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Can Dogs Get Cauliflower Ear?


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If you know anyone who fights professionally, or if you've watched boxing or fighting on TV, you may have noticed that often, a fighters’ ears look a little unusual. This is because after repeated hits to the ear, blood vessels begin to rupture and the ear fills with blood. This is called a perichondrial hematoma, or more commonly, “cauliflower ear”. Humans definitely suffer from cauliflower ear, but what about our floppy-eared friends? Can dogs get cauliflower ear?

Can Dogs Get Cauliflower Ear?

YES! Dogs can and do get cauliflower ear, although it is not a result of the same reason a professional boxer does. All sorts of ear problems can lead to bleeding inside of a dog's ear. The ear will then swell and develop a vegetable-like texture. This makes their ears extremely sore, and will likely make your pup shake their head over and over again. But rest at ease, there are things you can do to lessen your beloved fur-baby's suffering.

Does My Dog Have Cauliflower Ear?

Most of the signs that your dog has developed an aural hematoma are easily seen. The causes are not always so obvious, so seeking the help of a veterinarian is wise.

A dog with cauliflower ear will have an ear or ears so full of blood that they feel like a water balloon! The ear may even swell shut and will likely be very itchy.

Dogs get cauliflower ear for a couple of different reasons. For example, a pup who shakes their head a lot for any reason can burst blood vessels in the ears. Some dogs even develop aural hematomas from an improper immune system reaction. A foreign body (such as a grass awn) can cause ear trouble, as can an ear infection or an insect bite to the ear.

To confirm what has caused cauliflower ear in your dog, your vet will need to take a sample of the blood or fluid present in the hematoma. They may swab the ear to test if bacteria are present. In the case of an ear infection, a bacterial culture may be required. To learn more about what's causing cauliflower ear in your pup and how to spot it, take a look at this article: Ear Hematoma in Dogs.

How Do I Treat My Dog's Cauliflower Ear?

Spotting cauliflower ear in your canine companion is the easy part. Treating the issue can take a bit more time and effort.

There are a few different ways to treat cauliflower ear in dogs. Sometimes just lancing the ear with a syringe is all that is needed. More complicated cases may require a surgery where the ear is basically quilted with sutures.

To help your pooch heal properly, keep the ear extra clean after it has been treated. Putting an Elizabethan collar your dog can also help to keep the area free from irritation until healing has taken place.

For experiences from other owners treating cauliflower ear, check out Ear Hematoma in Dogs.

How is Cauliflower Ear Similar in Dogs and Humans?

Hematomas in the ear share some characteristics no matter the species. Some things that humans and dogs both suffer from include:

  • Fluid filling the ear

  • The ear is painful to touch

  • Tissue that resembles a cauliflower

How is Cauliflower Ear Different in Dogs and Humans?

Because our ears are very anatomically different than dogs’ ears, the problems our ears face are a bit different as well. Some differences to note are:

  • Head shaking - this is something that dogs do when their ears hurt, that people do not

  • Deformations - human ears are often permanently deformed after cauliflower ear takes place

  • Headaches - this symptom is an easy one to confirm in people, but is not so easy in dogs

Case Study

Aural hematomas respond well to treatment. One energetic pup developed cauliflower ear from aggressive head shaking. She was taken to the vet, who performed a quilting surgery on her. The ear had a special drain put in it to help release fluid during the healing process. After a few weeks, only a small pocket of fluid was left. The pooch actually reabsorbed this fluid on her own, and was restored to her pre-cauliflower ear glory.

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