Ear infections don't often occur in cats but when they do they can be caused by potentially serious conditions. In today's post, our Perry vets talk about some of the possible causes of ear infections in cats, as well as the symptoms and treatments for ear infection in cats.
Ear Infections in Cats
Ear infections in cats are typically uncommon but if your cat does begin to show the symptoms of one then it is important to have them looked at right away to avoid further complications.
A simple outer ear infection can quickly spread to the middle ear and to your kitty's inner ear, which is why it is essential to seek treatment for your cat's ear infection as soon as symptoms arise. If left untreated ear infections in cats can result in hearing loss.
The Most Common Causes of Ear Infection in Cats
Except in the case of ear mites, most ear infections in cats are usually a sign of an underlying health condition. If your cat has a weak immune system, diabetes or allergies they face an increased risk of ear infections compared to cats without these health issues.
Cat ear infections can develop when the lining of the ear canal becomes irritated, leading to inflammation. Inflammation within the ear can lead to excess wax production which in turn creates an environment where the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast grow out of control.
From there further inflammation is likely to occur and itchiness begins, resulting in the most common symptoms of ear infections in cats: ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and repeated head shaking.
Common causes of the outer ear and middle ear infections in cats include:
- Irritants in the environment
- Immune system diseases (FLV or FIV)
- Foreign bodies in the ear canal
- Autoimmune diseases
- Allergies (pollen, food, etc).
- Buildup of wax
- Excessive growth of bacteria, yeast or both
- Thick fur or hair in the ear canal
- Diabetes mellitus
- Polyps or tumors in the ear canal
- Incorrect ear cleaning
- Ruptured eardrum
Outer ear infections are much less common in cats than they are in dogs, but when they do occur these infections can quickly spread to your cat's middle ear or inner ear. Ear mite infestation is the most common cause of outer ear infections in cats.
The Most Common Symptoms of Ear Infections in Cats
If your feline friend is rubbing their ear or looking otherwise uncomfortable, your pet may have an ear infection. Other common symptoms of ear infection that your cat might display include:
- Ear discharge resembling coffee grounds
- Yellowish or black discharge
- Head tilting
- Swelling or redness in the ear canal
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
- Waxy buildup near or on the canal
- Swelling or redness of the ear flap
- Strong odor from the ear
Healthy cat ears are pale pink in color and have no visible debris, or odor, and very little wax buildup. When a cat's ear becomes infected they are often red or swollen, or will have an odor.
How Ear Infections in Cats Are Diagnosed
Your vet will start by examining your cat’s ear canal, then taking a sample of ear debris to examine under a microscope to determine whether bacteria, yeast, or ear mites are causing the problem with your cat's ear.
Bringing your kitty in to see our vets at Perry Animal Hospital for routine wellness exams provides your vet with an opportunity to monitor the health of your kitty's ears on a regular basis.
Wellness exams mean that your vet may be able to detect early signs of health issues, including ear infections before they develop into more serious health concerns. Our animal hospital also has an in-house lab that allows us to perform any tests required and receive results quickly so that your feline friend's treatment can begin as quickly as possible.
How Ear Infection in Cats Are Typically Treated
Treatment for feline ear infections typically starts with your vet clipping the fur around your cat’s ear canal in order to help keep the area clean and dry.
If the infection has reached the middle ear but the eardrum has not yet been infected, oral or injectable antibiotics may be used to help clear up the infection.
For ear mites, a bacterial ear infection in cats or yeast infection in cats, treatment with corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics or anti-parasitic in-ear drops may be prescribed by your vet.
Treatment at home for your kitty's ear infection involves monitoring 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, simply lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal, gently massaging the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way deeper into the ear.
Early treatment is the key to preventing chronic ear infections that could lead to severe issues such as facial paralysis and hearing loss for your kitty.
Causes of Chronic Ear Infection in Cats
Chronic ear infection in cats can be caused by a number of issues including growths, allergies, or parasites. If you find that your cat has a long-lasting or recurring ear infection that’s making their ears itchy or painful, discuss this problem with your veterinarian, as they may be able to prescribe a medication to help reduce tissue swelling inside the canal.
Surgery may be required in some rare cases to correct ear issues and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed your cat's ear canal.
How You Can Prevent Ear Infections In Cats
While there may be no way to prevent an ear infection you can take steps to catch the signs of an ear infection early so that treatment can begin before symptoms become more severe. Regularly check your cat's ears to ensure there’s no odor, residue, redness, swelling or other symptoms. Be sure to have any issues treated before they worsen, and ask your vet to show you how to correctly clean your cat’s ears.
Do not insert cleaning devices into your cat’s ear canal unless your vet has specifically told you to do so, and shown you how to clean your cat's ears safely.
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.