A hematoma is a pocket of blood that develops within an organ or tissue, sometimes referred to as a 'blood blister.' It can vary in size and location, but in the case of aural (ear) hematomas, they appear between the skin and cartilage of your cat's ear flap. They don't occur frequently in cats, but that makes it all the more important for pet parents to know what to look for and what to do if their cat develops an ear hematoma.
What causes ear hematomas in cats?
Usually, the cause of ear hematoma is trauma- or injury-related. When damage occurs to the small blood vessels located in the cat's ear flap, they break and leak internally, creating a blood-filled swelling or pocket. Some common causes of cat eat hematomas include:
- Your kitty scratching their ears or shaking their heads due to:
- ear infection
- ear mites
- skin allergies
- foreign object in ear canal
- Scratches or bites (e.g. sharp thorns, fights with other cats)
- Underlying health issues
Signs of ear hematomas in cats
If your pet has an ear hematoma, the most common sign is likely to be a swelling on the ear. If it is large enough, the ear flap itself will be swollen and possibly cause the ear flap to droop under its weight.
The swelling may feel tight or squishy to the touch, but be gentle – your cat probably will voice their discomfort if the spot is tender! Besides changes in your cat's ear's appearance, keep an eye on their behavior. If their ear is irritated or tender, they may groom the spot more than usual or shy away from being touched.
Diagnosis & treatment of ear hematomas in cats
Your vet will examine your cat's ears for mites or infections since these are common causes of hematoma aside from injury to the area, especially if your pet is prone to infections. Depending on the case, your vet might use a needle to take a sample to confirm the nature of the condition.
The most commonly recommended method to address the issue of ear hematomas is surgery. If the hematoma on your cat's ear is small or your pet cannot be safely put under anesthesia, it may be possible for your vet to try to drain the site with a needle. While this is a suitable procedure for some hematomas, it isn't ideal and the issue is likely to arise again. Aural hematoma surgery is a permanent solution for your pet's problem, and having hematomas surgically removed can reduce scarring.
Your vet will also treat the underlying issue causing the hematoma (e.g. infection, allergy).
Aural hematoma surgery for cats
The surgery entails the veterinarian making a small surgical incision in the ear flap to drain the blood pocket. Once cleared, your vet will use tiny sutures to close the pocket and prevent blood or infection from building up again. To further ensure the site doesn't accumulate blood, the vet or vet surgeon will bandage the ear.
Recovery from aural hematoma surgery
Your kitty may experience some tenderness or discomfort for a few days following their procedure, but your vet is sure to provide medications to address pain and prevent infection and inflammation.
Your cat will need to wear an Elizabethan collar to stop them from scratching 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.