Ear infections are very common in cats. Cats can get a few different types of ear infections (other than ear mites). They can get infections due to a bacteria or fungi; this type is generally called Otitis Externa. They can also get ear infections caused by yeast cells in the ear.
Generally an ear infection occurs when bacteria or yeast from outside the ear work its way into an already weakened ear canal. The canal may have become weakened and lost some of its ability to fight infection for a variety of reasons including allergies, skin disease, skin conditions, foreign bodies in the ear, mites, tumors, middle ear infections, wetness, or injury from scratches or bites.
Symptoms to look for:
- Dark waxy discharge
- Bad odor
- Blood or pus
- Inflammation or redness
- Frequent scratching
- Excessive shaking of the head
Your vet will first examine the ear discharge to rule out ear mites as the cause of the infection. This will be done using an otoscope. A culture and cytology may also be used to detect yeast and/or the type of bacteria involved. Any medication given needs to reach the ‘root’ of the problem so the first step will be to clean out as much of the debris and wax as possible. Your vet will do this initial cleaning either on the examination table or (depending on the severity of the debris and the demeanor of your cat) under general anesthesia. Then the ears will be cleaned thoroughly with a disinfectant solution. Your cat will then be sent home with ear drops that should be massaged into the cat’s ears and antibiotics that may be given orally.
If you suspect your cat has an ear infection take him/her to the vet immediately, left untreated an infection can cause the eardrum to rupture. This can cause middle ear infection, deafness, and balance problems. Continual shaking of the head may cause a blood blister to develop in the ear flap which must be surgically corrected.
Keep your cat’s ears clean (although don’t overclean as excessive cleaning can actually be a predisposition to otitis externa). Also make sure the ear canals are dried thoroughly after each bath. And lastly, as allergies are one of the primary causes of ear infections, make sure you pet is treated for any allergy as soon as he/she starts itching.
One last thing, do not clean deep into your cat’s ear canal with a Q-Tip® or any other sort of applicator. Cats have a tendency to jerk and move quite a bit while getting their ears cleaned and you don’t want to take the chance of poking your cat’s inner ear or damaging the ear canal. Instead use a vet-approved ear cleaner on a cotton ball to wipe the inside of the ear clean.