Aural (ear) hematomas often cause cats to scratch their ears or shake their heads in response to irritation and swelling. In today's blog post, our Rochester vets explain how ear hematomas develop in our feline friends, and list symptoms and treatment options. 

Ear Hematoma in Cats

A hematoma is a blood-filled pocket that forms inside an organ or tissue. These are sometimes referred to as blood blisters and can vary in size and location. However, in some cases, cats can develop ear (aural) hematomas, which form between the cartilage and skin of their ear flaps.

While ear hematomas don't often develop in cats, this makes it even more critical to understand how to identify them and what to do if this ear condition occurs in your feline companion. 

Causes of Ear Hematomas in Cats

Injury and trauma are both common causes of ear hematomas in cats. 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 blood filling a pocket. Specifically, your cat's ear hematoma may be caused by:

Ear Scratching or Head Shaking 

Has your cat been scratching its ears or shaking its head frequently? An ear infection or ear mites may be the root cause. Foreign objects caught in the ear or skin allergies may also be to blame. 

Bites or Scratches

If your cat spends time outside, it's possible that he's had fights with other cats or that sharp thorns have gotten into his ear and scratched it.

Underlying Health Issues

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

Signs of Ear Hematomas in Cats

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

you may notice that the swelling feels squishy or tight, but be gentle – if the spot is tender, your cat will likely let you know. Along with the changes in appearance of your cat's ears, your four-legged friend's behavior will be another indication that they may have an ear hematoma. If the ear is irritated or tender, your cat may groom that spot more than usual or shy away from your touch. 

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ear Hematomas in Cats 

Our vets are experienced in caring for cats ears and diagnosing any conditions that may affect your kitty's health. 

They can thoroughly examine your cat's ears and determine the underlying cause of swelling, irritation, or behavioral changes. Infections, injuries, ear mites, and other causes of ear hematomas can be identified and treated.

Your vet may also use a needle to take a sample of the hematoma (also referred to 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 veterinary 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 cat's ear is small or your cat is unable to undergo anesthesia safely, your veterinarian may recommend draining the site with a needle instead.

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 has an ear hematoma, it is best to have it examined by one of our veterinarians in Rochester and treated with surgery to alleviate pain, speed up healing, and prevent the condition from recurring.

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

After ear hematoma surgery, your cat could feel some amount of tenderness or discomfort for a few days, 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.

Your veterinarian will provide you with instructions and helpful advice on how to care for your feline friend at home while they recover from surgery, as well as when to return for follow-up visits and stitch removal.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you suspect your cat has an ear hematoma or other ear problem? Contact us today to book an exam. We can diagnose potential issues and recommend treatment options.