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Aural Hematoma in Cats: When is Surgery Needed?

If your cat develops an ear hematoma, you may be concerned and wonder how to help. In this post, our Natick vets discuss what causes aural hematomas in cats, as well as symptoms and treatment options.

A pocket of blood called a hematoma can form within an organ or tissue. This pocket of blood is sometimes referred to as a 'blood blister' and can vary in location and size. However, in the case of aural (ear) hematomas, these appear between the cartilage and skin of your cat's ear flap. 

While they don't occur often in cats, this makes it all the more imperative for cat owners to understand how to recognize ear hematomas and what to do if their feline friend develops one. 

What causes aural hematomas in cats?

Typically, the cause of a cat's ear hematoma will be related to injury or trauma. When the small blood vessels located in the cat's ear flap are damaged, they break and leak internally, resulting in a blood-filled pocket or swelling. Some common causes of cat ear hematomas include:

Ear Scratching or Head Shaking

A cat may scratch its ears or shake its head due to ear mites, an infection in the ear, a foreign object caught in the ear canal, or skin allergies.

Bites or Scratches

Fights with other cats or sharp thorns can leave bite or scratch marks on the ear. Underlying health issues may also be to blame. 

Signs of Ear Hematoma in Cats

If your kitty has an ear hematoma, the most common symptom will probably be a new bump or swelling on the ear. If it's large enough, the ear flap itself will be swollen, potentially causing it to droop under its weight. 

You may notice that the swelling feels squishy or tight, but be gentle—your cat will likely voice its displeasure if the spot is tender. In addition to changes in the appearance of your cat's ears, monitor their behavior. If they've got a tender or irritated ear, your kitty may groom the spot more than usual or shy away from touch. 

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ear Hematomas in Cats

Your veterinarian can examine your feline friend's ears closely for infections or ear mites—common causes of hematoma aside from injury to the area. This is especially true if your cat is susceptible to infections.

Your vet may also take a needle-based sample of the hematoma to confirm the nature of your cat's condition. 

Treatment: Aural Hematoma Surgery for Cats

Surgery is often recommended for treating aural hematomas in cats. The vet makes a small incision in the ear flap to drain the blood pocket. Tiny sutures close the pocket and prevent blood or infection from accumulating again. 

The vet or veterinary surgeon will bandage the ear to further prevent blood from building up on the site. 

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

While this is an option to treat some hematomas, it isn't ideal, and the problem is likely to return. Aural hematomas in cats can typically be effectively treated with surgery, a permanent solution. 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's 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 Natick 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 can provide a cost estimate for the procedure and address your questions and concerns. 

Post-Surgery Recovery

Your cat may experience 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.

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? Contact our Natick vets today for a consultation.

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Wellesley-Natick Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Natick companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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