Mites or Other Infections are the Primary Cause

Question:
We took our cat to the vet due to noticing his ear was down and swollen. The vet reassured us his ear will go back down in time. He did tell us Maurice has ear mites. Once that problem is gone will that help the process of his ear going back to normal?

Dr. Nichol:
An ear flap that resembles a sopapilla may draw a few stares but it’s not Maurice’s primary problem. Also known as the pinna or auricle, his is swollen because of repeated scratching and head shaking from the irritation of those &%#! ear mites. All that trauma has caused the capillaries to burst and leak blood, forming a pocket called an auricular hematoma. Your veterinarian was right to investigate and treat the underlying cause.

There are a few good ear mite treatments; the easiest is prescription Revolution. It’s applied to the skin over the shoulders and repeated in one month. Ivermectin, given orally in liquid form, is also safe and reliable. Medications that are instilled into the inside of the ear canal can also work well but they can be irritating.

It’s true that when Maurice stops his head shaking and scratching his pinna will heal on its own but it won’t be pretty. His once pristine pinna will be a scarred and misshapen appendage, sort of like a head of cabbage. If Maurice is as dapper as his name implies you could invest in a simple surgical treatment that would preserve his pinna’s attractive shape.  Under a general anesthetic the hematoma can be opened and sutured, similar to a quilt. The ear flap would then be bandaged to his head for about 2 weeks.

Our cats’ ear flaps serve an important purpose. Shaped much like a satellite dish they can be rotated to pick up the faint rustle of prey or a threat. I have always felt that in the grand scheme of life ear flaps may be an underutilized asset.  Oh sure, they help with hearing and are a place to hang bling but they could do so much more. Flaps make flight possible for airplanes, so why not with cats? Please think about it and get back to me.