Ear infections are among the most common health problems in cats,
affecting all ages. They usually involve the outer part of the ear
(otitis externa) and cause extreme discomfort, itching, pain and
constant irritation. If left untreated, they tend to progress deeper
(otitis media and interna), causing complications like hearing loss,
Horner's syndrome and equilibrium alteration (vestibular disease).
Parasites are very common causes of ear infections. They include
ear and mange mites and are readily transmitted among cats. Stray
cats and kittens are highly susceptible to ear mites. Intense itch,
head shaking and dark discharge in the ear canal are typical signs.
Mites can also cause secondary allergic inflammation and long term
ear problems. Fortunately we have effective medications to treat and
prevent the parasitic mites.
Various allergic conditions are responsible for inflammation of
the ears and often the rest of the body. The inflammation is
characterized by redness, thickening of the skin and flakiness. The
irritated and inflamed ear undergoes opportunistic bacterial and/or
yeast invasion and becomes infected. These infections worsen if not
treated promptly and cause pussy and bloody discharge. Affected cats
scratch constantly and further injure themselves.
These injuries and the vigorous head shaking sometimes result in
broken blood vessels that bleed under the skin and form a pocket of
blood (ear hematoma). The ear swells like a balloon and requires
surgical intervention. Allergies and secondary infections tend to be
recurrent or chronic and often need long term attention. Medical
treatment includes antibiotics, anti-fungals and
anti-inflammatories. The medications may be administered locally to
the ear or systemically. In some severe cases, ear infections need
to be treated surgically as well.
Other systemic diseases and tumors of the ear may be underlying conditions that produce similar signs or become complicated by secondary infections. Accurate diagnosis is essential to successful treatment of ear infections and diseases.[Back]