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Cauliflower is a name for the yummy, nutritious vegetable in the same botanical family as cabbage. The term also denotes an acquired ear deformity in humans and dogs.
In this article, we dive deep into cauliflower ear in dogs by exploring the causes, symptoms, and possible treatments for the deformity.
What Is Cauliflower Ear?
Cauliflower ear in dogs refers to a deformity of the ear that typically results from untreated aural hematoma.
Without treatment, the fluid-filled inflammation of the hematoma hardens and thickens over time, causing cauliflower ear.
What Is Aural Hematoma?
An aural hematoma, or hematoma of the ear, is a medical condition that results from the accumulation of blood or serum within the ear tissues.
The condition can affect one or both ears, depending on its underlying cause.
What Part Of The Ear Does Aural Hematoma Affect?
Aural hematoma mostly occurs in the pinna or earflap. The inflammation may affect a section of the pinna or the whole of it.
Now, the pinna comprises two skin layers surrounding a layer of cartilage. It’s the cartilage that gives the earflap its distinct shape.
The cartilage also contains an extensive network of blood vessels. However, these blood vessels are relatively fragile and can easily break upon shaking.
When ruptured, the blood vessels in the ear cartilage can cause fluid build-up in the adjacent tissues. The fluid can be drained to help the cartilage heal. Otherwise, it will harden into cauliflower ear over time.
Which Dogs Are Most Susceptible To Aural Hematoma?
Aural hematoma can affect any dog. However, breeds with long, floppy ears are major risk factors. These include setters, hounds, and spaniels.
The logic is that dogs with long, floppy ears are highly prone to ear infections and parasites. Besides, foreign bodies lodged in floppy ears can easily go unnoticed. And as you’re about to find out, all these factors might lead to aural hematoma and cauliflower ear in dogs.
An aural hematoma is also common in canines with chronic ear problems. Besides, the condition may be due to certain underlying diseases, particularly blood clotting disorders.
What Causes Cauliflower Ear in Dogs?
As already mentioned, cauliflower ear in dogs is a result of untreated aural hematoma. Perhaps the more pertinent question should be – what causes aural hematoma in dogs?
Numerous factors can cause a dog’s cartilage tissues to break. Common ones include excessive head shaking and scratching.
Aural hematoma in dogs may also be due to ear infections or blood clotting disorders. Examples of these diseases include otitis externa, otitis media, and otitis interna.
Other common causes of aural hematoma in dogs include;
• Ear mites, which cause intense itchiness that might consequently result in vigorous head shaking
• Bite wounds, such as those sustained while playing or fighting
• Tick bites, which may also cause itching and violent head shaking
• Bites from other insects like mosquitoes and tsetse flies
• Allergies, including food and seasonal allergies that produce ear inflammation
• Foreign bodies in the ears, such as splinters
• Autoimmune conditions
Signs and Symptoms of Cauliflower Ear in Dogs
Ear inflammation is the most visible symptom of cauliflower ear in dogs. The swelling will feel softer during the initial stages before eventually drying into a thick mass.
As with most inflammations, the swelling resulting from aural hematoma may feel itchy. So, your dog might try to scratch the swollen ear using his paws. He may also attempt to rub it against the ground or outdoor posts.
Pain is another tell-tale sign of cauliflower ear in dogs. The soreness will generally be more severe before the hematoma dries out.
Certain behaviors might indicate that your pooch is grappling with painful ears. For instance, the dog may try to shake his head in an attempt to relieve the pain. Shaking comes in handy since dogs cannot lick their own ears. However, remember that head shaking is also one of the ways dogs get aural hematoma. So, trying to alleviate the pain by shaking the head might prove more hurtful than helpful.
For dogs with lighter skin complexion and shorter hair, you may also notice a pink or bright-red color in and around the ears.
Other symptoms of cauliflower ear in dogs include;
• Aggression, especially when you move your hands closer to the dog’s head
• Escapist behavior, especially if there’s more than one dog in the house
• Constantly tilting the head to one side
• Bleeding or discharge from the ears
How Is Cauliflower Ear In Dogs Diagnosed?
A physical inspection of the ear is the most effective way of diagnosing cauliflower ear in dogs.
Your vet will immediately tell that you’re dealing with cauliflower ear if the fluid has already dried up. But if the hematoma is still in its earlier stages, a raft of examinations may help rule out other conditions.
What Are The Treatment Options For Aural Hematoma?
An aural hematoma is treated using two major approaches – the medical approach and the surgical approach.
The medical approach involves using a syringe and needle to aspirate the blood from the diseased ear. Thereafter, certain medications are administered to help the wound heal. Your dog should recover in about a week or two.
The surgical approach entails making an incision along the length of the hematoma to extract blood from the damaged tissues. Then, sutures are placed via both sides of the affected ear to alleviate the inflammation. The now-delicate ear is laid on top of the dog’s head and bandaged in place to prevent further damage. The bandages will need to be removed about 3 – 5 days while sutures are generally removed 10 – 14 days.
Medical treatment of aural hematoma is easier and less invasive. However, this approach tends to be only 50% successful most of the time. Surgical treatment is more effective because it normally involves treating underlying conditions in addition to removing the blood. This prevents another hematoma from occurring.
Certain home remedies may also help in treating cauliflower ear. Examples include calendula tinctures, garlic water, apple cider vinegar solution, and warm compresses. However, you’ll need to ensure these topical products do not get to your dog’s eyes, nose, and mouth. Also, apply them directly to the hematoma and not inside the dog’s ear canal.
In addition to the above treatment options, you may also consider preventive measures. These mainly entail regular cleaning of your dog’s ears.
An aural hematoma is a serious medical condition that can cause discomfort and secondary infections in dogs. Even if the hematoma dries on its own, it may wind up in unsightly cauliflower ears. Therefore, prompt treatment is paramount.