An ear hematoma (also called an auricular hematoma) is a large collection of blood that forms between the skin and the cartilage in the ear.
This appears as a “lump” or swelling of the earflap.
The most common cause of this condition is excessive head shaking as a result of an ear infection.
Other possible causes include allergy or trauma, such as a bite wound or hitting the head on a solid object.
Hereditary tendencies may also be involved, as some breeds and families within the breed are more prone to this than others.
This condition can recur in the same ear or other ear if underlying problems are not corrected.
A swollen earflap should be evaluated and treated by your cat's veterinarian as quickly as possible to reduce the chance of permanent disfigurement of the ear.
Symptoms Of An Ear Hematoma:
Ear hematomas are usually fairly easy to recognize. Your cat's ear flap will be swollen and misshapen.
You may also notice your cat shaking his/her head, scratching at the ears, or holding the head to one side.
Diagnosis Of An Ear Hematoma:
Diagnosing the hematoma itself is fairly straight forward, as its appearance is fairly unique. Your cat's veterinarian may use a needle to tap into the swollen area and withdraw some of the fluid in order to determine that the fluid is blood and that the swelling is not a result of an abscess.
Once it has been determined that your cat has a hematoma on the ear, the next step is to find out why the hematoma occurred.
This will involve examining the ear canals for evidence of otitis (ear infection). Ear mites are a common cause of ear hematomas in cats.
If there is no evidence of otitis, your cat's veterinarian may recommend doing blood tests to rule out bleeding disorders.
You should notify your cat's veterinarian of any other symptoms your cat has been experiencing, such as sneezing, runny eyes or nose, or itching. These symptoms may help your cat's veterinarian diagnose an allergy.
You should also notify your cat's veterinarian of any trauma your cat may have experienced, such as hitting his/her head or otherwise injuring the ear.
Treatment Of An Ear Hematoma:
If the hematoma is not treated properly, one of two things will happen:
- The hematoma will continue to enlarge until it ruptures and becomes infected.
- The blood clot will cause permanent damage to the appearance of the ear. This may result in a very thick ear that can interfere with normal ventilation of the ear canal leading to ear infections. Sometimes, as the clot matures and contracts, it will cause the ear to become “cauliflower-like” in appearance. This change is irreversible and results in a “withered-up” appearance to the earflap.
There are currently several techniques for treating ear hematomas. Your cat may need:
- oral medications, such as antibiotics to control infection or cortisone products to decrease the inflammation in the ear
- medications applied directly to the ear or ear canal, such as ointments or drops containing antibiotics, anti-inflammatory medications and/or anti-fungal (yeast) medications
- surgical repair
Several different surgical techniques are used to treat ear hematomas. Though the different surgical techniques differ in how they are carried out, they all attempt to drain the blood caught between the skin and cartilage and keep the area from filling with blood again until the healing process has taken place.
Your cat's veterinarian will advise you which treatments and techniques are appropriate based on your cat's individual circumstances.
When treating ear hematomas, it is important to try to diagnose and treat the underlying cause. Though this is not always possible and sometimes the underlying cause remains unidentified, the chances of recurrence are much higher if the underlying cause is not found and corrected.