Ear Infections In Cats

Although ear infections aren't as common in cats as in dogs, they do occur! They can indicate an underlying health issue, and today our Monroe team shares some of the causes, symptoms and treatments for ear infections in cats. 

Ear Infection in Cats

While relatively uncommon, ear infections can occur in cats, and when they do the underlying cause can be serious. This is why it's important to seek treatment for your cat's ear infection as early as possible. An uncomplicated outer ear infection can quickly spread to the middle ear and beyond, leading to more serious and painful inner ear infections in cats.

Causes Of Ear Infection In Cats

Commonly, ear mites are the culprit behind feline ear infections. If your cat suffers has a weak immune system, allergies, or diabetes, they are likely to be more prone to developing ear infections than cats in good health.

Your cat could have issues stemming from an ear infection if the skin of their ear canal becomes irritated and inflamed, which causes excess wax production and creates an environment where the naturally occurring bacteria and yeast begin to grow out of control making your cat's ears itchy and uncomfortable. At that point symptoms such as ear rubbing, scratching, clawing and headshaking are likely to occur.

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

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

Signs Of Ear Infections In Cats

If your cat is showing signs of discomfort, such as pawing at their ear, they may be developing an ear infection. Healthy ears are pale pink in color with no signs of waxy buildup or odor. Infected ears are often red or swollen, or will have a musty odor. Other symptoms your cat may display if they have an ear infection include:

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

Diagnosing Ear Infections In Cats

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, yeast, or ear mites are causing the issue.

How To Treat Ear Infection In Cats

Luckily, treating cat ear infections is fairly straightforward. First, your veterinarian might 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 has not affected the eardrum, your veterinarian can give your cat oral or injectable antibiotics.

If there is an ear mite, bacterial, or yeast ear infection in your cat's ear treatment may include corticosteroids, antifungals, antibiotics or anti-parasitics in the form of eardrops.

It will be important to monitor the condition of your cat's ears regularly to check that the interior of the ear flap is clean and that the canal is clear. If your vet has prescribed eardrops, 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 infections can turn chronic and may even lead to facial paralysis or hearing loss.

Chronic Ear Feline Infections

Chronic ear infections in cats could be the cause of growths, allergies, parasites and more. If your kitty has a long-lasting or recurring ear infection that’s making their ears itchy or painful, speak to your veterinarian. Your vet may be able to prescribe medication to help reduce tissue swelling inside the canal.

Although rare, in some cases surgery may be necessary to correct the problem and remove swollen tissue that has blocked or narrowed the canal.

How To Prevent Ear Infections In Cats

You can help your cat to avoid the pain of an ear infection by regularly checking their ears for odor, residue, redness, swelling or other symptoms. Be sure to have any issues treated early before they worsen, and ask your vet to show you how to correctly clean your cat’s ears - or bring your feline friend to the vet for regular cleanings.

Never insert cleaning devices into your cat’s ear canal unless your vet instructs you to do so.

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 feline friend is experiencing discomfort or other signs of ear infection, get in touch with our Monroe veterinary team to book an appointment. Our experienced vet team is ready to help your cat feel their best.