Does My Cat Have an Ear Infection? How to Treat It and Stop It from Happening Again
Ear infections in cats aren’t extremely common, but they do happen! If you believe your cat is suffering from one, here’s what you need to know about the signs and symptoms, treatment, and prevention of cat ear infections.
What Causes Ear Infections in Cats?
Ear infections are common in people, especially children. Ear infections in cats, however, are rare. If your cat does get one, it will most likely happen in the outer ear (otitis externa) rather than the inner ear (otitis media).
A cat’s ear infection can be caused by a few different things, including:
Mites are a common cause: They’re responsible for approximately 50% of all ear infection cases in felines. The parasite is most often found in kittens, but it’s highly contagious among cats, meaning mites can quickly get around in animal shelters. This is one reason getting your new cat checked out as quickly as possible after adopting is a good idea. Another reason is that mites are so small you won’t be able to see them with the naked eye, and a vet can identify them.
An abscess caused by a bite, scratch, or other injury could result in an infection.
It may surprise you, but cats can have allergies just like humans. An allergic reaction resulting in an ear infection can be caused by food, pollen, enviornmental irritants, or another source.
There are quite a few other, less common reasons your cat could be suffering from an ear infection:
- Foreign bodies (like a blade of grass)
- Growth in the ear canal – This could be a tumor or polyp
- Buildup of wax
- Trapped water
- Reaction to medication
- Improper cleaning
- Other underlying medical conditions, such as: diabetes, autoimmune diseases (FIV), ruptured eardrum
Signs and Symptoms of Ear Infections in Cats
There are several signs of a potential ear infection in cats. The most obvious being constant head shaking, scratching, or pawing at the ear. But you should also be on the lookout for:
- A strong odor
- Hearing loss
- Loss of balance
- Discharge that could be black, yellow, or resemble coffee grounds (ear mites)
- Tilting her head
- Redness around the ear
- Uneven pupil size
- Discomfort when you scratch around her ears
- Injury due to constant scratching of her ear
If you notice your cat is shaking her head a lot, has a head tilt, paws at her ears, or causes wounds due to constant scratching, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian.
How Are Ear Infections in Cats Treated?
If you notice the signs of a potential ear infection in your cat, contact a veterinarian right away. Left untreated, an ear infection could lead to consequences for your pet’s hearing or even require surgery to correct.
Treatment for a feline ear infection depends on the cause of the problem. Your vet may recommend:
- A combination of these
These remedies are available as:
- Ear drops
- Oral medication
Your vet may trim some of the fur around your cat’s ear to help ensure water isn’t being trapped inside and the ear is easier to clean.
In severe cases, where your cat is suffering from chronic infections, the vet may recommend surgery. This will either remove swollen tissue that’s causing the infection or open a closed ear canal. If the veterinarian finds your cat has an inner ear infection, fluid therapy, medications, and a thorough ear cleaning that may require anesthesia might be suggested.
If the underlying cause of the infection was ear mites, and you have other felines at home, ask your veterinarian about prevention for your other cats.
Can You Prevent Ear Infections?
The best preventive care for ear infections is regularly checking the ears. Investigate for redness, discharge, and odors. A healthy ear will have minimal ear wax and appear as a pale pink. If you notice any signs of an ear infection, bring your feline friend to the veterinarian as soon as possible to get treatment before it worsens.
If your cat struggles to clean her ears, you might want to discuss options with the vet. Never use a cleaning solution or cleaning product (such as a cotton swab) on your cat without first talking to a vet.
Ear infections in cats aren’t very common, but you should still be vigilant about your cat’s ears and overall health. Mites, allergies, and other underlying conditions can cause ear problems as well as infections and discomfort for your pet. If you believe your cat has an ear infection, contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.
If you notice an odor or discharge coming from your cat’s ears, it’s time to call a veterinarian. We can help get to the bottom of the ear infection in a safe and comfortable environment, and offer treatment options. To schedule an appointment, call 281-693-7387.
The Team @ Cinco Ranch Veterinary Hospital
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