Auricular Hematoma


A blood/fluid filled swelling in the ear.

Clinical Signs

May observe the following:

  • A visible fluid filled swelling in the ear.
  • Scratching or digging in the ear.
  • Head shaking (not always present).

*Note: for additional information on recognizing various signs of pain or discomfort refer to: Signs of Pain In Rats.


A hematoma of the ear can develop when pruritic or inflammatory conditions like bacterial or fungal otitis externa, ear mites, atopy, or an autoimmune disorder causes the rat to scratch or dig at the ear. The persistent scratching ruptures small blood vessels in the ear which leads to the fluid-filled swelling.

Auricular hematomas tend to develop quickly and the pressure from the swelling can often cause discomfort.

Although the condition is rare in rats and not necessarily life threatening, recurrent hematomas or those left untreated can lead to tissue fibrosis and deformity of the ear.

Infections that are chronic or persistent pose a greater risk to the development of auricular hematomas. Attempts should be made to identify and treat any underlying conditions as they arise.


Case Histories of Auricular Hematoma

  • Fig. 1: Auricular hematoma in rat (Atlas)
  • Fig. 2: Auricular hematoma in a 2-year-old rat (Tom)


Obtain history to rule out abscess, pinnal edema, or tumor formation.

Visualization of hematoma.


Needle aspiration may be done in conservative therapy, or if hematoma is caught early in formation.

For persistent recurrence surgical incision and drainage, or evacuation of clot and repair of cavity, may be necessary.

In the event surgery is an option the following post-op analgesia may be given:

  • For severe pain or first 24 hours post-op: Buprenex (buprenorphine), or Torbugesic (butorphanol).

  • For mild to moderate pain: Banamine (flunixin meglumine), Metacam (meloxicam), or carprofen. Do not use if a corticosteroid has already been prescribed.

  • For mild pain or discomfort: may give Tylenol, if not contraindicated.

For information regarding medications refer to the Rat Medication Guide.

Nursing Care

  • Medicate for pain if necessary.
  • If hematoma ruptures use a wick fashioned out of gauze or clean towel to absorb bleeding and apply gentle pressure, and contact veterinarian.
  • In the event of surgical incision and drainage, or evacuation and repair: provide hospital cage during recovery, especially if there are concerns that their cage mates may groom wound site.
  • Provide clean bedding daily such as felt, soft t-shirt type material or ink-free paper towels. Avoid using material such as terry cloth type towels that can ravel. Also avoid litter-type bedding, post-op, until healed to prevent the chance of wound contamination or infection.
  • Provide additional warmth to maintain body temperature within normal limits. It is essential that the rat does not become overheated or dehydrated. The rat should also be able to move away from the heat source if it becomes uncomfortable. If the rat is unconscious or immobile extreme care must be taken to keep the heat low and stable.
    • You can use an isothermic product that is heated in the microwave such as SnuggleSafe┬«. Make sure to follow the product directions carefully and wrap in a towel before placing in the cage. SnuggleSafe┬« will provide heat for 12 hours before needing to be reheated. Other similar types of products may vary in re-heat time. Check directions for individual product.
    • If using a heating pad (good for long term use) use only the low heat setting, put a thick towel in between the pad and the cage bottom, and place beneath a corner of the cage.
    • If none of these options are available you can use a plastic bottle filled with hot water, and wrapped in a towel, in the corner of the cage.
  • Outcome

  • The hematoma resolved.
  • Deformity and fibrosis of ear tissue prevented.
  • Underlying conditions treated to prevent recurrence.


  • Treat underlying conditions as early as possible.


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