Most of the time, cats are fairly independent and self-sufficient; they clean themselves and look after their own grooming and are generally pretty healthy. However, just like any other pet, they can develop illnesses and infections at some point. One such infection you may not have thought much about in cats is an ear infection. Ear infections are not an especially common occurrence in cats, which can be a reason that they tend to get quite severe before most owners seek out treatment. Get to know some of the facts about ear infections and your cat. Then, you can be sure to get your cat to the veterinarian right away if they develop ear infection symptoms.
Ear Infections in Cats Are Often Secondary Infections
One of the facts about ear infections in cats that differ from canine or even human ear infections is that most feline ear infections are secondary infections. This means that the ear infection develops as the result of another health issue or condition. For example, ear mites—a parasite that takes up residence in the ear—are the most common cause of ear infections in cats. Other possible primary causes of feline ear infections include debris in the ear canal, a tumor in or near the ear, a reaction to medication, or general allergies.
Veterinarians must often isolate the primary cause of the ear infection in order to best treat it. Otherwise, the ear infection would keep coming back because the primary culprit was left untreated.
There Are Many Signs of Feline Ear Infections
In most feline ear infections, the most easily recognizable sign or symptom of the condition is unusual ear discharge. If your cat's ears have blackish or yellowish discharge or debris on them, they likely have some kind of infection. Darker, crusty debris on the outer ear or into the ear canal is often an indicator of ear mites. Greasier yellowish or dark brown earwax may be signs of a different ear infection cause like allergies or large debris in the ear canal.
Other signs of feline ear infections include increased scratching of the ears, head shaking, redness and swelling in or around the ear, and an intense odor emanating from the ears. If an ear infection becomes severe or affects the middle or inner ear, your cat may also begin to have trouble with their balance or coordination.
Treatments for Feline Ear Infections
The treatment for feline ear infections will depend on the cause. If a large piece of debris is in the ear canal, removing it can often be the first step in relief. For ear mites, your cat's ears will need to be thoroughly cleaned and they will require anti-parasitic medications and treatments. If you have other cats or dogs in your household, they too will need to be treated for ear mites as they are highly contagious.
When allergies are to blame for feline ear infections, your cat can begin to take a daily antihistamine to help reduce their allergy symptoms and, in turn, reduce irritation in their ears. Once all of these primary conditions are identified and treatments prescribed, your veterinarian will also likely prescribe antibiotic ear drops, creams, or oral medication to help eradicate the secondary ear infection.
Knowing these facts about ear infections and your cat, you can get them to the vet at the first sign of an ear infection.