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EAR HEMATOMAS...EXCESS BAGGAGE FOR THE EAR

Posted Oct 08 2009 9:27pm
MEOW, MEOW!!! Helpful Buckeye received a lot of e-mails about last week's discussion of the senses of a cat. Those from cat owners pretty much said the same thing: "Keep the cat articles coming!" The e-mails from dog owners weren't as negative as you might expect. Nope, they all reported that they enjoyed reading about the different capabilities of cats, as provided by their senses. With the good reception for this type of article, Helpful Buckeye will be following it up with a similar treatment of the senses of dogs.

Helpful Buckeye also heard from several readers who promised to do more fidgeting...in their quest to lose the estimated 350 calories per day as reported in a recent study. Just think, if you fidget for 10 straight days, that would total 3500 calories...which equals 1 pound! I don't know which is an easier way to lose weight, the fidgeting or having one of your main chewing molars removed like I had to back in early August. I lost 14 lb. from that episode and have only gained back 9 of those. Even with the discomfort I had, I think I'll take that over the fidgeting!

Last week's poll about the desirability of tasting some of the "Cat Poop Coffee" revealed that most of our readers either don't like coffee period or you are afraid to try something new. Only 1 of 12 responses was affirmative. Be sure to answer this week's poll question in the column to the left.

CURRENT NEWS OF INTEREST

1) The American Kennel Club Humane Fund announced today the winners of the seventh AKC Humane Fund Awards for Canine Excellence (ACE), which commemorates five loyal, hard-working dogs that have made significant contributions to their communities in each of the following five categories: Law Enforcement, Search and Rescue, Therapy, Service and Exemplary Companion Dog. Go to: http://www.akc.org/news/index.cfm?article_id=3965 for a description of each dog and what they did to deserve the award. These are pretty impressive!

2) The ASPCA is encouraging all pet owners to actively support the current bill before Congress that would allow income tax deductions for pet health care. They even provide a sample form for you to use when contacting your Representative. If you feel this is a good idea, check out the site: https://secure2.convio.net/aspca/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=26

DISEASES, AILMENTS, AND MEDICAL CONDITIONS


You’ve just come home from work and you normally expect your dog to run to the door, greeting you with excitement. Instead, you find him cowering in the background, his head tilted to one side. Upon further inspection, you feel, then see, a sausage-like swelling on his ear flap. You and your dog have just entered the “Twilight Zone” of an ear hematoma.

INTRODUCTION

The pinna, which is the visible portion of the ear that projects from the head, is composed of a flared layer of cartilage sandwiched between layers of skin. There are also numerous small blood vessels located between this cartilage and each layer of skin. For various reasons, which will be discussed shortly, your dog or cat can damage these blood vessels, which results in a leakage of blood into the tiny space between the cartilage and the skin. As the amount of free blood increases, a lump starts to form and can actually become almost as big as the pinna itself.

This swelling is known as an aural or auricular (pertaining to the ear) hematoma, or more simply, an ear hematoma. The hematoma refers to a collection of free blood where it would not normally be found.

Of all the domestic animals, ear hematomas are mostly seen in dogs, cats, and pigs. They can affect any breed or sex of dogs or cats, at any age, and at any time of the year. However, they are more commonly seen in dogs than in cats, with the floppy-eared breeds such as Hounds, Setters, Spaniels, Retrievers, and Dalmatians being more highly represented.

DESCRIPTION

Once the blood vessel has been ruptured, this process can happen very quickly. The swelling may complete itself within minutes to a few hours. Once the swelling has become visible, your pet will be experiencing a fair amount of pain. They become visibly uncomfortable, perhaps shaking their head and whimpering from the pain. When you touch the swollen part of the ear, it may feel like a water balloon.

Ear hematomas are usually fairly easy to recognize, due to the swollen and perhaps misshapen appearance of the ear flap. You will most likely also notice your dog shaking its head, scratching at the ear, or holding the head down to one side. Ear hematomas are one of the more common ear problems seen by veterinarians.

CAUSES

OK, what could be some of the reasons for these blood vessels on the ear flap to become damaged and rupture? The actual, underlying cause of ear hematomas is not well-defined at this time. However, there are various factors which definitely do contribute to the disease process leading to this accumulation of blood in the ear flap.

