Sheep Doctorin’: Lamb Aural Hematoma

Aural Hematoma in Newborn Lamb

When we finally had a set a twins thrive and stay alive this spring we were thrilled.  We checked them over for all the basic problems: no umbilical hernia, no cleft palates, no parrot mouth, no inverted eyelashes.  I thought we were good to go.  After a day or two I noticed a problem with one ear on the lighter colored twin.  The lambs’ ears are naturally droopy when they’re born.  Within a few days they begin to straighten up and move about like the adults’ ears.  On this particular lamb one ear remained droopy while the other stood up as expected.

The affected ear felt thickened and warm to the touch.  The lamb’s rectal temperature was normal.  She was nursing and acting normal otherwise.  A talk with our vet confirmed what I suspected: an aural hematoma.  It is a condition wherein blood fills the space between the two sides of the ear flap.  Usually, it occurs when the animal’s ears are irritated and they are shaking their head a lot.  The shaking causes small blood vessels to rupture.  In the lamb’s case I suspect the ear was traumatized during delivery.  The hematoma was probably present at or soon after delivery but I didn’t notice it until the other ear stood up.

After consulting with our vet I went ahead and treated the lamb.  I inserted a new 20 gauge needle in to the ear and applied some suction.  I did not get any fluid back.  Then I removed the needle from the syringe and used the needle to pierce a couple more holes in the ear.  You don’t want to go straight through the ear like when we have ours’ pierced.  Instead, go in with the needle almost parallel to the ear and only pierce through the skin on one side.  Going into the skin on the underside of the ear allows you to see the large blood vessels and avoid them.

In this case, a few drops of blood dripped from the holes.  I never saw a lot of drainage but I suspect it continued to seep out.  I did go ahead and give an injection of penicillin intramuscularly to this lamb as an extra precaution.  We don’t routinely use antibiotics but don’t hesitate to grab them when an animal is sick and needs treatment.  If you’re uncomfortable with the dosing or the injecting of medications you will need to consult your veterinarian.

I had planned to repeat the antibiotic injection for 2-3 days, on our vet’s recommendation.  I ended up not doing that.  The ear was significantly less swollen the next day and recovered completely within a week.  What a relief!

These posts are in no way meant to substitute the care of a professional veterinarian.  I only share my experiences with the hope of helping you become a better shephard.  If at any time you think you might be doing more harm than good STOP and call your vet instead.

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