Cat Ear Infection Symptoms

A cat ear infection occurs when the inner canal of the ear becomes infected by a bacterial or fungal organism. While ear infections are not particularly common in cats, they are very painful for your cat when they do occur. In extreme untreated cases, the infection of the ear can spread to the brain and cause tremendous problems. However, because that type of scenario is rare, most cases of ear infection are easily detected and treated promptly.

Identifying an Ear Infection

While your cat will display some range of symptoms to tell you that something is wrong with his ears, a cat ear infection is often mistaken by owners as an ear mite infection, and is treated over the counter. The difference with an ear mite infection is that it is actually caused by a parasite and does not usually enter the inner canal of the ear. In this case, the cat owner will see no sign of improvement with over the counter medication. By this time, the infection has usually progressed into a painful situation for the cat.

For this reason, it is important to be informed about the signs of a cat ear infection and to understand that any of the symptoms should prompt suspicion of a medical condition. Some of the signs to look for include:

  • Consistent shaking of head, as if trying to get something out of the ear
  • Scratching at the ear
  • Meowing in pain while scratching at the ear
  • Loss of coordination or not being able to walk straight
  • Swelling and redness of the ear
  • Discharge from the ear

Diagnosing Infection

The first thing that needs to be done is a diagnosis to determine which type of bacteria has caused the infection. It may sound like a simple ear infection could be treated with a basic antibiotic, but the type of bacteria will determine which antibiotic will be effective at getting rid of it.

A process called cytology is used to determine the type of bacteria that is infecting your cat's ear. Using cytology, a sample of the infection from the ear can be taken and examined under microscope. Cytology will also determine if the infection is bacterial or fungal.

Treating an Ear Infection

Once the type of bacteria has been detected, the treatment process can begin. Treatment of a cat ear infection is directly related to not only the type of bacteria present, but also to the severity of the condition. When the infection is extremely severe and painful, your cat may have to be put under anaesthetic so that a large portion of the infection can be drained from the ear before treatment can progress. This procedure is most commonly used when there is an excessive amount of infection and a prescription for antibiotics will not be effective at killing all of it.

After that, a few antibiotics will probably be chosen for the treatment of infection. Another medication for pain and swelling may also be given to help reduce the sensitivity of your cat's ears until the infection heals.