Thankfully, due to the natural shape of cats’ ears, ear problems are not as common as in some of our other pets. There are, however, a number of ear issues which can occur. If left untreated for too long, ear problems can grumble along and lead to chronic pain and changes within the ear canal.
What symptoms might we see?
Initially, signs are generally subtle and can be easy to overlook. However, as time goes on, we find that symptoms become more pronounced and cats may become less sociable and more withdrawn. Watch out for:
- Scratching or rubbing of the ears
- A head tilt
- A bad smell from the ear
- Redness and/or discharge within the canal
- Scabs or baldness on the outside of the ear
- An ear flap that folds slightly down
What can I do for my cat?
It is not a good idea to try and treat an ear problem yourself at home. This is because many patients require prescription medication and it is important for the ear to be assessed by a professional. Due to this, it’s best to book in to see your local veterinarian as soon as you detect an issue.
Your vet will have a look within the ears with a tool called an ‘otoscope’. They will ensure the ear drums are intact and there are no growths (such as polyps) within the ear. Often, the vet will swab the ear with a cotton bud and evaluate the ear discharge under a microscope after staining it. This can detect parasitic, bacterial and yeast infections.
What treatment is available?
What treatment is given will depend on the underlying issue. A bacterial infection, for example, is usually treated with an ear cleaner and a course of antibiotic ear drops. Some patients will need anti-inflammatory medicine and pain relief too. To protect ears, we may sometimes temporarily prevent rubbing with a buster collar.
How can I prevent ear problems going forward?
Sometimes, there will be an underlying reason why your cat is having trouble with their ears. This may be chronic allergies, an endocrine disorder such as diabetes or a natural predisposition for developing a waxy build-up. Your vet will work with you to determine if there are any other issues and will aim to address them. For those who have naturally waxy ears, regular ear cleaning can prove very beneficial.