What is Ear Hematoma?
The visible outer area of the ear that is affected by a hematoma plays an important role in hearing function. It collects sound waves, concentrates them, and funnels into the middle and inner ear. While it is possible that an ear hematoma can resolve on its own, the condition causes significant discomfort and takes a minimum of several weeks to heal. If you notice that your cat is displaying possible symptoms, a prompt visit to the vet is warranted.
Ear hematoma, also called aural hematoma or auricular hematoma, is a common ear problem in cats. It is a painful condition that results when a blood vessel ruptures and blood and fluid fill the area between the skin and cartilage in the ear. A moderate to severe swelling of the ear can occur within minutes of rupture. If not treated promptly, the condition can result in permanent deformity.
Symptoms of Ear Hematoma in Cats
The primary symptom of ear hematoma is a swelling of the outer area of the ear. This can range from a slight bulge to an extreme swelling that resembles a balloon. The condition typically occurs on only one ear. The cat will likely display signs of pain, exhibit scratching and head shaking, and may tilt the head to one side.
Causes of Ear Hematoma in Cats
Ear hematomas are almost always preceded by another medical condition. The most common causes are:
- Chronic ear infections
- Ear mites
- Chronic allergies
- Immune disorder
- Blood clotting disorders
- Blunt trauma to skull
- Deep wounds (most often resulting from fights with other cats)
Diagnosis of Ear Hematoma in Cats
Ear hematoma in cats is easy to diagnose with a physical examination. Discovering and properly treating the underlying cause is necessary to avoid recurrence.
Treatment of Ear Hematoma in Cats
It is recommended that you seek veterinary attention for ear hematomas as soon as possible. Small hematomas often grow in size, and the larger the hematoma, the longer it will take to heal. Treating the condition quickly will result in a better chance for full recovery.
The pain caused by an ear hematoma will likely subside in a few days. If left untreated the ear will eventually reabsorb the fluid, and the condition will resolve itself. However, this is not recommended. The affected area will continue to be swollen and scar tissue will develop, leaving behind an unsightly condition that is referred to as “cauliflower ear.”
There are several treatment options available. Your veterinarian will decide which is right depending on the size of the hematoma, the length of time the ear has been affected, and his or her personal preference.
Surgery with Sutures
Surgery with sutures is the most common treatment for ear hematoma in cats. The cat is placed under anesthesia and a small cut is made to the underside of the ear. The fluid is allowed to drain out and multiple sutures are placed in the affected area. This not only treats the hematoma but also helps to prevent reoccurrence. The ear may or may not be bandaged after surgery. Stitches are removed in 2-3 weeks and as long as the underlying condition has been properly treated the animal has a good chance at full recovery.
Surgery Without Sutures
This method is very similar to the one above, with the exception of the use of sutures. After the ear has drained it is taped over a rolled bandage and left to heal. Owners will be required to be more vigilant with aftercare due to the fact that the wound has not been closed. This option is commonly used on show cats as there is less of a chance of ear deformity following treatment.
Your veterinarian may choose this option if the hematoma is very small. A needle is inserted into the affected area to remove the fluid and a drainage tube may be inserted. This method is less effective and leaves a greater chance that the hematoma will reoccur. It is usually only recommended for animals that can’t tolerate general anesthesia.
Recovery of Ear Hematoma in Cats
Following surgery, cats will likely be provided with pain control medications. Tranquilizers may also be used to keep the animal calm. A cone-shaped Elizabethan collar, or “e-collar”, may be placed over the head to avoid scratching or irritating the surgical site. This should be kept on until the wound is completely healed. Bandages must be kept clean and dry, and a trip to the vet may be necessary if the bandage gets wet or is otherwise damaged. Follow-up visits are needed to ensure that the condition is healing properly and that the underlying cause has been eliminated. Full recovery typically occurs in two to three weeks. If ear scratching or head shaking reoccurs, a return visit to the veterinarian will be necessary to address the underlying cause.
Ear Hematoma Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
I car for a feral cat who had an aural hematoma. He is 5 years old, friendly to a point, neutered. He has had many ticks in the Fall & often will be attacked by a local stray (unneutered). I want to get him to a vet but I have seen online that it is very expensive to treat. I don't have the money for a feral, although he is very dear to me! (I also have two house cats & several other ferals to care for.)
I understand the costs of treating an ear haematoma may be expensive, especially for a feral cat; but unfortunately there isn’t an at home treatment that can be performed as the swollen ear flap requires opening up, haematoma removed, any bleeding vessels cauterised and buttons or a splint sutured in place to prevent further swelling, afterwards everything needs to be removed at another date. This can be difficult to control in a feral cat as they may pull out, scratch or shake their head causing further problems. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Mickey's experience
Was this experience helpful?
Hi, I have an older female cat. I noticed my cats ear starting to look funny, looked into it and there was a lot of brown
Searched ear mites and treated her for them. She didn't seem to get better, if anything it got worse.
There's blood now and a really foul smell.
I don't have a lot of money so I can't really afford a visit to the vet.
Ear mites usually smell like coffee grounds which is a diagnostic indicator. It is possible that the cause isn’t ear mites, other causes may be due to bacterial or fungal infection, wax accumulation due to irritation. Since there is the presence of blood with a foul smell, I recommend visiting your Veterinarian regardless of cost. It sounds like an infection, treatment with an ear cleaner and an antifungal antibiotic medication prescribed by your Veterinarian, possibly with a test to determine the type of bacteria or fungus present to best direct treatment. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
Add a comment to Pumba's experience
Was this experience helpful?