Ear infections are a pretty uncommon occurrence in cats. When they do arise in our feline friends, however, they may be an indication of an underlying issue that may require some veterinary attention. Here, our Union City vets explain some of the symptoms, causes and treatments for ear infections in cats. 

Ear Infection in Cats

Ear infections are uncommon in cats but when they do strike the underlying cause can be serious.

As a result, cat parents must seek treatment for their kitty's ear infections as soon as possible. An easily treated outer ear infection can quickly spread to your cat's middle and inner ears. Ear infections in cats can cause hearing loss if not treated promptly.

Causes of Ear Infection in Cats

In cats, ear infections are generally a sign of underlying health issues unless your cat has contracted ear mites. Cats suffering from a weakened immune system, allergies or diabetes will be more susceptible to ear infections than kitties without these health issues. 

When the skin lining your cat's ear canal becomes inflamed and irritated, it can lead to an ear infection. This will result in an increase in wax production and the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast in their ear canals becoming out of control.

At that point itchiness and discomfort are likely to occur, causing an itch-scratch cycle which in turn leads to common ear infection symptoms such as ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and headshaking.

The following are some of the most common causes of external (outer) and middle ear (otus media) infections in our feline companions:

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

Outer ear infections (otitis externa) are not as common in cats as they are in dogs but when they do occur they can spread quickly to the middle ear (media) or inner ear (interna) if left untreated. Ear mite infestation is the most common cause of outer ear infections in cats.

Signs of Ear infection in Cats

If you notice your cat pawing at their ears or otherwise looking uneasy, they may be suffering from an ear infection. Other ear infection symptoms that your cat may exhibit are:

  • Hearing loss
  • Disorientation
  • Yellowish or black discharge
  • Ear discharge resembling coffee grounds
  • Swelling or redness in the ear canal
  • Head tilting
  • Strong odor
  • Waxy buildup near or on the canal
  • Swelling or redness of the ear flap
  • Loss of balance

While healthy ears are pale pink in color and have no visible debris or odor, and minimal or no wax, infected ears are often red or swollen, or will have an odor.

How Ear Infections in Cats Are Diagnosed

Your cat's ear canal will first be examined by your veterinarian, who will then take a sample of the earwax to examine under a microscope to see if yeast, mites, or bacteria are the problem.

How to Treat Ear Infection in Cats

Treatment for feline ear infections is generally straightforward. To begin your veterinarian may clip the fur around your kitty’s ear canal to help keep it clean and dry.

Treatment, If your cat's infection has reached their inner ear but their eardrum is untouched, is normally oral or injectable antibiotics to help clear up the infection. 

The treatments for ear infections in cats caused by yeast, mites or bacteria may include antifungals, anti-parasitics, antibiotics or other medications in ear drop form. 

At home, it's crucial to keep an eye on the health of your cat's ears to make sure the ear flap is clean and the canal is clear. If your veterinarian has prescribed ear drops, gently lift the ear flap before squeezing the solution into the ear canal. Massage the base of the ear to help the medication enter 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 Infection in Cats

It's possible that growths, parasites, allergies, and other conditions are to blame for your cat's recurrent ear infections. Speak with your vet if you notice that your cat has persistent or recurrent ear infections. If your cat's ear canals are swollen, your veterinarian might be able to prescribe medicine to help.

Surgery will be necessary to correct the problem and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed the canal, but this is rare.

Preventing Your Cat From Getting an Ear Infection

The most effective way to prevent painful ear infections in your cat is to check their ears on a regular basis to ensure there is no odor, residue, redness, swelling, or other symptoms. Make sure any problems are diagnosed and treated as soon as possible, and ask your Union City vet to show you how to properly clean your cat's ears.

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.

Is your cat showing signs of an ear infection? Contact Reelfoot Animal Hospital today to book an appointment. Our veterinary team is here to help your feline friend