Shaving down a severely matted dog can be shocking. A dog that came in with a full, thick coat is sent home looking naked and significantly smaller. Almost as visually shocking, but doubly as upsetting are the occasional hematomas.
What is a hematoma?
A hematoma is- to oversimplify- a severe bruise. They are caused by blood vessels bursting beneath the skin, causing a pocket of blood within the tissue, much like a blood blister.
What causes a hematoma?
Due to a number of factors the most common location on the body for a hematoma to appear after grooming is the ear. Matts tend to form very tightly around the tip of the ear, which causes the skin to be pulled away from the internal cartilage in multiple directions. This tension alone is enough to break those internal blood vessels. A severely matted ear is also uncomfortable for a dog. This discomfort will often cause a dog to shake its head, which can cause impact of the ear flap against the skull. This frequent impact could be enough to break blood vessels, and will only help to speed up any breakage caused by the initial matting. An uncomfortable dog is more likely to scratch as well, which could lead to broken blood vessels and self inflicted cuts or scratches.
Other areas of the body prone to hematomas are those with thin, highly vascular skin, such as the scrotal area, though these are much less common.
How can I prevent a hematoma?
The best way to avoid a hematoma is through regular grooming. A regularly brushed dog is not likely to develop matting which will tear at the skin. Keeping a dog’s ears cleaned will prevent infections, which are another cause of dogs shaking and scratching at their ears.
My dog has a hematoma, what can I do?
Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the pet owner and groomer, a dog will end up with a hematoma that needs to be addressed. As groomers, when we find a hematoma developing, our first course of action will be to immobilize the ear and apply pressure to it in hopes that we can slow the flow of blood and allow the body’s natural coagulation process to stop the bleeding before it becomes too full. Oftentimes this will be enough to stop a hematoma in its tracks, if not, we recommend the dog’s owner keep the ear immobilized (we will do our best to send the pet home with it’s ear already wrapped) and follow up with cold compress at home.
Occasionally this combination will not be sufficient in reversing the hematoma and the dog may need to visit their veterinarian and have the blister drained. This is a medical procedure which must be completed by a veterinarian and will never be attempted by a member of the Bark Ave staff. Unfortunately sometimes the hematoma will begin to drain on its own, causing a visually troubling, though non-life threatening bleeding from the affected area. We recommend in this event to keep the ear wrapped tightly to the head to avoid an additional mess caused by shaking of the head.
A hematoma may be a shocking sight, but it is not likely to be detrimental to a dog’s health. In extreme cases the dog may be left with scarring in the affected area, but in most scenarios the dog will recover with no lasting effects.