space for injury.
When the hematoma is on the ear, infections or ear mite infestations could be to blame. Both issues can cause irritation and head shaking, which may break blood vessels. In some cases, allergies, skin diseases, and blood clotting problems can also cause a hematoma.
How to Spot a Hematoma
Hematomas will lead to swelling of the affected area. When on the ear, the ear will appear thicker, sometimes even ballooning up. Ear hematomas are painful and may cause additional scratching.
If the hematoma is inside the body, away from the skin, pets may show no symptoms until it creates a blockage, leading to a seizure (if in the brain), or organ failure.
Treating Hematomas in Pets
In addition to causing pain, hematomas can also cause permanent damage and disfigurement, so prompt treatment is always recommended. If you suspect your pet has a hematoma, you should take them in for examination. The underlying cause, such as an infection, may also require treatment.
While ear hematomas can resolve themselves and reabsorb the blood over time (if there is no infection or infestation), they can be unpleasant for the pet, and because of inflammation, the ear can be permanently thicker and have a cauliflower appearance.
Depending on the severity and location of the hematoma, a veterinarian may treat it differently. A small hematoma can be drained, but there is a high risk that they will fill again within a few days. In many cases, surgery under anesthesia may be recommended to drain the blood, remove any clots, and suture across the area so that there is no space for blood to gather. A drain may be implanted for a couple weeks to keep the area from filling again. With prompt treatment, a hematoma is unlikely to return and there should be little damage.
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