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Ear Infections In Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Ear Infections In Cats: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Ear infections are relatively uncommon in cats but when they do occur they can be an indication of an underlying issue that requires veterinary attention. Here, our Los Angeles vets explain some of the causes, symptoms, and treatments for ear infections in cats.

Ear Infections in Cats

It's relatively uncommon to see ear infections in cats, but when they do happen they can be caused by serious underlying issues. It is important to seek treatment for cats with ear infections, as a fairly uncomplicated outer ear infection can quickly spread to the middle ear and beyond, leading to more serious and painful inner ear infections.

Ear Infection in Cats: Causes

An infestation of ear mites is the most common reason for outer ear infections in cats. Cats that suffer from a weak immune system, allergies, or diabetes tend to be more susceptible to ear infections than healthy cats.

If your feline friend experiences irritation or inflammation of the skin that lines their ear canal, which could further develop into an ear infection. This causes excess wax production which creates the perfect environment for the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast already there to start growing out of control. This leads to itchiness and discomfort for your cat, which causes them to exhibit symptoms like ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and headshaking.

Some of the most common causes of outer and middle ear infections in cats include:

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

Ear Infections in Cats: Signs & Symptoms

If your cat is pawing at their ear or generally looking uncomfortable, they may be suffering from a developing ear infection. If your cat is healthy, the insides of their ears should be pale pink in color with no signs of waxy buildup or odor. Infected ears are often red or swollen, or will have a musty or unpleasant odor. Other symptoms of a cat ear infection 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

Ear Infections in Cats: Diagnosis & Treatment

Your vet will begin by conducting an examination of your cat's ears and then take a sample of ear debris to examine under a microscope. This is done in order to determine whether bacteria, yeast, or ear mites are causing the issue.

Treatment for ear infections affecting cats is fairly straightforward. Your veterinarian may begin by clipping 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 not affected, oral or injectable antibiotics may be given to clear up the issue.

If your kitty's ear infection is caused by bacteria, yeast overgrowth, or ear mites your vet may recommend treatment with corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics, or anti-parasitics in the form of eardrops.

It is important during treatment to keep an eye on the condition of your cat's ears to ensure that the interior of the ear flap is clean and that the canal is clear. If your vet has prescribed eardrops, gently lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal. Afterward, massage the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way into the ear canal.

Early treatment of infections is essential since infections can turn chronic and may lead to serious consequences like facial paralysis or hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Infection in Cats

Cats with chronic ear infections could be suffering from growths, allergies, parasites, and other issues or conditions. If your cat experiences a long-lasting or recurring ear infection, speak to your vet. Your vet may be able to prescribe medication to help reduce tissue swelling inside the canal.

Although rare, in some cases surgery may be necessary to correct the problem and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed the canal.

Preventing Ear Infections In Your Cat

The best way to prevent your cat from developing a painful ear infection is to regularly check the insides of their ears to make sure there’s no odor, residue, redness, swelling, or other symptoms. Any issues that you spot should be treated by a veterinary professional before they worsen. To maintain your cat's overall hygiene and wellbeing, be sure to ask your vet to show you how to correctly clean your cat’s ears - or bring your feline friend to the vet for regular cleanings.

Do not insert cleaning devices into your cat’s ear canal unless your vet instructs you to do so.

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.

Do you think that your cat might have an ear infection? Book an appointment with our Los Angeles vets today.

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