Ear infections are a pretty uncommon occurrence in cats. When they do arise in our feline friends, however, they may be an indication of an underlying issue that may require some veterinary attention. Here, our Montecito vets explain some of the symptoms, causes and treatments for ear infections in cats.
Ear Infection in Cats
Ear infections are uncommon in cats but when they do strike the underlying cause can be serious.
Because of this, it's critical for cat parents to seek treatment for their kitty's ear infections as soon as possible. An easily treated outer ear infection may spread quite quickly to the middle and inner portions of your at's eats. If not promptly treated, ear infections in cats may even result in hearing loss.
Causes of Ear Infection in Cats
In cats, ear infections are generally a sign of underlying health issues unless your cat has contracted ear mites. Cats suffering from a weakened immune system, allergies or diabetes will be more susceptible to ear infections than kitties without these health issues.
Your cat may develop an eat infection when the skin that lines their ear canal becomes inflamed and irritated. This will cause an excess in wax production and may result in the naturally-ocurring bacteria and yeast in their ear canals beginning to grow out of control.
At that point itchiness and discomfort are likely to occur, causing an itch-scratch cycle which in turn leads to common ear infection symptoms such as ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and headshaking.
The following are some of the most common causes of external (outer) and middle ear (otus media) infections in our feline companions:
- Wax buildup
- Immune system diseases (FLV or FIV)
- Autoimmune diseases
- Irritants in the environment
- Allergies (pollen, food, etc).
- Polyps or tumors in the ear canal
- Diabetes mellitus
- Ruptured eardrum
- Thick fur or hair in the ear canal
- Incorrect ear cleaning
- Foreign bodies in the ear canal
- Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both
Outer ear infections (otitis externa) are not as common in cats as they are in dogs but when they do occur they can spread quickly to the middle ear (media) or inner ear (interna) if left untreated. Ear mite infestation is the most common cause of outer ear infections in cats.
Signs of Ear infection in Cats
If you notice that your cat is pawing at their ears or looking generally uncomfortable, they may be feeling the effects of an ear infection. Other symptoms of ear infections that may be displayed by your cat include:
- Hearing loss
- Yellowish or black discharge
- Ear discharge resembling coffee grounds
- Swelling or redness in the ear canal
- Head tilting
- Strong odor
- Waxy buildup near or on the canal
- Swelling or redness of the ear flap
- Loss of balance
While healthy ears are pale pink in color and have no visible debris or odor, and minimal or no wax, infected ears are often red or swollen, or will have an odor.
How Ear Infections in Cats Are Diagnosed
Your veterinarian will begin by examining your cat's ear canal and then taking a sample of ear debris in order to take a look at it underneath a microscope and determine whether yeast, mites or bacteria are causing the issue.
How to Treat Ear Infection in Cats
Treatment for feline ear infections is generally straightforward. To begin your veterinarian may clip the fur around your kitty’s ear canal to help keep it clean and dry.
If your cat's infection has reached their inner ear but their eardrum is untouched, oral or injectable antibiotics may be able to help clear up the infection.
The treatments for ear infections in cats caused by yeast, mites or bacteria may include antifungals, anti-parasitics, antibiotics or other medications in ear drop form.
At home it will be important to monitor the condition of your cat's ears to check that the interior of the ear flap is clean and that the canal is clear. If your vet has prescribed ear drops, gently lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal, massaging the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way into the ear canal.
Early treatment of infections is essential since ear infections can turn chronic and lead to facial paralysis and hearing loss.
Chronic Ear Infection in Cats
If your cat is suffering from chronic ear infections, they may be caused by growths, parasites, allergies and more. If you find that your cat has long-lasting or recurring ear infections, speak with your vet. They may be able to prescribe a medication to help reduce the swelling inside your cat's ear canals.
Surgery will be necessary to correct the problem and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed the canal, but this is rare.
Preventing Your Cat From Getting an Ear Infection
The number one way to prevent painful ear infections in your cat is to routinely check their ears to make sure there is no odor, residue, redness, swelling or any other symptoms. Make sure you have any issues diagnosed and treated before they grow worse and ask your Montecito vet to show you how to correctly clean your cat's ears.
Unless your vet instructs you to do so, do not insert cleaning devices into your cat’s ear canal.Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.