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Ear Infection in Cats

While cats are not commonly known for experiencing ear infections, an underlying health issue could be causing the ones that do happen, and your kitty may need veterinary attention. Today, our Douglasville vets list some causes, symptoms and treatments for ear infections in cats.

Ear Infection in Cats

Ear infections in cats are rare, but they can be caused by serious underlying factors.

It is crucial to promptly take your cat to the vet for treatment of the ear infection. Treating an outer ear infection is straightforward, but it can quickly spread to the middle ear and eventually reach your cat's inner ear. Untreated ear infections can lead to hearing loss in cats.

Causes of Ear Infection in Cats

Ear infections in cats often indicate an underlying health issue, unless your furry family member has acquired ear mites. Cats with diabetes, allergies, or a weak immune system are more susceptible to ear infections compared to cats without these health conditions.

Your cat may develop an ear infection if there is an excessive amount of yeast present. The skin lining the interior of the ear canal becomes inflamed and irritated, leading to the uncontrollable flourishing of naturally existing yeast and bacteria, resulting in the formation of excess wax. This can lead to an ear infection in many cats.

At this point, your cat may be experiencing discomfort and itchiness, which can trigger a cycle of scratching that often results in noticeable symptoms of an ear infection, such as headshaking, ear rubbing, and clawing.

Some common causes of external (outer) and middle ear (otitis media) infections in cats are:

  • Wax buildup
  • Immune system diseases (FLV or FIV)
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Allergies (pollen, food, etc).
  • Incorrect ear cleaning
  • Thick fur or hair in the ear canal
  • Foreign bodies in the ear canal
  • Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both
  • Polyps or tumors in the ear canal
  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Irritants in the environment 

While cats do not get outer ear infections (otitis externa) as often as dogs do, when they do happen they can quickly spread to the middle ear (media) or inner ear (interna) if not treated. The most common cause of outer ear infection in cats is ear mite infestation.

Signs of Ear infection in Cats

If your cat is pawing at their ear or looking otherwise uncomfortable, they 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
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of balance
  • Swelling or redness of the ear flap

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

When it comes to inner or outer cat ear infections, early diagnosis and treatment are key, since inner ear infections in cats can have serious consequences for long-term health. Untreated ear infections can lead to chronic infections, permanent damage, hearing loss and facial paralysis. Your vet will start by examining your cat’s ear canal, then take a sample of ear debris to examine under a microscope in order to determine whether bacteria, yeast, or ear mites are causing the issue.

How to Treat Ear Infections in Cats

Treatment for cat 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. For cats with ear infections caused by bacterial or yeast infections, or ear mites, they may be treated with corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics or anti-parasitics in ear drop form.

Make sure to regularly check your cat's ears at home to ensure they are clean and clear. When your veterinarian suggests using ear drops, simply lift the ear flap and carefully apply the solution into the ear canal. Then, gently massage the base of the ear to help the medicine penetrate effectively.

Chronic Ear Infection in Cats

Possible causes of chronic ear infections in your cat include growths, allergies, parasites, and other factors. If your cat is experiencing a long-term or reoccurring ear infection that is causing them discomfort or itchiness, it is advisable to seek guidance from your veterinarian. Prescribing a medicine to minimize tissue swelling inside the canal is a possibility.

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

Make sure to regularly check your cat's ears for any signs of odor, residue, redness, swelling, or other indications to prevent uncomfortable ear infections. Address any issues promptly and seek guidance from your doctor on the correct method for cleaning your cat's ears, or schedule regular cleanings with them.

Only insert cleaning devices into your cat's ear canal if instructed by your vet.

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.

Is your cat showing signs of an ear infection? Contact our Douglasville vets to book an appointment for your kitty companion today.

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