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What is Partial Pinnectomy?

The external ear flaps of your cat are referred to as pinna. They are the visible fur covered triangles that protect your cat’s ear canal from debris, and which your cat can move to aid in hearing and expressing emotion. Ear pinna can experience chronic disease and become damaged due to unresolved bacterial or fungal infections, or parasitic infections such as ear mites. Cat’s ear pinna also experience damage from squamous cell carcinoma, or skin cancer. Your cat's ears are particularly susceptible to skin cancer because the skin on the ear pinna is very thin with little hair coat, and if your cat is light skinned and has very little pigment on their pinna, there is an increased danger of developing skin cancer. Damage from the sun is common on ear pinna and so is damage from cold. In cold regions, frostbite can occur on your cat's ears due to decreased circulation to these extremities and the delicacy of the pinna tissues. If permanent damage occurs on your cat's ears they may need to have the damaged or affected tissue excised in a partial pinnectomy. This procedure is performed under general anaesthetic by your veterinarian and although it will alter your cat’s appearance somewhat, it will not have a large impact on their hearing ability.

Partial Pinnectomy Procedure in Cats

Your cat will be required to fast prior to surgery, as general anesthetic is administered for this procedure. Before surgery your cat will be examine to ensure it is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia and no active infection is present. Your cat will be sedated, administered intravenous IV, and intubated with a breathing tube for anesthetic to be maintained throughout the procedure. Fur from around the area of the pinna that needs to be excised will be removed and the area cleaned antiseptically. In cats, the procedure is relatively straightforward and can be performed by incising the damaged or cancerous area of the ear pinna with a scalpel or surgical scissors. Veins and arteries that were supplying the excised area with blood are then cauterized to stop bleeding. If necessary, sutures will be put in place to close the incision where the damaged pinna tissue was removed. Your cat may be hospitalized post surgery for observation, but cats are often released the same day to their owners.

Efficacy of Partial Pinnectomy in Cats

A partial pinnectomy is effective at removing diseased tissue and any condition present is usually resolved in this way. Partial pinnectomy as opposed to total pinnectomy for skin cancer carries a higher risk of recurrence of cancerous cells, however if caught at an early stage is usually an effective treatment. An alternative procedure, cryosurgery, is less invasive but is less effective at preventing recurrence of cancerous cells.

Partial Pinnectomy Recovery in Cats

After surgery you will need to prevent your cat from rubbing or scratching the ear that was operated on. You may need to put an e-collar on them, and will need to supervise your cat to ensure they do not circumvent this precaution as cats can be quite determined and adept at getting past precautions. 

Because general anesthetic was used, your cat should rest post surgery and be administered painkillers and antibiotics as directed by your veterinarian. If a large portion of your cat's pinna are removed, you may need to help them by cleaning inside their ear regularly, as some of their ear’s natural protection against dirt and debris in the ear canal is gone. If your cat experienced skin cancer, ensure that they are kept out of direct sunlight as much as possible and use veterinary-recommended sunscreen.

Cost of Partial Pinnectomy in Cats

This procedure requires administration of anesthesia and may require medications post-surgery. The cost of the procedure and associated treatment ranges from $200 to $500 depending on the amount of tissue that needs to be excised and the cost of living in your area.

Cat Partial Pinnectomy Considerations

Risks associated with anesthetic administration apply in the case of partial pinnectomy. Specific to partial pinnectomy, risks are minimal. There is a change in your cat's cosmetic appearance, and some very minimal hearing impairment may occur but this is usually not a concern for your cat. Cats undergoing partial pinnectomy are provided relief from uncomfortable conditions that often cause the cat to scratch their ears and adjust quite well to removal of a portion of their pinna and relief from the condition present.

Partial Pinnectomy Prevention in Cats

Pinnectomy is often performed to address skin cancer on the ear pinna. You should avoid letting your cat be exposed to direct sunlight and sunscreens for cats are available from your veterinarian. Do not use sunscreen designed for humans as it can contain ingredients that are toxic to your cat. Because white or light-skinned cats are particularly susceptible to carcinoma, some pet owners tattoo unpigmented areas to prevent damage from UV rays. 

If you live in a cold area where sub-zero temperatures can result in frostbite, ensure that your cat is not exposed to frigid temperatures for any length of time that can cause frostbite on their ears. 

Monitoring your cat for signs of bacterial infection or parasitic infections and acquiring treatment before pinna damage occurs may allow treatment with medications to be effective and would prevent partial 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.