If you're concerned about ear infections in cats or think your feline friend might have one, I've asked Petcube's licensed and qualified vets all the questions you need answers to. Also known as otitis externa, it’s a complex condition that’s much easier to prevent than treat or cure. From symptoms to treatments and everything in between, here's the real deal when it comes to feline ear infections.
- Causes of Ear Infections in Cats
- Symptoms of Ear Infections in Cats
- How Can Feline Ear Infections Be Treated at Home
- Ear Infections in Cats: When to Call a Vet
Causes of Ear Infections in Cats
Some breeds of cats are more prone to getting ear infections than others — the ones that have unusual-shaped ears, such as Scottish folds. There are several other reasons why your cat might suffer from an ear infection. These include:
- Foreign objects inside the ear;
- Ear mites;
- Ear growths (tumorous or benign);
- Autoimmune conditions;
- Feline leukemia virus (FLV)
- Ruptured eardrum;
- Trauma or injury to the ear;
- Skin conditions;
- Diabetes mellitus;
- And more.
Individually and/or combined, the above-listed medical complaints create an environment where yeast and bacteria thrive, which is what causes the infection. These can occur in any of the three parts of the ear: the inner, middle, or outer ear.
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Symptoms of Ear Infections in Cats
The placement of the feline ear infection will play a big part in the symptoms you're able to observe in person and through your interactive Petcube pet camera when you're not around. Inner and middle ear infections can show very few symptoms at first. Outer ear infections are more obvious.
Your cat will show obvious signs of distress or irritation in the ear area, which will bring symptoms such as:
- Scratching around the affected ear(s);
- Shaking their head;
- Rubbing the ears against carpet, couches, etc.;
- The ear feels hot;
- Swelling in and/or around the ear;
- An odd smell coming from the ear;
- Ear drooping;
- Wax buildup;
- Blood in or around the ear.
Inner and middle ear infections can come with many of the same symptoms but can also cause balance issues, unusual eye movements, and a head that tilts to one side. This is usually the side effect of the infection.
As with any medical issue that makes your poor pet feel physically unwell, ear infections can make a cat very grumpy, might put them off food or water, and may even make them snap or act unusually aggressively towards you.
How Can Feline Ear Infections Be Treated at Home
According to the National Institutes of Health study, in many cases, ear infections cannot be treated at home. They will often need antibiotics, anti-parasite treatments, or anti-fungal treatments to get them right, and your vet may also prescribe anti-inflammatories to reduce swelling, pain relief, and steroids. Most of these treatments are not available without being prescribed by a vet.
If the ear infection has been caused by other medical issues, treating the infection alone will not resolve it. One example of this is mites. Without treatment for mites specifically, infections will keep coming back. Both the ear infection and the mites (or other underlying causes) must be diagnosed and treated, which can only be done by a vet.
Human over-the-counter medications and treatments are not suitable for cat (or other animal) use.
Ear Infections in Cats: When to Call a Vet
It is always a good idea to contact your vet whenever you notice anything strange or unusual with your cat companion. You will know what's usual for your pet, so when you notice something outside of that, always seek professional advice. You can contact Petcube's licensed and qualified vets 24/7 with this problem or even subscribe to the Petcube Emergency Fund Service. This is a U.S. service designed to protect your pet in the case of an emergency.
This type of medical complaint is much easier and cheaper to treat in its earliest stages. If you ignore the symptoms, the condition can get much worse, extend to complications (including permanent hearing loss), and cost a great deal in vet treatments and ongoing care. Ear infections do not usually go away by themselves.
How to clean kittens' ears?
It is best to get your kitten used to the sensation of getting their ears cleaned because they may not tolerate it as they get older. Every four or five weeks, use a kitten-safe wash on a piece of cotton wool and wipe over the inside and outside of the ears. If you’re concerned about doing them, especially while they’re young, ask a vet to show you how to do it.
Read more: How To Clean Your Dog's Ears?
How to check for ear mites in cats
One of the biggest symptoms of ear mites in cats to look out for are little brown or black bits. It almost looks as though your cat has rolled in coffee grounds. Scratching will also be a very early symptom because of the irritation mites cause, and you may also notice issues as a result of the scratching: redness, sores, bleeding, and swelling.
Can indoor cats get ear mites?
Ear mites are more common in outdoor cats, but that doesn't mean that indoor cats can't get them. They can and regularly do get ear mites, too. Those pesky bugs always seem to find a way in.
In houses where outdoor and indoor cats live together, outdoor kitties can bring them home to their indoor counterparts.
Any infection will cause your feline friend unnecessary harm and discomfort if it is not treated, and this is the case with ear infections. As well as causing permanent hearing loss, inner and middle ear infections can spread to the jaw and other parts of the face. If this is ignored, it can be fatal.
If you notice any strange symptoms or behaviors in your pet, always seek advice from a vet.
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