Common Ear Infections In Cats

Ilana Reisner
by Ilana Reisner
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Inflammation of the external ear canal, also known as otitis externa, is one of the most common reasons for visits to the veterinarian.

It is not unusual for cats to suffer from chronic ear infections over the course of months or even years. Affected cats often have underlying problems in their ears that lead to secondary infections. Any cat with ongoing ear infections should be assessed for middle ear problems, polyps, ear mites and even tumors. Allergies and other systemic disorders may also lead, indirectly, to otitis.

Keep in mind that ear mites are a serious condition, and treatment should not be delayed. Ear mites cause your cat extreme discomfort, and can cause secondary infections and affect the cat's hearing.

Most cats with inflamed or infected ears look and act uncomfortable: They scratch their ears repeatedly, tilt or shake their heads, and may have a lop-sided appearance because of the painful ear. The external ear canal itself is often filled with fluid and debris. A diagnosis may require thorough ear-cleaning under anesthesia, saving the cat a great deal of discomfort. Cats who scratch and shake their heads relentlessly may break small blood vessels within the external ear flap, or pinna, leading to dramatic swelling known as an aural hematoma. Clearly, if your cat shows some discomfort or swelling in or on her ear, she should be seen by a veterinarian.

Treatment for otitis may be as simple as applying a few drops of ear medicine daily, or as involved as pursuing the cause of an allergy or addressing an underlying disease. Because each animal's situation is different, your veterinarian will outline a treatment plan targeted specifically for your pet. With careful management, you can help resolve today's infection and prevent it from recurring.