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Ear Infection in Cats: Symptoms & Treatments

Ear Infection in Cats: Symptoms & Treatments

Ear infections aren't common in cats, so when they do occur, they could be a sign of underlying health issues in your kitty. In this post, our San Mateo vets share some of the symptoms, causes and treatments for ear infections in cats.

Ear Infection in Cats

Due to their rare nature, it is very important that you seek veterinary care for your cat as soon as you notice signs of ear infection. Outer ear infections are easily treated but can quickly spread into your cat's middle and inner ear if not promptly tended to. In it's more advanced stages, ear infections can result in hearing loss or bodily health issues.

Causes of Ear Infection in Cats

In general, ear infections in felines are a sign of another underlying health condition (unless they are caused by ear mites, the most common cause of outer ear infection in felines). Cats suffering from weakened immune systems, diabetes, or allergies may be more susceptible to ear infections from otherwise health cats. 

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

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

Signs of Ear infection in Cats

As they could be a sign of something more serious, it is important that cat owners know how to recognize ear infections in their little ones. Signs and symptoms of ear infection in cats 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

Healthy cat ears are pale pink in color and have no visible debris or odor, while infected ears are often red or swollen, or will have an odor. If you notice any of the above symptoms in your cat, contact your vet right away.

How Ear Infections in Cats Are Diagnosed

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, ear mites or yeast are causing the ear infection.

How to Treat Ear Infection in Cats

After diagnosing the infection in your cat's ear, 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.

Treatments for ear infections in cats that are caused by yeast, bacteria or ear mites may include corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics or anti-parasitic medication in ear drop form.

At home it will be important to monitor 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, gently lift the ear flap, then squeeze the solution into the ear canal, massaging the base of the ear to help the medicine work its way into the ear canal.

Early treatment of infections is essential since ear infections can turn chronic and lead to facial paralysis and hearing loss.

Chronic ear infections in cats could be caused by growths, parasites or more. If you find that your cat has a long-lasting ear infection, or reoccurring infections that are painful and irritating, take them to the vet.  Surgery might be necessary to correct the problem and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed the canal.

Preventing Your Cat From Getting an Ear Infection

The best way to prevent an ear infection in your cat is to routinely check their ears for any abnormal coloration, swelling, odor or other signs of infection. This allows you to flag any ear health issues and have them treated at the vet before they can become serious. You can also consult your veterinarian on how to properly clean your cats ears and how frequently you should do so.

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

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.

If your cat is showing signs of ear infection, contact South Hillsdale Animal Hospital as soon as possible. We will be able to identify and treat any ear infection in your feline companion.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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