The cat’s ear flap consists of tough cartilage, which helps to trap sound waves and protects the more delicate structures of the ear. On occasions, a problem afflicting one part of the ear can give rise to symptoms in another, and this helps to explain why a cat haematoma can arise. A haematoma is like a blood blister, which results from bleeding within the cartilage of the ear. The blood accumulates rapidly in the tissue space, giving rise to a swelling of the ear flap.
A haematoma is a blood-filled swelling, caused by trauma. This may be the result of over-fierce fighting, but the wound is often self-inflicted, as a result of irritation. The disorder itself is not painful.
Will my cat need an operation to correct the haematoma?
- Not always; if left, the blood will separate out, with the serum being absorbed back into the circulation. The swelling subsides after about 10 days, with the whole process taking six weeks.
- The most common cause of a haematoma is the presence of ear mites within the inner ear, giving rise to an infection which may involve bacteria and fungi as well, resulting in intense irritation. This causes the cat so much distress that it paws repeatedly at the affected ear, in a bid to stop the discomfort.
- Instead of being able to reach the site of the infection however, the cat ends up injuring its own ear so badly with its constant scratching that it causes an internal haemorrhage. Blood then seeps into the space between the cartilage and the skin.
Outward Signs Of Cat Haematoma
The haematoma is often most obvious on the inner surface of the ear flap, with the whole area appearing swollen. The ear becomes heavier, so that it often hangs slightly forwards, forcing the cat to tilt its head to the side. This may deter the cat from continuing to scratch itself.
It is vital that a cat with a haematoma is taken to a vetwithout delay, not necessarily for immediate treatment of the haematoma itself, but rather to ensure that the cause of the underlying irritation is diagnosed and treated. There may be a foreign body such as a grass seed lodged down the ear canal, but if mites are involved, both ears could be infected, so the cat might develop a haematoma on its other ear if it is not treated speedily.
- Male cats which fight regularly often have damaged ears, and are more likely to suffer from haematomas.
- Haematomas can occur elsewhere on the cat’s body, but are uncommon.
- Some haematomas may form an obstruction over the entrance to the ear canal, worsening the potential for infection; these will need surgery as soon as possible.
What about surgery for Cat Haematoma?
This can be used to reduce the chances of a `cauliflower ear’. Early surgery may be needed to drain the injury, or cosmetic surgery can be done later, depending on the disfiguration.
My vet has given my cat an Elizabethan collar after its haematoma operation. Why is this?
You cat needs to wear the collar after surgery to stop it from scratching at the wound. This would cause the stitches to be removed prematurely, increasing the likelihood of infection.