Ear infections are uncommon in cats, but when they do occur, they can be a sign of a more serious problem that necessitates veterinary attention. Our Corpus Christi veterinarians explain the causes, symptoms, and treatments for ear infections in cats in this article.
Ear Infection in Cats
Ear infections are uncommon in cats but when they do strike the underlying cause can be serious.
As a result, it's critical to treat your kitty's ear infection as soon as possible. An easily treatable outer ear infection can quickly spread to your cat's middle ear and inner ear. Ear infections in cats can lead to hearing loss if left untreated.
Causes of Ear Infection in Cats
Unless your cat has ear mites, ear infections in cats are usually a sign of an underlying health problem. Ear infections are more common in cats with a weakened immune system, allergies, or diabetes than in cats without these health issues.
If the skin lining in the ear canal becomes irritated and inflamed, your cat may develop an ear infection. This results in an overabundance of wax production, as well as an environment in which naturally occurring bacteria and yeast begin to proliferate uncontrollably.
Itching and discomfort are likely to develop at this point, resulting in an itch-scratch cycle that leads to common ear infection symptoms like ear rubbing, scratching, clawing, and headshaking.
Some of the most common causes of external (outer) and middle ear (otitis media) infections in cats include:
- Immune system diseases (FLV or FIV)
- Irritants in the environment
- Autoimmune diseases
- Allergies (pollen, food, etc).
- Wax buildup
- Foreign bodies in the ear canal
- Thick fur or hair in the ear canal
- Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both
- Polyps or tumors in the ear canal
- Incorrect ear cleaning
- Ruptured eardrum
- Diabetes mellitus
Outer ear infections (otitis externa) are less common in cats than in dogs, but if left untreated, they can quickly spread to the middle ear (media) or inner ear (internal). The most common cause of outer ear infections in cats is ear mite infestation.
Symptoms of an Ear Infection in Cats
If your cat is pawing at its ear or looking otherwise uncomfortable, it may be feeling the effects of an ear infection. Other symptoms of ear infection your cat may display include:
- Yellowish or black discharge
- Head tilting
- Ear discharge resembling coffee grounds
- Hearing loss
- Swelling or redness in the ear canal
- Strong odor
- Waxy buildup near or on the canal
- Loss of balance
- Swelling or redness of the ear flap
While healthy ears are pale pink 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 examine your cat's ear canal first, then take a sample of ear debris to examine under a microscope to see if bacteria, yeast, or ear mites are the source of the problem.
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 the infection has reached the middle ear but the eardrum is untouched, oral or injectable antibiotics may be given to clear up the infection.
Ear infections in cats caused by bacterial or yeast infections, or ear mites, can be treated with eardrops containing corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics, or anti-parasitics.
It'll be important to keep an eye on your cat's ears at home to make sure the interior of the ear flap is clean and the canal is clear. If your veterinarian has prescribed ear drops, gently lift the ear flap and squeeze the solution into the ear canal, massaging the base of the ear to aid the medicine's passage.
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
Chronic ear infections in cats can be caused by a variety of things, including growths, allergies, parasites, and more. If your cat's ears are itchy or painful due to a long-term or recurring ear infection, speak with your veterinarian. They may be able to prescribe a medication to help reduce tissue swelling inside the canal.
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
Regularly inspecting your cat's ears for odor, residue, redness, swelling, or other symptoms is the best way to prevent painful ear infections. Request that your veterinarian show you how to properly clean your cat's ears, or bring them in for regular cleanings before any problems worsen.
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.