Common Causes and Treatment for Ear Infections in Cats

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Common Causes and Treatment for Ear Infections in Cats

Compared to other domestic animals, cats do not commonly suffer from ear infections. When this happens, mites are usually responsible, but there can be other causes, such as bacteria and fungi. While diagnosis and treatment should come only from pet specialists, those who own a cat with signs of ear disease may need guidance on what to do. That is why we will focus the following paragraphs on offering all the necessary information to guide you in the correct steps to take to help your feline friend.

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What types of infections can cats develop in their ear canal?

When the discomfort is centered in the outer ear, the diagnosis is usually external otitis (infection of the external ear canal). The most common cause for this in cats is ear mites.

When infection occurs in or under the eardrum, the condition is called otitis media. And when infection occurs in the inner ear, where the organ responsible for balance is located, it is called otitis interna. Although it is not a rule, bacteria and fungi tend to stay in the inner part of the ear.

Common Causes of Ear Infection in Cats

As in humans, almost any cat can experience otitis at some point in its life. And although it’s pretty rare, it certainly can happen. Therefore, it’s a good idea to be prepared so that it doesn’t recur in the future. To help, we’ll talk about the behaviors or circumstances that increase the risk of contracting fungal or bacterial ear infections.

Mainly, contact with dirty surfaces, garbage, spoiled food, or other infected animals can increase the risk of catching these pathogens.

Also, non-healing and untreated scratches in the ear area can be another cause of infection. And we cannot fail to mention the exposure to irritants (such as certain medications, UV light, and cleaning products), which can produce external or internal injuries with risk of infection.

However, other pre-existing conditions could also make some domestic felines more vulnerable to these types of infections. These include diabetes mellitus, feline leukemia virus (FIV), tumors within the ear canal, allergies to pollen or certain foods, and other autoimmune diseases.

Ear Infection Symptoms in Cats

When a sick cat shows behavioral changes that are obvious to its caregiver, it is a sign that something out of the ordinary is going on. While they tend to run their tongue over their fur a few times a day to clean themselves, scratching or kicking their ears frequently can be early signs of infection.

If you suspect that your cat has an ear infection, the quickest way to verify it is by taking him to the vet. But before doing that, you could do a check-up at home to make sure that the symptoms coincide with those presented below:

  • Accumulation of earwax in the ear canal.
  • Black or yellowish discharge inside the ear canal.
  • Presence of thick and accumulated fur inside the ear canal.
  • Redness or swelling of the ear or ear canal.
  • Strong and unpleasant odor at the level of the ears and inside the ear canal.
  • Loss of ability to hear. In these cases, cats can react late to auditory stimuli.
  • Loss of balance. This indicates infection in the inner ear, which is also responsible for regulating the cat's balance.

How do you know if a cat has an ear infection caused by fungi or bacteria?

If, after your own review, you have decided to take your cat to the vet, they will do more specific tests to reach a diagnosis. This is what you should expect in a typical vet visit:

The vet will use an instrument called an otoscope to look into the ear canal and possibly take samples. After they are collected, your vet will take them to a microscope to perform the appropriate tests and determine if they are yeast, bacteria, or common mites.

How to Treat Ear Infections in Cats

If the diagnosis is positive for ear infection, your vet will prescribe appropriate medication to treat bacteria, fungi, or mites. Pain and anti-inflammatory medication may also be recommended. Unfortunately, natural remedies are not typically helpful in these situations and can cause more harm than good. Certain medications and ear treatments can actually cause deafness if there is an injury to the eardrum.

Can cats recover from ear infections?

Fortunately, cats are very hardy animals, and ear infections are rarely life-threatening. In general, the prognosis is very favorable, as long as they receive adequate and timely medical attention and treatments.

It is also important to note that ear infections caused by fungi and bacteria can become chronic in cats. Over time, these can cause deafness and even facial paralysis. That is why cat owners and caregivers must follow the specialist's instructions exactly as indicated when they receive a diagnosis of this type.

Tips to Prevent Future Ear Infections

Remember that infection with bacteria or fungi can result from the accumulation of organic matter or something else in the ear canal. So hygiene, including that of the ears, is essential to prevent future infections.

Cats are usually very clean creatures, but they still need a bath every so often to kill germs that stick to their most exposed areas, such as their ears.

In addition, if you know or suspect that your cat suffers from any of the diseases mentioned above, you should intensify the care. Keeping it in check with a vet could help diagnose bacteria and fungi early and prevent complications.

Read more:

10 Cool and Interesting Facts About Your Cat’s Ears

Swelling of the Ear (Aural Hematoma) in Cats and Dogs

How to Examine Your Pet at Home: A Step-By-Step Guide

Need to speak with a veterinarian regarding your cat’s ear infection or another condition?

Click here to schedule a video consult to speak to one of our vets. You can also download the FirstVet app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Stores.

Published: 10/4/2021
Last updated: 10/5/2021

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