Aural Haematoma in cats

isolated cat

Overview

  • An aural haematoma is a blood blister that forms inside the ear flap when a blood vessel bursts.
  • Aural haematomas often form because your cat has been shaking their head or scratching their ear (perhaps due to an ear infection or ear mites).
  • Occasionally aural haematomas form because of a knock or injury.
  • As well as treating the aural haematoma, your vet will try to find out why it happened in the first place.
  • Treatment often includes surgery to drain the ear.
  • Don’t try treating an aural haematoma yourself.

When to contact your vet

Call your vet for an appointment if you notice an aural haematoma – they will find the cause and treat your cat.

What is an aural haematoma?

An aural haematoma is a blood blister that forms inside the earflap when a blood vessel bursts. As the vessel bleeds, your cat’s ear will become heavy, swollen, warm and uncomfortable.

Aural haematomas usually form because there is a problem with the ear or skin, such as:

Illustration showing aural haematoma in cats

An aural haematoma is a blood blister in the ear flap.

Symptoms

Photo of cat with swollen ear flap

This cat has a large aural haematoma in his right ear flap

Treatment

Treatment varies depending size of your cat’s aural haematoma, what caused it and how painful/irritating it is.

Leaving alone

  • You should always take your cat to your vet if they develop an aural haematoma. Your vet will treat the underlying cause (i.e. ear infection, ear mites or allergic skin disease). In some circumstances however, the swelling (haematoma) itself can be left to heal without treatment. This will only be the case if your cat’s haematoma is small and causing no pain or irritation.

Draining

  • Large haematomas usually need draining. If left to heal themselves, they are likely to scar and cause a thickened, crinkly ear flap – like a rugby player with ‘cauliflower ear’.
  • Some can be drained with a syringe and needle and some need surgery.
  • If your cat’s ear refills after being drained it’s likely to need surgery.

Surgery

  • If your cat’s aural haematoma keeps re-filling, your vet may advise surgery. This involves making a slit in the ear flap to drain it before compressing it with stitches so it can’t fill up again.

Medication

  • Anti-inflammatory drugs can be used to reduce swelling and provide pain relief, especially after surgery.
  • Your vet may prescribe other medication depending on what caused your cat’s aural haematoma to form in the first place.

Ongoing care and outlook

After your cat’s haematoma has been treated, you will need to keep their ear protected from infection and further injury. If your vet prescribes a head cone, make sure your cat wears it 24/7. You will need to keep their ear clean, give all prescribed medication and monitor for pain, swelling and redness. It’s normal for an aural haematoma to leak blood after being drained, this is nothing to worry about. However, if it bleeds more, or for longer than expected, call your vet for advice.

Your cat should recover within 1-2 weeks if their ear heals without complications.

Cost

Treatment for an aural haematoma can become expensive, especially if your cat requires surgery. Consider insuring your cat as soon as you get them, before any signs of illness start. This will ensure you have all the support you need to care for them.

Published: May 2019

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Written by vets and vet nurses. This advice is for UK pets only.

Illustrations by Samantha Elmhurst