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What is Complete Pinnectomy?

The pinna are the triangular shaped, visible ear flaps of your cat. They are made of cartilage and thin skin and covered by fur. They can move to help capture sound waves, express emotion, such as when an angry cat flattens their ears, and provide protection for the ear canal from external substances such as water and debris. Because of the thin skin on your cat’s ears and a finer hair coat in this region your cat’s pinna are especially susceptible to skin cancers (squamous cell carcinoma). If this occurs or if other disease or damage that cannot be treated with medications occurs, the pinna of one or more of your cat's ears may need to be surgically removed in a veterinary procedure known as a pinnectomy. This procedure is relatively straightforward in cats and will be performed by a veterinarian under general anesthetic. Your cat can hear without their ear pinna although minimal hearing impairment may occur. There will be a change in the cosmetic appearance of your cat. Most cats adjust well to the removal of ear pinna and the relief it provides them from uncomfortable ear disease.

Complete Pinnectomy Procedure in Cats

Your cat will be required to fast prior to surgery as general anesthetic is administered. After being put under anesthetic, the area around the ear pinna will be shaved and cleaned antiseptically. In cats the procedure is relatively straight forward and can be performed by incising the ear pinna with a scalpel or surgical scissors. Veins and arteries that were supplying the pinna with blood are then cauterized to stop bleeding. The skin from the dorsal side of the incision is then brought forward over the cartilage and sutured in place to the medial skin of the incision on your cat's head. Absorbable sutures are usually used. Your cat may be hospitalized post-surgery for observation but cats are often released the same day to their owners.

Efficacy of Complete Pinnectomy in Cats

A pinnectomy is effective at removing cancerous or diseased tissue and the situation is usually resolved in this way. An alternative procedure, cryosurgery, is less invasive but is less effective at preventing recurrence of cancerous cells.

Complete Pinnectomy Recovery in Cats

Your cat will need to be prevented from interfering with the surgical site, and an E collar will be used along with careful supervision from the pet owner to prevent this. Your cat should rest post-surgery to recover from the anesthetic and be administered painkillers and antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian. Because the outer ear pinna was used to protect the ear canal from debris you will need to ensure that the ear is cleaned regularly with products recommended by your veterinarian and monitor for signs of infection. White cats are particularly susceptible to skin cancer and further exposure to direct sunlight should be avoided to prevent further skin cancer cells from developing in the area.

Cost of Complete Pinnectomy in Cats

This procedure requires administration of anesthesia and medications to aid in recovery. The cost of the procedure and associated treatment ranges from $300 to $1,000 depending on the cost of living in your area.

Cat Complete Pinnectomy Considerations

There are risks associated with anesthetic administration. Specific to pinnectomy, risks are minimal. There is a change in your cat's cosmetic appearance and some hearing impairment may occur, but this is usually not a concern for your cat. Cats undergoing pinnectomy are provided relief from uncomfortable conditions they are experiencing and adjust quite well to removal of the ear pinna.

Complete Pinnectomy Prevention in Cats

Pinnectomy is most often performed to address skin cancer on the ear pinna. White animals especially are susceptible to this condition. You should avoid letting your cat be exposed to direct sunlight and sunscreens for cats are available. Consult your veterinarian, as applying sunscreen to the ears of your cat, if they are going to be in direct sunlight, may be appropriate. Because white or light skinned cats are particularly susceptible to carcinoma, some pet owners tattoo unpigmented areas to prevent damage from UV rays. Talk to your veterinarian for advice if your are considering this. 

Monitoring your cat for signs of cancer, bacterial infection or parasitic infections and acquiring treatment before pinna damage occurs may allow treatment with medications or less invasive surgeries that would prevent complete pinnectomy in your cat. Regular veterinary care is important for maintaining the health of your cat and early diagnosis and treatment of disease in the ear region.