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Ear Health

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Ear Infections in Cats

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Cats tend to be good groomers. Still, it’s not easy for them to clean the inside of their ears. This can cause excess wax, dirt, and debris to build up inside the ear, increasing the risk of your cat developing an ear infection. Although ear infections occur half as often in cats as they do in dogs, ear infections are still a painful problem for cats.

Otitis externa is a condition involving inflammation of the outer ear canal and is relatively common in cats. The outer ear becomes red and swollen. This causes bacteria and yeast, usually present in low numbers in the ear canal, to grow abundantly, which leads to infection. 

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Causes of ear infections in cats

Half of all ear infections in cats are caused by minute parasites known as ear mites.1 [link to C3.0 Ear mites] If ear mites have been ruled out as the source of your cat’s ear infection, your veterinarian will examine your cat to see whether an underlying factor, such as allergies or an immune disorder, is to blame. Underlying factors must be identified and properly treated or else the ear infection is likely to return. That’s why it’s important to visit your veterinarian as soon as you suspect your cat has an ear problem. 

Common causes of cat ear infections include2–4:

  • Ear mites
  • Allergies
  • Foreign objects
  • Immune disorders

Do all cats get ear infections?

Ear infections can happen to cats of any age or breed. Some cats, however, may be more at risk.5

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How do I know if my cat has an ear infection?

Ear infections can cause significant discomfort for your cat. One or both ears may be affected, and signs can appear suddenly or last for a long time. If you notice any signs your cat is experiencing ear problems, contact your veterinarian right away.

Be on the lookout for these signs of ear infections in your cat3,5

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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT SEEING YOUR VETERINARIAN
  • Are ear infections in cats painful?

    Yes, ear infections can cause significant pain in cats.3,4

     

    References: 1. State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: https://www.banfield.com/banfield/media/PDF/downloads/soph/banfieldstate-

    of-pet-health-report-2016.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2020. 2. Roy J, Bedard C, Moreau M. Treatment of feline otitis externa due to Otodectes cynotis and complicated by secondary bacterial and fungal infections with Oridermyl auricular ointment. Can Vet J. 2011;52:277–282. 3. Otitis externa in cats. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/ear-disorders-of-cats/otitis-externa-in-cats. Accessed July 23, 2020. 4. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed July 21, 2020. 5. Ear infections in cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance website. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/ear-infections-in-cats/. Accessed July 20, 2020.

  • How do I know if my cat has an ear infection?

    Common signs of an ear infection include frequent shaking of the head, pawing at the ear, discharge from the ear, redness or swelling of the ear canal, odor, or tilting the head to one side.3,5  If you suspect your cat has an ear infection, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away.

     

    References: 1. State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: https://www.banfield.com/banfield/media/PDF/downloads/soph/banfieldstate-

    of-pet-health-report-2016.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2020. 2. Roy J, Bedard C, Moreau M. Treatment of feline otitis externa due to Otodectes cynotis and complicated by secondary bacterial and fungal infections with Oridermyl auricular ointment. Can Vet J. 2011;52:277–282. 3. Otitis externa in cats. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/ear-disorders-of-cats/otitis-externa-in-cats. Accessed July 23, 2020. 4. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed July 21, 2020. 5. Ear infections in cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance website. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/ear-infections-in-cats/. Accessed July 20, 2020.

  • What is otitis externa?

    Otitis externa is one of the most common ear infections. The condition involves inflammation of the outer ear canal. The outer ear becomes red and swollen. This causes bacteria and yeast, usually present in low numbers in the ear canal, to grow abundantly, causing infection. This sets up an environment where bacteria and yeast can overgrow their normal levels, creating an unhealthy infection that magnifies the inflammation of the ears. Without intervention this becomes a vicious cycle.3

     

    References: 1. State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: https://www.banfield.com/banfield/media/PDF/downloads/soph/banfieldstate-

    of-pet-health-report-2016.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2020. 2. Roy J, Bedard C, Moreau M. Treatment of feline otitis externa due to Otodectes cynotis and complicated by secondary bacterial and fungal infections with Oridermyl auricular ointment. Can Vet J. 2011;52:277–282. 3. Otitis externa in cats. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/ear-disorders-of-cats/otitis-externa-in-cats. Accessed July 23, 2020. 4. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed July 21, 2020. 5. Ear infections in cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance website. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/ear-infections-in-cats/. Accessed July 20, 2020.

  • Which cats are prone to ear infections?

    All cats can get ear infections, but certain cats may be at higher risk, including cats with allergies, cats with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or feline leukemia, and cats with small, outer ears, such as Himalayans or Persians.5

     

    References: 1. State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: https://www.banfield.com/banfield/media/PDF/downloads/soph/banfieldstate-

    of-pet-health-report-2016.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2020. 2. Roy J, Bedard C, Moreau M. Treatment of feline otitis externa due to Otodectes cynotis and complicated by secondary bacterial and fungal infections with Oridermyl auricular ointment. Can Vet J. 2011;52:277–282. 3. Otitis externa in cats. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/ear-disorders-of-cats/otitis-externa-in-cats. Accessed July 23, 2020. 4. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed July 21, 2020. 5. Ear infections in cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance website. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/ear-infections-in-cats/. Accessed July 20, 2020.

  • Why does my cat keep getting ear infections?

    Some cats are prone to ear infections. These include cats with allergies, cats with certain health conditions, such as diabetes or feline leukemia, and cats with small, outer ears, such as Himalayans or Persians.5 Your veterinarian will collect a detailed history to help uncover any underlying causes of your cat’s ear infection and to properly treat your cat to help keep the infection from recurring.

     

    References: 1. State of Pet Health 2016 Report. Banfield Pet Hospital website. Available at: https://www.banfield.com/banfield/media/PDF/downloads/soph/banfieldstate-

    of-pet-health-report-2016.pdf. Accessed July 20, 2020. 2. Roy J, Bedard C, Moreau M. Treatment of feline otitis externa due to Otodectes cynotis and complicated by secondary bacterial and fungal infections with Oridermyl auricular ointment. Can Vet J. 2011;52:277–282. 3. Otitis externa in cats. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/cat-owners/ear-disorders-of-cats/otitis-externa-in-cats. Accessed July 23, 2020. 4. Overview of otitis externa. Merck Veterinary Manual website. Available at: https://www.merckvetmanual.com/ear-disorders/otitis-externa/overview-of-otitis-externa. Accessed July 21, 2020. 5. Ear infections in cats. ASPCA Pet Insurance website. Available at: https://www.aspcapetinsurance.com/resources/ear-infections-in-cats/. Accessed July 20, 2020.