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Pitbull has an ear hematoma?

Q: Our pitbull Kylie suddenly developed a mass that made her ear flap swell like a balloon. It’s soft and warm, and it grew from nothing to huge while we were at work today. Is this mass cancerous?

A: Probably not. It’s most likely an ear hematoma.

Many medical terms are derived from Greek or Latin, and “hematoma” is no exception. In Greek, “hema-“ refers to blood, and “-oma” means mass.

So Kylie probably has a mass-like structure engorged with blood, essentially a big blood blister.

An ear hematoma, also called an aural hematoma (“aural” is Latin for ear), forms when a small blood vessel inside the ear flap breaks. This can occur when a dog shakes her head, particularly if her ear flap hits a hard object.

You should make an appointment with Kylie’s veterinarian, who can treat the hematoma and any ear infection, if that’s what caused her head shaking.

Treatment of an ear hematoma involves removing the blood and encouraging the outer and inner surfaces of the ear to stick together again. Some veterinarians drain the blood and inject an anti-inflammatory. Others place a drain in the hematoma for a few weeks so the ear flap doesn’t refill with blood. Still others suture the outer and inner surfaces of the ear together.

Whatever treatment your veterinarian chooses, Kylie should be fine.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine in Pennsylvania. Contact her at

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