What Is Cat Ear Hematoma?

A cat ear hematoma (cauliflower ear) is an accumulation of blood inside a newly created pocket in the ear flap. If the pocket grows in size, it can block the cat’s ear canal.

Cat ear hematoma occurs when the small blood vessels in the ear break and bleed. As more blood accumulates, it swells and pushes ear cartilage on the skin, creating a cauliflower-like appearance often mistaken for other skin diseases such as cancer or infection.

A hematoma on a pet’s ear is highly uncomfortable and can result in complications. Therefore, it is important for pet owners to take their cats to an animal hospital if they suspect an aural hematoma.

Can a Cat Ear Hematoma Heal On its Own?

Yes, a cat ear hematoma may heal on its own. However, the condition is uncomfortable or even painful and should not be left without treatment.

If left untreated, cat ear hematoma may take up to several months to heal. Also, it may result in permanent deformity in the cat’s ear.

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Can a Cat Live With an Ear Hematoma?

Yes, a cat ear hematoma is not a life-threatening condition. However, it is painful and increases the risk of a cat ear infection. As mentioned, the blood pocket can grow in size and block the ear canal, which immediately creates an environment favoring infections.

What Causes a Cat Ear Hematoma?

Basically, any ear issue causing ear scratching and head-shaking can result in a cat ear hematoma. Some of the most common causes of ear hematomas include:

  • Ear Mites. Ear mites are tiny insects inside your cat’s ears, causing irritation and inflammation. They also eat away at your cat’s skin, causing open wounds which can quickly become infected with bacteria and cause bleeding (hemorrhaging).
  • Ear Infection. Bacterial and yeast infections are common health conditions in cats, and they can be the reason for blood blisters in the ears.
  • Allergies. Cats sensitive to food and environmental allergens shake their heads and scratch the ears, which may result in blood vessel damage and, eventually, ear hematoma. Allergies are a common underlying cause of cat ear hematomas.
  • Foreign Object. If your cat has a foreign body on the ear’s surface (such as a stick or grass), it can cause injury to the inner part of the ear. Over time, this may result in an ear hematoma.

What Are the Symptoms of a Cat Ear Hematoma?

Cat Ear Hematoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

The most visible sign of cat ear hematoma is swelling of the ear flap (pinna). Other common signs include:

  • Swelling and redness on the ear flap
  • A bulge in the skin of the cat’s ear flap
  • Painful external ear upon touch
  • Frequent head shaking
  • Pawing at the affected ear
  • Scabs or crusts on the ear tips
  • Head-tilting (the affected ear is heavier).

How do You Treat a Hematoma in a Cat’s Ear?

There are several treatment options for cat ear hematoma, but surgery is the most successful one. Also, regardless of the treatment option pursued, it is important to manage the underlying cause. For example, if caused by ear mites, the vet will prescribe ear drops to deal with the infestation.

Here is a closer look at the different treatment options for ear hematoma.

Ear Hematoma Surgery. Surgery is the treatment of choice, and it involves making a small incision on the inner surface of the ear. The blood, blood clots, and fluid are removed through the incision, and the inner ear surface is fixed to the outer surface with sutures to prevent refills. The sutures will be removed in 10-14 days.

Blood Blister Drainage. Alternatively, the vet may put a drainage tube in the ear to promote the emptying of the pocket. The drain will have to be fixed. This approach has two cons – the cat’s ear is relatively small, and cats are unlikely to handle having a drain inserted into the ear for a couple of days.

Blood Evacuation & Medication. Using a small syringe, the vet may perform a needle aspiration to evacuate the blood from the pocket. Then, they will inject medication (usually, steroids) inside the pocket to manage the inflammation. The risk of the pocket refilling with blood is high with this approach.

During the recovery period, the DVM will recommend wearing an Elizabethan collar. This will keep the cat from scratching the ear and delaying the healing period.

What Happens if You Leave a Cat Ear Hematoma Untreated?

Cat Ear Hematoma: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment Options

If left untreated, the collection of blood in the ear flap will eventually resolve on its own. However, this can take weeks or even months. The longer you wait to treat the hematoma, the more likely it will result in complications.

Ear Deformity. It is possible for the ear to become thickened, hard and discolored. Sometimes, the change is permanent, meaning the ear cannot get back to looking normal.

Severe Ear Infections. A blocked ear canal results in a cat ear infection. Since the blood blister will delay and inhibit the ear infection treatment, the infection can quickly progress.

Hearing Loss. If left untreated, the mentioned infection can affect the inner ear and eardrum and cause damage. In such cases, hearing loss is highly possible.

How Long Does a Cat Ear Hematoma Take to Heal?

The time it takes for an ear hematoma to heal depends on many factors, including how large and well you manage it at home. Most small ones will heal within 2-4 weeks, although larger ones can take six weeks or more to resolve completely.

With proper treatment, the healing period for a cat ear hematoma is shorter and more pleasant for both the pet owner and the cat.