The most common contributing factor appears to be some type of chronic ear infection. This would include infections involving parasites (ear mites), bacteria, and yeasts. The nature of a chronic ear infection is that there is a lot of inflammation in the ear canal as a result of the infection, plus all the buildup of wax, debris, and dead skin cells. Dogs and cats with this type of irritation in their ear canals only know of a couple of things to do-- violently shake their ears and scratch at their ears as if there is no tomorrow. The shaking and scratching produce the forces necessary to rupture some blood vessels in the ear flap and bingo, you have a hematoma!

The second leading cause of ear hematomas is trauma to the ear flap. This can happen as a result of fighting or running through heavy brush, such as a hunting dog might be doing. Either of these activities can produce the same kind of damage as would shaking and scratching their ears.

Less likely causes, but ones that still need to be considered, would be serious skin allergies, allergic reactions, foreign bodies in the external ear canal, auto-immune disorders, and possibly genetic defects involving the ear structure.

TREATMENT

There are several different treatment options for ear hematomas. The treatment will depend to a large extent on how quickly the hematoma is identified and treated. Other considerations would be the size of the swelling and the personal preferences of the veterinarian doing the treatment. As stated before, these are commonly seen by veterinarians and your veterinarian will have a certain comfort level for what has worked in the past.

For hematomas that are not especially large and are treated soon after discovery, there is a school of thought for a conservative approach. This involves draining the fluid using a syringe and needle, then injecting a cortisone-type product into the vacated space. Of course, consideration must still be given to any underlying infection or other problem in the ear canal. If the anti-inflammatory properties of the cortisone don’t lead to healing, then surgery would be necessary to allow for better drainage of the blood.

If surgery is necessary, an incision is made in the skin on the underside of the ear flap, the bloody fluid is drained, any clotted blood is removed, and compression-type sutures are placed in the ear flap in order to stop further buildup of blood under the skin. Sometimes, compression bandages are applied after the drainage and sometimes not, again depending on your veterinarian’s comfort level with the results. As before, simultaneous treatment of any underlying infections in the ear canal is a necessity. Even so, this is still not a rapid resolution to the problem. The drainage has to keep ahead of any more buildup of blood and the skin incision has to heal without any infection getting started.

Some pet owners, when confronted with one of these ear hematomas, will inquire about the feasibility of just “doing nothing” about it. On the one extreme, the hematoma will continue to enlarge until it simply ruptures through the skin, drains, and then becomes badly infected. More likely, if left alone, an ear hematoma will usually resolve itself. The fluid will eventually be reabsorbed back into the body and the ear flap will again be flat. The problem with this option is that a lot of scarring is associated with this reabsorption process, blood clots form, and the ear flap will become thickened and crinkly. This scarring leads to the “cauliflower” ear appearance that is not very cosmetically appealing. The most common reason for using this approach is when the dog or cat is an anesthetic risk and the concern of cosmetic appeal becomes secondary.

PREVENTION

Prevention primarily consists of preventing any trauma to your pet’s ear flaps. Prompt treatment of all ear infections is the best way to eliminate the head shaking and ear scratching. If allergies are suspected, your pet needs proper diagnosis and treatment for those allergies.

NON-MEDICAL CONCERNS

As a continuation of last week's column about " Having Trouble Affording Veterinary Care," here is the rest of the article from The Humane Society of the United States:

Given the current state of the economy, many pet caregivers are in need of basic necessities such as pet food. If you find yourself in this position, be sure to contact your local humane societies as some organizations have started their own pet food bank program. In addition, you can visit petsofhomeless.com/members.htm to view a state-by-state listing of food banks that are offering pet food for the pets of the homeless and disadvantaged.

