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Aural Hematomas in Cats: When is surgery needed?

Cats that develop ear hematomas will often scratch their ears or shake their heads as a result of swelling or irritation. Here, our Orange Park veterinary dermatologist discusses aural hematomas in cats, along with symptoms and treatment options.

A hematoma is a pocket of blood that can form within an organ or tissue. Sometimes referred to as blood blisters, these can vary in size and location. However, in some cases cats can develop ear hematomas, which appear between the skin and cartilage of your cat's ear flap. 

While aural hematomas don't occur often in cats, this makes it even more important to understand how to identify ear hematomas and what to do if your four-legged companion develops this ear condition. 

Causes of Aural Hematomas in Cats

Common causes of cat ear hematomas include injury and trauma. The small blood vessels in a cat's ear flap can become damaged, which causes them to break and leak internally. This can lead to swelling or a pocket becoming filled with blood. Specifically, your cat's ear hematoma may be caused by: 

Bites or Scratches 

If your cat spends time outside, they may end up with sharp thorns in their ear or get into fights with other cats. 

Head Shaking or Ear Scratching 

Has your cat been shaking its head or scratching its ears frequently? Ear mites or an ear infection may be to blame. Skin allergies or foreign objects caught in the ear may also be possibilities. 

Underlying Health Issues

While blood clotting deficits, immune disorders, or other conditions may be less common, these and other underlying health issues can cause ear hematomas in cats. 

Signs of Ear Hematomas in Cats

If your feline friend has an ear hematoma, you'll most likely see swelling or a new bump on the ear. If the hematoma is large enough, the ear flap itself will be swollen, potentially causing the ear flap to droop under its on weight. 

You may notice that the swelling feels tight or squishy, but be gentle - if the spot is tender, your cat will likely let you know. In addition to changes in the appearance of your cat's ears, your kitty's behavior is another clue that they may have an ear hematoma. If the ear is tender or irritated, your cat may groom that spot more than usual or shy away from the touch. 

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ear Hematomas in Cats 

Our veterinary dermatologist is experienced in caring for cats' ears and identifying any conditions that may be impacting your kitty's health.

They can thoroughly examine your cat's ears and diagnose what's causing any swelling, irritation, or changes in behavior. Injuries, infections, ear mites, and other causes of ear hematomas can be diagnosed and treated. 

Your vet may also use a needle to take a sample of the hematoma (also known as a biopsy) to confirm the nature of your cat's condition. 

Treatment: Aural Hematoma Surgery for Cats 

To treat aural hematomas in cats, vets will often recommend surgery. The veterinary dermatologist or veterinary surgeon will make a small surgical incision in the ear flap so the blood pocket can be drained. Tiny sutures will then be used to close the pocket and to stop blood or infection from building up again. 

To further ensure blood doesn't accumulate at the site, the vet will bandage the ear. 

If the hematoma on your kitty's ear is small or your cat cannot undergo anesthesia safely, your vet may choose to recommend draining the site with a needle. 

While this will be a treatment option for some hematomas, it isn't ideal and the issue is likely to recur. Aural hematomas in cats can usually be treated effectively with surgery - a permanent solution to the problem. Having hematomas surgically removed can also reduce scarring. 

Your veterinarian will also treat the underlying cause of the hematoma (e.g. allergy or infection). 

What happens if you leave a cat ear hematoma untreated?

While ear hematomas will drain, heal and scar on their own this is not recommended. If left untreated, the following may occur:

  • The ear hematoma may cause swelling while healing, which can be very painful for cats
  • The ear flap may swell and prevent you from being able to treat any infection that might be present.
  • It may take a very long time for ear hematomas in cats to heal on their own.
  • There is an increased possibility of ear hematomas reoccurring if left to heal on their own. 
  • If an ear hematoma heals naturally, there is a higher risk for excess car tissue.

If your cat is suffering from an ear hematoma, it's best to have it examined by one of our veterinarians in Orange Park and treated with surgery to decrease pain, speed healing and prevent the condition from reoccurring.

How much does cat ear hematoma surgery cost?

The cost of ear hematoma surgery for cats will vary based on the precise nature of the condition, your location and vet's practice, and other factors. Your veterinarian will be able to provide a cost estimate for the procedure and address your questions and concerns regarding the surgery. 

Post-Surgery Recovery

Your cat could feel some amount of tenderness or discomfort for a few days following the procedure, but your vet will provide medications to address pain and prevent infection and inflammation.

Your cat will need to wear a cone to stop them from scratching or rubbing the surgical site and causing inflammation, bleeding, pulled stitches, or infection.

You will receive instructions and helpful advice from your vet on how to administer home care for your feline friend as they are recovering from surgery at home, as well as when to return for follow-up visits and to have the stitches removed.

Do you suspect your cat has an ear hematoma or other ear condition? Ask your vet about a referral. Our veterinary dermatologist will work with your primary care vet to ensure your pet receives the best possible care. 

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