ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Q: We took our cat to the veterinarian due to noticing his ear was down and swollen. The doctor 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: Maurice’s ear flap, also known as a pinna or auricle, has come to resemble a sopapilla because of his scratching and head shaking from those &%#! ear mites. That self-trauma has damaged capillaries causing leaked blood to form a pocket called an auricular hematoma. Maurice’s doctor was right to investigate and treat the underlying cause.
There are a few good ear mite remedies. Prescription Revolution or Bravecto are easy and safe. These are spot-on treatments that are applied to the skin over the shoulders and repeated in one month. You can still get medications that are instilled directly into the inside of the ear canal. They can be effective but they must be repeated multiple times and are really irritating.
It’s true that when Maurice stops his head shaking and scratching his ear flap will heal on its own but it won’t be pretty. That once pristine pinna will be scarred and misshapen, sort of like a head of cabbage. If Maurice is as dapper as his name suggests you could invest in a simple surgical treatment that would preserve his pinna’s attractive shape. Under a general anesthetic the hematoma would be drained and sutured, similar to a quilt. The ear flap would then be bandaged to Maurice’s head for about two 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 from a bigger, hungry creature. 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 for cats? Think about it.
Each week Dr. Jeff Nichol makes a short video, blog or a Facebook Live to help bring out the best in pets. Sign up at no charge at drjeffnichol.com. Dr. Nichol treats behavior disorders at the Veterinary Emergency & Specialty Centers in Albuquerque and Santa Fe (505-792-5131). You can post pet questions at facebook.com/drjeffnichol or by mail to 4000 Montgomery NE, Albuquerque, NM, 87109.