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What are Ear Tumors?

Felines can be affected by basal cell tumors, papilloma and inflammatory polyps, but ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma are the most common form of feline ear tumor. Appearing as black or purple masses, ceruminous gland adenocarcinoma tumors commonly affected felines between the ages of three months to five years of age. Feline affected by ear tumors have display clinical signs of itchiness, foul odor, pain and discharge from the ears, which mimics the symptoms of other common feline ear conditions.

Ear tumors in cats are defined as abnormal cell growths within the structures lining or supporting the ear. An ear tumor could emerge from the outer layer of skin, the oil or earwax glands, bones, connective tissues, muscles or middle layers of the skin within a cat’s ear. 

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Ear Tumors Average Cost

From 490 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Symptoms of Ear Tumors in Cats

The most obvious symptoms of ear tumors in cats is itching and pain of the ears. Polyps or lumps may be visible to the naked eye inside the ear canal, but can vary depending on location. These polyps may lacerate, leading to ear discharge or inner ear bleeding. Clinical signs of ear tumors in cats pet owners may note at home include the following: 

  • Deafness
  • Ear draining from an internal abscess
  • Swelling 
  • Ear scratching 
  • Head shaking 
  • Foul odor coming from the ear 
  • Ear discharge 
  • Bloody ears
  • Pus-filled ears 
  • Waxy buildup inside the ears

If the inner or middle ear is affected by an ear tumor, the feline may display neurological signs such as a head tilt and lose her coordination, or sense of balance. 

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Causes of Ear Tumors in Cats

The exact cause of ear tumors in cats is unknown, however, these tumors are believed to be the result of long-term ear canal inflammation caused by chronic infection. It is thought that this chronic inflammation may lead to abnormal development and growth of the ear tissues, causing a tumor to form. This theory comes from the fact that episodes of inflammation cause the earwax gland to promote thick secretions in the external ear canal, which may stimulate cancerous cell production. 

Felines that have a history of chronic ear infections of yeast, bacteria or mites are at higher risk for developing an ear tumor. These infections lead to increased inflammation, causing an overgrowth of tissues and possible formation of cancerous growths.

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Diagnosis of Ear Tumors in Cats

Your veterinarian will likely rely his/her definitive diagnosis upon microscopic tissue examination. Termed histopathology, a microscopic examination of the tissues will provide an accurate diagnosis to the nature of the feline ear tumor. The veterinarian or specialist will need to take a small sample of tissues from the tumor and send the specimens to a specialized diagnostic laboratory. Once at the lab, a veterinary pathologist will determine the nature of the cells, which will indicate whether or not the mass can be fully removed. 

Once the laboratory results are received, the veterinarian will want to perform a urinalysis and blood work to obtain an idea of the feline’s overall health status. Radiographs are also likely completed to locate the spreading of ear tumor cells and aid the doctor in determining a treatment plan.

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Treatment of Ear Tumors in Cats

Your veterinarian will likely refer your feline to a board-certified surgical specialist. A veterinary surgeon is often recommended when handling feline ear tumors, canal tumors, and masses of the middle ear. The most common and effective way of treating ear tumors in cats is surgically removing the growth. However, in cases which the tumor has grown to surrounding tissues and the tumor alone cannot be removed without damaging the ear, extensive surgery is required to ablate the canal. Depending on your feline’s specific condition and the medical advancements available to you, laser surgery to remove the mass is also highly effective.

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Recovery of Ear Tumors in Cats

After surgery, you will be required to keep the surgical site clean and prevent your cat from interfering with healing time. Scratching or rubbing of the ears can cause the operation site to bleed or become infected, ulcerated, and inflamed, therefore, an Elizabethan collar will likely be sent home with you. Any manipulation of the site can remove sutures, which should be reported to your veterinarian immediately. Talk to your veterinarian if you have any questions about aftercare for your feline following surgery. 

In most ear tumor cases, surgical removal of the tumor results in complete cure. A histopathology of the mass will give your veterinarian an idea of how your cat’s growth will behave, but the veterinary pathologist will state a prognosis of recurrence. 

 

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Ear Tumors Average Cost

From 490 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

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Ear Tumors Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Josie

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Tiger

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6 Years

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Fair severity

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5 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Inflamed Inner Ear

My 7 year old cat smelled badly for months, and I finally realized it was coming from her ear. Vet took out lots of gunk from her ear. He gave a shot of antibiotics and had me give ear drops for 10 days. Today was a follow up appointment. The smell is 90% better. He took out a solid piece of gunk from the bottom of her ear (I guess due to the drops, it had loosened up). He sees what looks like some kind of growth (polyp??), but it's too far down to see. He said the ear is all red and inflamed deep down. The cat has had zero issues, she seems perfectly fine. He suggested coming back in 2 months again. Since he took out more gunk, could she possibly get better over time? Could that have been what caused the inflammation? I can't afford surgery, but I love my cat. Thank you.

Aug. 30, 2018

Josie's Owner

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Clementine

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Orange tabby

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16 Years

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Serious severity

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2 found helpful

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Ear Itching

Our 16-year-old cat, Clementine, was found to have a mass in her ear when we took her to the vet because she was scratching at her ear until it bled. The vet suggested removing the ear entirely, as the mass is already partially covering her ear canal and is not removable without damaging the ear. Her blood work is good, but given her age and her anxiety at the vet, we hesitate to do that. She's absolutely terrified of being at the vet's office - she growls, moans, and loses bowel control, even with doses of gabupentamin(sp?) the night before and two hours before her appointment. So, we've been giving her antibiotics daily for over a month now (drop form), but she still scratches at the ear until it bleeds and, when she does, it stinks like infection. We now have an Elizabethan collar on her to keep from scratching, but after a week of that, the smell isn't getting better. We're a little worried that she may have fluid that has drained from the mass down into her ear canal and it can't get out, because we can hear sloshing when she shakes her head. We've called our vet a few times, but her opinion is that the only thing we can do is what we are doing already, or do the surgery. She's miserable in the collar. It's impeding her ability to get entirely into the litter box, so she's urinating all around it and then can't clean her paws when she steps in it. Without the collar, she scratches until she bleeds, then sprays it all over the house, which makes us not only worried for her, but our other two cats and our 5-year-old daughter. We're even more worried that she could suffer a major infection if we can't get the fluid out of her ear. Do you have any suggestions for other things we can do to get her symptoms under control and give her a good life for the few years she likely has left? We're getting a little desperate.

Aug. 22, 2018

Clementine's Owner

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2 Recommendations

Sixteen is old for surgery, however if the blood work is good and your Veterinarian determined that she is a candidate for surgery, I would go with the surgery option; I understand your concerns, but there are no other choices apart from continuing with the ‘nursing care’, surgery or euthanasia. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 22, 2018

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Ear Tumors Average Cost

From 490 quotes ranging from $200 - $6,000

Average Cost

$4,000

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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