The following is a list of organizations that provide financial assistance to pet owners in need. Please keep in mind that each organization is independent and has their own set of rules and guidelines. Therefore you will have to investigate each one separately to determine if you qualify for assistance:



Please remember that, depending on the severity of your pet's illness or injury, you might still lose your pet even after great expense. Discuss the prognosis and treatment options thoroughly with your veterinarian, including whether surgery or treatment would just cause your animal discomfort without preserving a life of good quality. Also remember that a little preventive care can go a long way. Having your pet spayed or neutered, keeping her shots up to date, and keeping your pet safely confined can prevent serious and costly health problems. If you have trouble affording the cost to spay or neuter your pet, contact your local animal shelter. They might operate a clinic or know of a local clinic that offers subsidized services. Unfortunately, due to our limited resources as a nonprofit animal protection organization, The HSUS does not provide direct financial assistance to pet owners for veterinary or other expenses. If you know of any veterinary assistance programs or services that we have not included here, please let us know by calling 202-452-1100.

SpecificBreed Assistance Programs


The American Veterinary Medical Association also has offered a guide for different types of financial assistance in these circumstances:

Some pet owners are seeking temporary assistance to keep their companions through the economic downturn, and veterinary practices can refer them to a patchwork of programs that help with big veterinary bills or routine animal care. The recession has increased demand and diminished resources for these programs, some of which operate through veterinary associations and colleges, but the programs still offer potential relief for pet owners who have lost a job or a home. For the rest of the guide, go to:http://www.avma.org/onlnews/javma/oct09/091001a.asp

PRODUCT OF THE WEEK

OK, this product needs a video to help you understand what is being accomplished. It is called "The Paw Plunger" and it is being marketed for just this reason: "No matter what the season, filthy paws can be a hassle for every pet owner, whether we're dealing with mud, snow, grass, or whatever your furry friend can muster up in the great outdoors (and with dogs, the possibilities are endless)." Go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/24/paw-plunger-the-car-wash-for-your-pets-feet/ and click on the Promo for the video.

GENERAL INTEREST

1) Helpful Buckeye knows that many of you groom your own pets, with some of you having better results than others. Well, you will enjoy hearing some top professional groomers as they share some of their horror stories of grooming gone "bad": http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/17/top-groomers-share-their-horror-stories-and-

2) As a follow-up to their poll for a favorite cartoon canine, the AKC is now offering this poll question: "Who is your favorite dog from TV?" Go to: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/21/poll-who-is-your-favorite-dog-from-tv/ and cast your vote.

3) Here's a question with a bunch of answers: Which are the smartest dog breeds? The AKC has sponsored a dog training guru to answer this question. Read his list of the Top 10 Smartest Dog Breeds at: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/21/the-smartest-dog-breeds/ and see if you agree on any of them.

4) Each year about this time, we seem to get a new candidate for the "Ugliest Dog of the Year" award. Now, it's Rascal and you guessed it right! He is at least part Chinese Crested: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/24/rascal-the-ugliest-dog/

5) A recent study of pet shelters and rescue groups suggests that black dogs and cats are being adopted in far fewer numbers than are pets of other colors. Some of the reasons for this are interesting: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/23/black-cats-and-dogs-tend-to-be-least-adopted

6) A woman in Pennsylvania recently found a stray or abandoned cat that had been almost entirely wrapped in duct tape. Yes, you read that correctly! Read the rest of the story and decide for yourself what punishment you would suggest for the perpetrator: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/25/cat-found-wrapped-in-duct-tape/

7) Not to be outdone for cruelty, 2 people in New York dragged a Cocker Spaniel for a mile behind their car before letting it go. Several good samaritans looked after the dog and the rest of the story is worth reading: http://www.pawnation.com/2009/09/24/puppy-dragged-for-a-mile-by-car-to-be-adopte

PERSONAL STUFF

Helpful Buckeye saw the first 3 tarantulas of the Fall this week while bike riding. This is the season when the males are actively looking for females.

The first flock of Canada geese were spied this week as well, as they made their Fall return to our 7000 ft. elevation.

This quote from Galileo, Italian astronomer, reflects the omnipotence of the sun as we move from Summer into Fall: "The sun, with all those planets revolving around it and dependent on it, can still ripen a bunch of grapes as if it had nothing else in the universe to do."

~~The goal of this blog is to provide general information and advice to help you be a better pet owner and to have a more rewarding relationship with your pet. This blog does not intend to replace the professional one-on-one care your pet receives from a practicing veterinarian. When in doubt about your pet's health, always visit a veterinarian.~~


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