What is an Ear Infection in Cats?
What is it?
How is it Treated?
Ear infections can affect any cat breed ad is typically more common in cats with certain risk factors such as a history of ear infections, allergies, or exposure to other cats with ear infections.
When Oliver, a doting cat owner, noticed his beloved Russian Blue, Leo, persistently shaking his head and scratching his ears, he knew something was wrong. Concerned about Leo’s increasing discomfort, Oliver took him to the veterinarian for an assessment. The vet quickly diagnosed Leo with an ear infection, a common issue faced by cats of all breeds.
Ear infection in cats are common. Cats who suffer from chronic ear infections are less likely to play and interact with other animals. According to Dr. Flanders’ research, approximately 80 percent of white cats with blue eyes will show signs of hearing loss by four days due to cochlear cell death, and sometimes the condition becomes life-threatening. They usually happen after an animal has been exposed to cold air or water. If left untreated, these infections can cause severe damage to the ears.
In most cases, ear infections in cats occur because the cat has developed an allergy to one or more environmental substances. This causes the cat’s immune system to produce antibodies against those substances.
This leads to inflammation of the middle ear space, causing fluid buildup and swelling. As the ear becomes infected, bacteria multiply rapidly, and pus accumulates in the central ear cavity.
Cats’ ears are lined with hair follicles called ceruminous glands. These glands secrete sebum, a waxy substance that helps protect the skin from drying out. However, excessive secretion of sebum can lead to ear problems.
What Causes Ear Infection in Cats?
Ear infections in cats are caused by bacteria, fungi, viruses, parasites, or foreign bodies entering the external auditory canal (EAC). The EAC is located at the top of the head behind the pinnae (outer ears) and contains hair follicles, glands, nerves, and blood vessels. It also has openings in the nasal cavity and sinuses.
Bacteria or ear mites enter the cat’s body through the mouth, nose, eyes, skin, and genitalia. Fungi and parasites enter via the digestive tract. Foreign objects such as toys, jewelry, feathers, and food may cause painful ear infections.
Several factors contribute to ear infections in cats. Some of these include:
- Allergies – An allergic reaction may result in the production of antibodies that attack the lining of the ear canal. This can lead to the thickening of the mucus membrane and blockage of the ear canal.
- Exposure to Cold Air/Water – Many cats suffer seasonal allergies. Cats often develop nasal discharge and sneezing from cold air exposure during winter. This can cause the cat’s ears to become inflamed and swollen.
- Poor Diet – Diets containing too much protein or carbohydrates can trigger an inflammatory response. This can lead to ear infections.
- Stress – Anxiety and stress can weaken the immune system and predispose animals to illness.
Types of Ear Infections in Cats
The most common ear infections in cats are otitis externa and otitis media.
- Otitis externa is an inflammation of the outermost parts of the ear and is usually caused by allergies or a buildup of wax or debris. Symptoms often include head shaking and scratching, redness around the ears, pawing, discharge from the ears, and a yeasty odor.
- Otitis media is an infection of the middle layer of tissue in the ear that usually results from severe otitis externa. In addition to causing pain for your cat, this type often leads to hearing loss if untreated. Symptoms may include difficulty balancing due to loss of equilibrium; a high fever; fatigue; reduced appetite; discharge from the affected ear; inflammation; redness; swelling; or an intense urge to scratch at their ear(s).
Both types require prompt treatment to ensure your cat’s comfort and prevent further damage to its hearing or other organs if left untreated.
What Are the Signs of an Ear Infection in a Cat?
The following symptoms indicate that your cat has signs of an ear infection:
- Ear discharge – A yellowish-green or greenish-yellow liquid from the ear indicates an active infection. In addition, the cat may scratch the affected area.
- Pain when scratching – Scratching at the affected area can be painful.
- Swelling around the ear – The ear may appear red, hot, or swollen, sometimes with a strong odor.
- Soreness around the ear – The cat may have a sore spot on the side of the head near the ear.
- Redness around the eye – There may be a small amount of drainage from the look.
- Fever – Call your vet immediately if your cat has a fever.
- Vomiting – Vomiting may occur if your cat has an earache.
Diagnosis of Feline Ear Infections
To diagnose an ear infection, veterinarians examine the cat’s external ear canal and look for signs of inflammation. They may also perform a physical exam to rule out other conditions that could mimic an ear infection.
Veterinarians often use otoscopes to examine cats’ ears. An otoscope allows them to see the inside of the ear canal and check for signs of inflammation.
They may also perform a physical examination to rule out other conditions. For example, they might look for evidence of foreign bodies or tumors.
An auto-endoscope is used to sample ear debris. Sampling ear debris is done to determine if bacteria are present. This is called culture testing.
Microscopy is another tool veterinarians use to diagnose ear infections. Microscopes allow them to view samples under magnification.
This enables them to detect bacterial growth and distinguish between different types of cells.
Veterinarians recommend treating ear flap infections early to prevent complications. Early treatment of disease is essential. Also, Treatment options vary depending on the severity of the condition. Some cases require antibiotics, while others can be treated with over-the-counter medications.
How to Treat a Cat Ear Infection?
The first thing to consider is whether oral medication, such as antibiotics and anti-parasitic medication is necessary. Antibiotics are typically used to treat bacterial or yeast infections, and while they can be helpful, they aren’t always required. Some cases of ear canals becoming irritated are caused by viruses, and antibiotics won’t help.
Next, look into homeopathic remedies. Homeopathy is based on the principle that like cures like meaning that a substance that causes symptoms similar to another sense can be used to cure the same symptoms. While this method has no scientific backing, it relieves many pet owners.
Homeopathic remedies are usually administered orally, although drops can sometimes be effective. There are several types of homeopathic treatment for feline ear infections, including Bach Rescue Remedy, which contains a mixture of herbs believed to relieve stress and anxiety, and Diflucan, which treats yeast infections.
Other natural methods can be used to treat ear infections. These include applying warm compresses to the ears, placing cotton balls soaked in vinegar inside the ears, and giving oral supplements containing garlic and Echinacea.
While these methods are not guaranteed to work, they can offer relief if something else is needed. For example, garlic can kill bacteria, prevent inflammation, and ease pain. In addition, Echinacea is believed to boost immunity and fight off viral infections.
It’s important to remember that ear infections can be dangerous if they reach the middle ear, so consult your veterinarian if you notice anything unusual. Also, don’t hesitate to contact us for additional information about treating your cat’s ear infection.
Prevention Tips on Ear Infection in Cats
If your cat has an ear infection, the best way to prevent ear infections is to keep your cat’s ears clean. In addition, you should bathe your cat regularly, especially after playing outside or spending a significant amount of time outdoors.
Bathing helps remove dirt from your cat’s coat, including debris that could get stuck in their ears. It also helps wash away oils that help protect against bacteria.
Also, to avoid ear infections in cats, providing your pet with a clean, dry place to sleep is essential. Ensure that the litter box is cleaned daily and that toys are kept away from the sleeping area.
Ensure your cat does not spend extended periods outdoors in cold weather.
Be aware of any changes in your cat’s behavior. If your cat seems stressed or anxious, consult your veterinarian immediately.
When taking your cat to the vet, ask about treatment options. Be sure to discuss possible side effects of medications and treatments. Cause sometimes, my clients think they’ve fully recovered from an ear infection, and I discover at their next checkup that it’s only improved but not completely gone.
Frequently Asked Questions
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