Q. My 11-year-old Golden Retriever has been shaking her head. I took a look and discovered that one ear flap is puffy and feels like it has fluid in it. What can this be?
A. Unfortunately, your Golden has an aural hematoma, which is bleeding the ear flap caused by a burst blood vessel. This usually starts with an ear infection, followed by head-shaking, and finally the ear flap filling with blood.
A surgical procedure is required to drain the ear of blood and suture both sides of the ear flap together so the space doesn’t t fill up again. In some cases, it’s possible to treat the hematoma with a drainage procedure with a syringe, and inject medication. This works in close to 50 percent of the cases.
The important first steps are to diagnose and treat the underlying ear problem so your dog stops shaking her head, which could cause a recurrence. Your veterinarian will probably treat the aural hematoma and the ear infection at the same time. Follow-up care will include a head bandage and medications that are administered in the ear canal.
The fluid swelling will not improve without treatment, so make an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Be sure to ask about the possibility of a medical treatment using a syringe and injectable steroids as a first step before going the surgical route. Keep in mind that if the swelling comes back after the procedure, you will have to take your dog back to your vet for surgery, and the total cost of treatment will be more than if you just did the surgical treatment right from the start.