Tiggy's swollen ear

Tiggy is a 15 year old cat that was brought to us because she had been scratching at her ears for some time. Her owner had been diligently bathing the sores but then Tiggy developed a swelling on her ear.

On closer examination, the swelling on her ear is known as an Aural Haematoma; in other words, a blood vessel breaks under the skin and forms a blood blister. They are very painful, and most frequently occur in dogs when they shake their heads, get a nip on their ears or scratch their ears too hard - but Tiggy is an exception, being a cat! The brown wax coming out of her ears hinted that she probably had yeast infections, which are very itchy and she had scratched her ear so much she gave herself the aural haematoma.

Unfortunately, aural haematomas don't heal on their own. They require surgery which will relieve the blood pocket under the skin, then 'stents' are applied on the ear to place even pressure across the surface and reduce the blood flow until the vessel heals. So Tiggy had to have surgery!

Because of her painful ears, we waited until Tiggy was under a general anaesthetic to confirm her yeast infection. We took a smear and looked under the microscope; the yeast was a-plenty! (And some bacteria too)

So how did Tiggy get her yeast infection in the first place? Yeast in small numbers is a normal inhabitant of the ear canal. When the conditions are right, such as a warm moist environment, they explode in numbers. Commonly dogs are presented to us after a bath or a swim. The added moisture from a bath can provide the perfect environment for a yeast invasion.

Tiggy's ears were flushed from all the extra wax and pus that had built up, then her surgery went smoothly. Tiggy's stents have to stay in for three or more weeks with frequent checks to make sure they don't get damaged. Tiggy's owner is also putting drops in her ears for the yeast infection, and we will be doing multiple smears and microscopic examinations to ensure that the yeast is under control.

In order to avoid a yeast infection in your pet's ears, try and keep them dry in the following ways:

  1. Keep the hair around the entrance to the ear canal clipped short
  2. Make sure you towel dry their ears well
  3. NEVER use a cotton tip to clean your pets ears; wiping with a tissue or cotton wool to mop up excess moisture is just fine
  4. If your dog loves swimming or gets frequently bathed and has long ears, see if they will tolerate them being held in place behind their head with a clip or scrunchy for 5-10 minutes to allow air to circulate. Don't forget to release the clip or crunchy!