Residency Trained in
Veterinary Behavior

Albuquerque and Santa Fe, NM
(505) 792-5131

Swollen, Puffy Ear Flap on a Cat

Ear Mites Cause Pain & Injury

Question:
Hey my name is Christina and I live in North Carolina. I have a tom cat his name is Checkers. Tuesday I saw that his inner pinna has swollen. I was wandering is there anything I could do to help with the swollen part?

Dr. Nichol:
Hey Christina – it’s nice to get a letter all the way from the Tar Heel state. I could tell right away that you weren’t from these parts. New Mexicans see a puffy ear flap on a cat or a dog and think of a sopapilla.

Your boy Checkers’ swollen pinna (ear flap) almost certainly stemmed from a painful infection deep in his ear canal. Doing what they can to alleviate the itch, uncomfortable pets often scratch hard and shake their heads.  All that violent self-trauma ruptures capillaries in the ear flap. Checkers’ engorged ear pinna actually contains a pocket of blood. We call it an aural hematoma.

There are several possible causes for feline ear infections with an active population of ear mites being the most common. Checkers needs to see his doctor for a thorough evaluation. A look into your boy’s ear canals with an otoscope, along with a microscopic exam of the discharge, may reveal a thriving population of active and rather hideous insects.

Don’t make your own diagnosis. Over-the-counter treatments would needlessly irritate your long-suffering cat’s sensitive ear tissues. If Checkers has mites a prescription spot-on treatment, like Revolution or Advantage Multi, would be reliable and gentle, necessitating only one treatment on his skin. His ear canals will need to be irrigated to eliminate a copious amount of crusty discharge from those creepy little uninvited guests.

Checkers’ swollen ear flap, on the other hand, can be allowed to shrink up and heal by itself.  Mother Nature isn’t vain, however. Neglected aural hematomas end up resembling a permanently crumpled wad of paper. To maintain your handsome kitty’s good looks his ear flap can be opened and drained under anesthesia and then sutured, similar to a quilt. This masterpiece would then be bandaged to his head for about 2 weeks. As long as the infection in his ear canals has been fully resolved, removal of the bandage and sutures would leave a healthy looking ear and a dashing, comfortable kitty.