Ear infections in cats

Did you know most vet practices see at least one ear infection case every day? Although more common in dogs than cats, ear infections can be a painful experience for your feline friend.

Veterinary experts from Joii Pet Care have answered some frequently asked questions about ear infections in cats, from causes and symptoms to diagnosis and treatment, to help you make the best decisions for your cat’s care.

Remember: Ear infections can be painful, so it’s important to contact your vet immediately if you’re concerned your cat might have a problem with their ears.

What causes ear infections in cats?
There are many different causes of ear infections in pets.

Some of the most common causes of ear infections in cats include:

• Ear mites.
• Foreign bodies (e.g. grass seeds).
• Ear growths (e.g. lumps on their ears).
• Bacterial infections.
• Fungal infections.
• Food allergies (e.g. to fish or milk).
• Environmental allergies (e.g. pollen or dust mites).

Can cats be prone to ear infections?
Yes, cats can be prone to ear infections. Risk factors include, but are not limited to:

• Ear mites in outdoor cats (especially when they’re young).
• Seasonal allergies (especially in warmer months).
• Having their ears cleaned too often.

Also, there are cat breeds who are more likely to develop ear infections, due to the shape of their ears:

• Scottish Fold.
• Himalayan.
• Persian.

What are the symptoms of ear infections in cats?
The symptoms of ear infections in cats can range from mild to severe.

If you notice any of the following symptoms in your cat, please contact your vet or speak to someone at Joii Pet Care:

• Scratching their ears.
• Hair loss around their ears.
• Head shaking.
• Head tilt.
• Lack of coordination.
• Ear discharge (e.g. wax, pus, or blood).
• Red, painful ears.
• Smelly ears.
• Reduced appetite.
• Lethargy.

Diagnosing ear infections in cats
To diagnose an ear infection in your cat, the vet will start with a physical exam (in which they’ll check your cat’s overall health and condition).

After a physical exam, the vet will scope your cat’s ear canal. The process of scoping your cat’s ear involves an ‘otoscope’ – a handheld tool that allows the vet to view inside your cat’s ear.

Depending on what the vet finds during that first assessment, your cat may need further tests.

Here are some of the tests your vet may carry out, if your cat has an ear infection:

Swab – by taking a swab of your cat’s ear, the vet can find out whether there’s bacteria, yeast, mites, or something else causing a problem. (The vet will then decide which type of medication is likely to work best, depending on what they find!)
Blood test – to check for underlying illnesses.
Diet trial – can help to find food types causing your cat to have a reaction.
Biopsy – they could take a test sample from any growths on your cat’s ear.
X-ray, CT, or MRI – scans may be needed for certain conditions.

Treating ear infections in cats
Treatments used for an ear infection will depend on what’s caused it, but might involve:

Ear cleaners – to break up ear wax, clean your cat’s ear canal, and soothe any discomfort (some ear cleaners are antimicrobial , too, helping kill bacteria and other nasties!).
Medicated ear drops – have antibiotic, antifungal, and anti-inflammatory ingredients, and are usually given after receiving the results of an ear swab.
Oral medications – may be given instead of drops, if your cat dislikes drops, is in too much pain, or has a ruptured (damaged) eardrum.
Surgery – procedures for ear infections can include ear flushing (thoroughly cleaning their ears), removal of foreign bodies, or operations on ears that haven’t responded to treatments.

Remember: Only use medication as directed by your vet.

Preventing ear infections in cats
Taking steps to prevent ear infections can save both you and your cat a lot of stress!

You could prevent your cat from getting ear infections by:

• Keeping up to date with flea and worming treatment, especially those that target mites.
• Monitoring your cat’s ears for any signs of pain or itchiness.
• Not over-cleaning their ears; if your cat needs their ears cleaned, once every 7-14 days (using a vet recommended ear cleaner!) should be enough.
• Avoiding sudden changes to their food (e.g. not offering several types of treats or different flavoured foods).
• Applying pet-safe sunblock during the summer if they have pale or white ears.

How to manage recurrent ear infections in cats
If your cat frequently suffers with ear infections, they may need lifelong treatment to stay happy and healthy.

Here are some top tips from Joii’s vet experts, to help you manage recurrent ear infections in cats:

• Get your pet checked by your vet – especially if their symptoms haven’t improved after the first course of treatment.
• Use medication as prescribed by your vet.
• Regularly clean your cat’s ears, following your vet’s recommendations.
• Manage special requirements according to your vet’s advice (e.g. sticking to a certain diet or using specific skin supplements).
• Keep the hair around your cat’s ears as short as possible.
• Your cat may need regular blood and urine tests.
• Be prepared to complete a diet trial for food allergies.
• Book your cat in to be put under anaesthetic and have their ears thoroughly checked by a vet.

Vet experts at Joii can help!
Animal Friends cat insurance customers can benefit from free 24/7 access to vet video consults with Joii Pet Care.

The vet experts at Joii can help if you:

• Have questions about pet-safe ear cleaners.
• Need support to choose the right supplement.
• Want advice on how to correctly clean your pet’s ears.
• Aren’t sure what to do about your pet’s recurrent ear infections.

Looking for more cat advice?

We’ve written some handy cat advice guides, to help you unlock the secrets of your mysterious moggy.


Need cat insurance?

Cat insurance can help cover the cost of veterinary treatment if your cat gets injured or falls ill.


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