Cat Ear Infections
From Pet Health Learning Center
Cat Ear Infections (Feline Ear Infections)
Signs and Symptoms
Ear infections can affect any type of cat at any age, causing great pain and discomfort. If your cat is suffering from an ear infection, prompt and appropriate treatment is important in order to prevent any permanent damage to the ears and to put an end to your pet's distress. For this reason, it's helpful to know what some of the common signs of feline ear infections are so that you, as a pet owner, can quickly recognize the symptoms and have your cat examined by a veterinarian before the infection becomes severe.
Cat ear infections cause inflammation and pain in the ear canals, making these areas very sensitive. In the early stages of the infection, your pet may occasionally scratch or rub at its ears. Head shaking is also common. As the condition advances, the rubbing, scratching, and shaking will become more frequent and more vigorous as your pet's discomfort increases. These behaviors may progress to the point where your cat is actually leaving scratches on its face and around its ears.
A cat with an ear infection may not want its ears to be touched, as they will be painful and sensitive. The animal's ears may also be visibly red and inflamed, and often a smelly discharge or blood will be present. Sometimes, as in the case of infections caused by ear mites, this discharge will be dark, with a resemblance to coffee grounds. Changes in behavior that sometimes occur when a cat is suffering from an ear infection include irritability and listlessness. When this type of infection goes untreated, it can cause narrowing of the ear canal which can lead to Cat Deafness. When the nerves of the inner ear are affected by an infection, your pet may become dizzy, tilt it's head to one side, walk in circles, and display unusual eye movements referred to as nystagmus.
Since feline ear infections can cause permanent hearing loss and other serious damage, it's vital that such infections do not go untreated. Furthermore, these conditions are very distressing and uncomfortable for your pet. So if you notice your cat displaying any of the above symptoms or behaviors, make sure that you contact your veterinarian immediately.
Proper diagnosis of cat ear infections is very important as improper treatment will not fix the problem, and may very well make matters far worse. For instance, there are certain medications that can cause hearing loss if administered to a cat whose ear drum is ruptured. Also, feline ear infections can be caused by a number of different agents and factors so if the underlying cause is not determined, very likely treatment will not be effective. Therefore, examination by a qualified practitioner is imperative.
For a veterinarian, diagnosing a feline ear infection is relatively easy. First, the practitioner will want to know about the symptoms and behaviors you have observed at home. Then a visual inspection of the ear canal will be conducted, generally with the use of an instrument called an otoscope. During this process, the veterinarian will look for redness inside the ear, which is indicative of an ear infection. Pulling slightly on your pet's ear may be required in order to see all the way down the ear canal as it takes a sharp turn. If your cat's ears are too sore to permit this type of examination, sedation may be necessary.
With the use of the otoscope, the veterinarian will look for debris, pus, and fluid in addition to the redness and swelling. He or she will also inspect the condition of the ear drum and check for the presence of any foreign objects that could be the cause of the infection. Furthermore, this will also allow the practitioner to determine whether your cat is suffering from an outer ear infection, a middle ear infection, or both, which is important in order to allow for the selection of a proper course of treatment. Once this part of the examination is complete, the next step involves procuring a sample of the discharge for inspection under a microscope. This method is called an ear cytology and allows for the identification of ear mites, yeast, or bacteria that could be the agent that has given rise to the infection. When the type of ear infection present and the causative agent have been identified, your veterinarian will then help you to implement an appropriate treatment plan.
Healthy feline ears are light pink in colour, clean, and odor free. They also exhibit a minimal amount of accumulated wax. However, when an ear infection occurs, a number of changes take place that cause severe discomfort and place your pet at risk. The medical term for an ear infection is otitis, with the stem "otic" meaning ear and the suffix "itis" meaning inflammation. Therefore, an ear infection basically involves the inflammation of the ear. This can occur in the outer ear (otitis externa) or in the middle ear (otitis media). Sometimes a cat will experience an infection in both locations at the same time. While otitis media is far less common in cats than otitis externa, it's also much more serious and has far more potential to cause permanent damage.
There are a number of different factors and agents that can cause feline ear infections. Two of these causative agents include yeast and bacteria. As with the rest of a cat's body, feline ears are normally host to some yeast and bacteria cells. When present in small numbers, these cells do not cause any problems for the animal. However, if these cells are present in much larger numbers, they will cause an infection. While dogs often suffer from bacterial ear infections which can be picked up through activities such as swimming in lake water, cats more commonly suffer from ear infections caused by yeast. Other factors that can cause feline ear infections include pathogenic organisms and foreign objects that become lodged in the ear canal.
Some cats may be more prone to developing ear infections than others. For example, cats with allergies, excess moisture in their ears, or tumors may be more likely to develop otitis. In the case of allergies, such a condition can give rise to changes within a cat's ears, such as increased temperature, which make it easier for yeast infections to develop and flourish. In addition, humid climates and over cleaning of your pet's ears can also increase your cat's chances of having an ear infection. Occasionally, ear infections are a sign of another condition, such as a hormonal abnormality or a hereditary disease.
Abnormal ear structure and significant amounts of hair within the ear can also increase a cat's risk of developing an ear infection, as the natural removal of wax and debris from the canal becomes hampered. Furthermore, under such conditions airflow to the ear canal is impeded, which can also make a feline more prone to suffering from otitis. However, one of the most common causes of feline ear infections is ear mites. Ear mites are pesky little insects that infest cats' ears, feeding upon ear wax and oils and causing significant irritation and discomfort. While these insects are the most prevalent cause of feline otitis, it's clear that cat ear infections can be caused by numerous different factors. Once the causative agent has been identified, treatment can be implemented in order to get rid of the irritating infection.
The type of treatment required for your cat's ear infection will depend upon the type of infection present and the underlying cause. For instance, if a foreign object is the causative agent, it will need to be removed. Similarly, if allergies or another underlying condition has triggered the otitis, treatment will be required for both the infection and the condition that caused it. In many cases, treatment may require flushing or cleaning of the cat's ears, which may need to be done under sedation. Antibiotics, anti-fungal medications, or anti-parasitic drugs may also be needed in order to eliminate the causative agents. While conventional medications can be used in such circumstances, and may even be required, natural remedies are also an effective option in many cases.
Herbal remedies can be beneficial for a cat suffering from otitis, as they can reduce or even eliminate irritating symptoms, and under some circumstances, deal with the infection's causal factors. Herbal products usually consist of natural ingredients that may have healing properties. Such products can include substances like goldenseal and tea tree oil, for example, which have antibiotic and fungicidal properties, and which also promote healing. In addition, other natural ingredients such as myrrh and chamomile may reduce inflammation and soothe both pain and irritation. There are many different natural substances that can have positive effects on a cat suffering from otitis. However, regardless of the treatment method you employ, it should be carried out under the supervision of a qualified veterinary doctor.
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