Pet Tips

Ear Problems in Cats – Pet tip 104

Just like humans, cats can have the occasional problem with their ears and just like humans their internal ears (their ear canals) are made up of three sections; the outer or external ear, the middle ear and inner ear. Infection or inflammation of any of the 3 parts of the ear is commonly referred to as otitis which is a very broad term and has a multitude of causes and subsequent treatments. Depending on the exact nature of the problem, the treatments for otitis can include antibiotics, ear drops and even surgery.

Since the external ear is the part of the ear that is most in direct contact with the outside world, it is quite common for the soft tissue of the external ear canal to become inflamed. This condition is called otitis externa and common reasons for it include infections from bacteria or parasites such as ear mites. Ear mites are one of the most common problems that affect the ears of cats and a clear sign is the brownish powdery debris that the mites leave behind. If your cat does have ear mites you’ll need to tell your veterinarian about other pets that you have since ear mites can easily spread from pet to pet. Allergies, wax build up and foreign matter getting into the external ear are other common reasons for this inflammation. Symptoms for otitis externa can include head and ear shaking, frequent scratching of the ears, a foul odor coming from your cat’s ear, head being tilted, a painful response when the ears are touched, ear flaps positioned at unusual angles and the possible swelling of the ear flaps. Due to the many different reasons for the condition, your cat may only show a few of these symptoms and of course will quickly need to see its veterinarian for possible testing and treatment.

When the middle and inner ear are inflamed (otitis media and otitis interna) the situation is more serious. The condition may well have started in the outer ear and is now travelling or spreading into the deeper parts of the ear canal. Bacterial infections and parasites would be the most common causes for this inflammation and your cat is bound to be feeling even worse. Other possible causes can include foreign objects that get into the ear canal as well as growths which may benign or cancerous. Symptoms will be similar to otitis externa and may include more head tilting and possible loss of balance and/or coordination as the problem gets closer to the inner ear. The inner ear is responsible for your cat’s sense of balance. Depending on the severity of the problem the treatment may need to involve some type of surgery to diagnose and treat the cat. Due to the fact that ear problems can quickly get worse if left untreated, please see your vet ASAP if you believe your cat has an ear problem.

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