Many groomers will never see this occur, but the vast majority of us will see it at some point and time. Since it is “summer shavedown season” and this problem is going to be seen more often during this time, I thought it was important to bring this to everyone’s attention. I am actually adding in that during Covid lockdowns many groomers were forced to close down and after they reopened they saw a massive increase in the number of Aural hematomas they saw. Many vets are quick to jump on the bandwagon and ay the groomer did it. This article may be printed out and handed to clients and vets alike.
There are two types of hematomas we will typically see on ears.
There is the ear that is full of blood, like a balloon, several things can cause that type of Hematoma.
- Ear infections causing scratching or head shaking
- Snoods left on too long
- Rubber bands left around the ear leather not in the hair
- Injuries to the ear
This type of hematoma, depending on the reason for the injury, can require surgery or may respond to simple massage.
Hematomas related to injury or infection will usually be the result of a broken blood vessel in the ear which prevents the blood from going where it is supposed to go and instead pooling in between the layers of tissue in the middle part of the ear. The tissue there is thick and can trap the blood in a pocket, making the ear fat, warm and tender.
Drainage of the blood from the area is required in most cases and usually a drain can be left in place to keep the blood from pooling again. In some cases this is sufficient to stop the hematoma and allow the ear to heal, but in most cases it is not. Surgery is generally required to cauterize the bleeder and prevent the ear from shriveling into what is often referred to as a cauliflower ear. This is not just an ugly even but it is uncomfortable for the pet as well.
Hematomas caused by restricted blood flow can usually be corrected rather quickly with massage. No further treatment is needed in most cases. What you do is remove the offending item and then hold the ear up, applying firm, steady pressure in a circular motion from the bottom of the hematoma towards the top, going slow and steady. The idea is to move the pooled blood back into the blood stream and out of the ear. It will take, depending on the type of dog and the size of the hematoma, between a half hour and an hour to move the pooled blood out of the ear. Steady pressure will slow help reduce the pooling, but the circular massage is the best technique.
I need to stress that ear hematomas that are caused by trauma, not by restricted blood flow, do not respond to massage! They need vet treatment. If you notice a problem during grooming, stop what you are doing and call the owner, strongly suggesting they take the dog to the vet as soon as possible.
There is a second type of hematoma that we are more apt to see in the grooming salon. That is the type that affects the ends of the ear leather and causes seeping or dripping blood and sometimes splitting of the ear tips.
There are several reasons we see this occur. Severe matting is the main cause of this occurring, but it can happen when no matting is present. Plucking of extremely hair ears, ear infections and clipper irritation are some of the other reasons.
Matting restricts blood flow to the area of the body that it covers. In ears it is especially dangerous because the ear can become encased in mats causing all types of problems. When the ear hangs down the mats get wet in the water bowl and get food in them as well. They stay dirty.
Dirty, wet hair that is tight to the skin is a recipe for disaster. Moisture as well as lack of blood flow weakens skin causing it to be thinner and more likely to tear or bleed. Removing mats quickly can cause a quick rush of blood into vessels surrounded by weakened tissue which then causes “bleeding out”. All it takes for this to happen is to shave an ear and have a dog shake its head one time.
In some cases where there is no matting and the ear is healthy, shaving the ear feels funny to the dog and he shakes his head a few times, causing the ears to hit each other or the head and the shaking causes the same kind of injury. You have to be aware that whenever you have a dog shaking his head, you run the risk of this happening.
There are things you can do to avoid this problem.
When the ears are matted severely, shave them down a little at a time, removing small amounts of hair in layers from both sides of the ear. After each section removed, go to another part of the dog. Then come back to the ear. If possible, split the matting with your shears or razor splitter and allow the ear to sit for a few minutes. This allows blood to return to the ear slowly, not all at once and the incidence of problems will be reduced.
Shave the ears while they are wet. It will help stop some of the irritation that can occur when removing tightly matted hair.
Don't pluck ear hair on ears that are traumatized or that you fear will be damaged. It is better to leave the hair and come back to it later or send the dog to the vet clinic to have the hair removed. If the ear is already prone to hematoma damage, then plucking will just make it more likely.
After shaving the ear, secure the ears to the head with a Happy Hoodie or vet wrap or even a sock cut to act like a head wrap if you are concerned this might happen or if it has already begun to happen. They must lay tight, so a snood is probably not enough to help very much. Monitor the dog to ensure the wrap stays in place and the ears are not bleeding out. Remove the wrap after a half hour and look at the ears. If you see no bleeding you are probably OK.
If you see bleeding or are really concerned it will happen, you can ice the ears as well. That will help restrict the blood vessels and slow the blood flow back into the area. As the ear will warm back up slowly from the ice being present it will help prevent the bleeding that can occur.
In the event you see bleeding or are concerned that it may happen call the owner and have them take the dog to their vet. Here in this area vets treat this type of injury with a steroid shot and generally antibiotics.
You have to be aware that this can happen and understand that it is neither your fault nor directly anything you did to cause it. The shaving of the ear did cause the problem to a degree but in the case of matted ears it was the matting that caused the problem. In the case of non matted ears you can, in most cases, find a secondary reason like infection, clipper irritation or shaking, so it is not the clipping that does it but something else the clipping aggravates that actually causes it.
When we are aware that something can occur and prepared to deal with it, the clients and dogs are better off. Feel free to print this out and show it to clients and staff. This is an important lesson for every groomer to learn from.