Cat Ear Infection

Recognizing the signs of a cat ear infection and knowing how to prevent them through good hygiene habits are important factors in cat health. An ear problem that is left untreated can lead to serious hearing and health problems, including the possibility of permanent damage to the inner and middle ear, loss of hearing, neurological problems and problems with balance.

Cat Ear Infection Symptoms

  • Redness, as opposed to a healthy light pink color, around the inner ear flap and ear canal
  • Itching and pawing at the ear(s)
  • Head shaking
  • Discharge or debris, which can be discolored or bloody
  • Odor
  • Ear pain
  • Inflammation

More serious symptoms that can develop as an infection worsens include:

  • Tilted head
  • Circling
  • Facial paralysis, which may cause drooling, drooping facial muscles and problems with swallowing

Causes of Feline Ear Infections

A cat ear infection can occur in the outer, middle or inner ear, and can be caused by:

  • Bacterial infections: Bacteria and yeast are found in cats' ears, but if left unclean and allowed to grow in a moist, warm environment, infections can occur and spread from the outer ear to the middle and inner ear.
  • Yeast infections: A common cause of ear infections, excessive yeast (as mentioned above) often results in ear problems.
  • Mites: Ear mites, which are very contagious, commonly cause infections and must be diagnosed by a veterinarian. One main sign that your cat has mites and not merely an infection is the appearance of dried blood, which looks like coffee grounds, in the outer ear.
  • Allergies: Cats with allergies can be prone to ear infections due to their sensitivity to environmental surroundings like allergens, or food allergies. Ear infections are often an early sign of allergy problems, so if your cat has chronic ear problems, allergies may be the cause.
  • Hormones: Changes in hormonal balance often causes skin and ear health problems, including ear infections.
  • Foreign objects: If a foreign body becomes lodged in your cat's ear, an infection can result from this irritation and possible blockage of the ear canal.

Treatment Options

The initial symptoms of an ear infection can generally be treated easily by a veterinarian, and may require antibiotics or anti-fungals for bacteria and yeast infections, respectively. An ear cleaning solution may also be prescribed. Your cat may have to be sedated in order to be examined, especially if he is in a large amount of pain or needs to have a foreign object removed from the ear. Tell your veterinarian if your cat's ear infection is a chronic problem in order to explore any underlying medical problems. Natural and herbal remedies are also available, but always discuss these treatments with your vet.

Preventing Cat Ear Infections

Good ear hygiene is an essential part of cat health care, and owners should start examining their kitten's ears at 8 weeks of age, on a weekly basis. By starting when your cat is young, he will be comfortable having his ears examined and start a healthy routine to prevent infections. Ask your vet about gentle ear cleansing solutions and ear cleaning methods to use at home. Don't clean the ears too often, because this can cause problems as well.