Ear Flap Problems in Cats
The pinna is an erect flap of cartilage covered on both sides by a layer of
skin. It is fragile and easily damaged. The signs of an outer or external ear
problem are discharge, shaking the head, ear scratching, and tenderness about
the ear. A cat with an itchy ear ailment
may scratch so vigorously that the skin becomes severely abraded. The abraded
skin may then become infected, leading to an abscess. Attempts to treat the
traumatized pinna may not be successful until the initiating cause of the
itching and scratching has been identified and treated.
Bites and Lacerations
Cats give and receive painful bites and scratches that are prone to severe
infection. The pinna is a frequent site for such injuries. Some occur during
Treatment: All cat bite wounds should be carefully cleaned and inspected.
Trim the hair from the edges of the wound. Bathe the wound with a Betadine or a
chlorhexidine wound cleansing solution to remove dried blood and foreign
debris. Be careful to keep all solution out of your cat’s eyes. Omit this step
if there is fresh bleeding.
Then apply a topical antibiotic ointment, such as triple antibiotic ointment
or Neosporin. Try to distract your cat for a minute or two after applying any
ointment so that she does not immediately rub or lick it off.
Because claws and teeth produce deep wounds and punctures and almost
always inject bacteria into the wound, injuries caused by cat fights are often
complicated by abscesses. Some can be prevented by giving your cat a course of
antibiotics (often a penicillin
such as amoxicillin). Do not give any antibiotics without first consulting your
Large lacerations and those involving the margin of the ear or the cartilage
should receive veterinary attention. Surgical repair is necessary to prevent
scarring and deformity. With bite wounds from unknown animals, discuss rabies
with your veterinarian.
Sudden swelling about the ear is due to an abscess or a hematoma. Abscesses
are more common. They are caused by an infection of the skin of the ear and
often occur after a fight. Severe scratching at the ear may produce skin
infection and abscess. Abscesses are usually found below the ear.
A hematoma is a blood clot under the skin of the pinna. It, too, can be
caused by trauma or by violent head shaking and scratching at the ear. Look for
an itchy ear disorder, such as ear mites, or an infection
involving the ear canal-which should be treated along with the hematoma.
Treatment: Blood should be expressed from a hematoma by a veterinarian, to
prevent scarring and deformity of the ear when the clot retracts. Removing it
with a needle and syringe usually is not effective, because serum accumulates
in the pocket formerly occupied by the blood clot and the pocket fills again.
Surgery, the treatment of choice, involves removing a window of skin to provide
open and continuous drainage. A drain may be placed through the area. Sutures
are then made through both sides of the ear to pull the skin down and eliminate
the pocket. Expect your cat to need to wear a BiteNot collar or an Elizabethan
collar to prevent her from pawing at the ear.