Ear Infections in Cats: Causes, Treatment, and Prevention

Cats don’t suffer ear infections very often, but when they do, the cause can be difficult to figure out.

If your vet has ruled out ear mites as the cause of your cat’s outer or middle ear infection, they’ll have to conduct some detective work to figure out what’s causing the infection. It could be caused by allergies, a tumour, or something stuck in the ear canal.

The first step in diagnosing the disease is to use an otoscope to look into the ear canal. The ear waste is then examined under a microscope to see if it contains yeast, bacteria, or ear mites. Further testing may include anesthesia or X-rays, although ear infections are usually simple to cure. The most common therapies include antibiotics, antiparasitics, antifungals, and corticosteroids.

What’s most important is that you take your cat to the vet as soon as you see signs of ear pain. Chronic ear infections can result in hearing and facial paralysis.

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What Causes Cat Ear Infections?

Ear infections are usually a secondary issue unless your cat has picked up mites from another animal. That suggests they’re the outcome of another underlying medical condition.

External ear infections, also known as otitis externa, and middle ear infections, also known as otitis media, have several contributory causes and perpetuating factors:

  • An overgrowth of yeast or bacteria, or often, both
  • Wax buildup in the ear canal
  • Thick hair in the ear canal
  • Allergies such as food or pollen
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Tumors/polyps within the ear canal
  • Ruptured eardrum
  • Improper ear cleaning
  • Foreign bodies such as bristle from grass
  • Environmental irritants
  • Diabetes mellitus
  • Immune suppressing diseases like FIV or feline leukemia virus

Infections in the middle ear are typically caused by an infection that has moved from the outer ear canal to the middle ear.

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What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection in a Cat?

Scratching or pawing at their ear, or shaking or turning their head in the direction of the sore ear, is how a cat expresses his displeasure. Other signs to keep an eye out for are:

  • Black or yellowish discharge
  • Redness or swelling of the ear flap or ear canal
  • Waxy buildup on or near the ear canal
  • Discharge from the ear that resembles coffee grounds (a symptom of ear mites)
  • Strong odor
  • Hearing loss
  • Loss of balance or disorientation

If your cat has ear mites or a yeast or bacterial infection, your veterinarian will treat it with anti-parasitics, antifungals, or antibiotics, as needed. All of these are available as ointment or airdrops.

If the eardrum is healthy but the infection has spread to the middle ear, the veterinarian may give antibiotics, either oral or injectable.

To begin treatment, your veterinarian may trim the fur around the cat’s ear canal to aid cleaning and drying.

Continue to inspect your cat’s ear at home to make sure the inside of the ear flap is pink and the canal is clear. If you’ve been given ear drops, gently lift the ear flap and squeeze the liquid into the ear canal. To help the medicine make its way into the ear canal, gently massage the base of the ear.

If your cat has recurring ear infections, your veterinarian may prescribe medicine to help reduce swelling in the ear canal. Swollen tissue that has restricted or closed the ear canal may require surgery to remove.

Are Certain Cats More Susceptible to Ear Infection?

Ear infections are more common in cats with diabetes, allergies, or a chronic condition.

Is it Possible to Prevent Cat Ear Infections?

The easiest approach to avoid another painful ear infection is to check the ear for redness, debris, or odor on a regular basis. Ears that are healthy are pale pink, with no visible dirt or odor, and little or no ear wax. You can detect a probable ear infection early and treat it before it progresses by checking your ears on a regular basis. It’s preferable if your veterinarian shows you how to clean your cat’s ear or cleans it for you. Never put a cleaning equipment into the ear canal unless your veterinarian has told you to.

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