What Are The Most Common Ear Problems Faced By Cats?


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Most pet cats suffer from ear problems that affect their pinnae, inner ear, middle ear or the external ear canal. External ear diseases are the most common ones, although others are just as likely. Let us take a deeper look:

Diseases that affect the pinnae

  • Trauma and wounds โ€“ Cat fights are the most common cause of pinnae wounds, with most of the damage resulting from claws or bites. A scratch or bite might result in a full tear of the pinna and in most of the cases, the ear can heal without the need of sutures.
  • Hematomas โ€“ Hematomas are blood filled pockets caused by the rupturing of small blood vessels. It leads to blood accumulation and hemorrhage between the cartilage and skin. Vigorous head scratching is the most common cause.
  • Solar dermatitis โ€“ This refers to inflammation of ear tips and is most commonly caused by exposure to UV light. If the skin progresses from pink and scaly to ulcerated and crusted, then it is a sure fire sign of solar dermatitis. If you leave it untreated, it can lead to a malignant tumor.
  • Notoedric or sarcoptic damage โ€“ This is caused by a mite infection in the skin of the cat and although it is unusual, it can cause pruritus and intense irritation. The vet can make the diagnosis by identifying the skin scrapings.
  • Autumn mites โ€“ This is a seasonal problem most outdoor cats face. Orange larvae on the feet, face and ears, causing intense irritation, are the most common sign.

Diseases that affect the ear canal

  • Parasitic otitis - The most common cause of otitis externa in young cats is caused due to a mite infection that can spread easily from one cat to another. The skin that links the ear canal becomes thick and you will notice your cat scratching his ears and shaking his head. The condition is usually accompanied by a black waxy discharge.
  • Foreign bodies โ€“ Although more common in dogs, cats can also have foreign bodies, like a grass blade or seed, lodged in their ear. This leads to sudden onset pain and you will notice your cat holding his head to one side and scratching at his ear.
  • Bacterial infection โ€“ Bacterial infections occur secondary to another ear problem โ€“ a foreign body, trauma, ear mite and a lot more. You will notice pus and a foul odor in the ear canal. Your vet will carefully examine your cat and administer a suitable antibiotic.
  • Ear canal tumors โ€“ Older cats can develop a tumor in the skin lining of their ear canal. These growths can vary from benign tumors and polyps to malignant carcinomas. If you see a nodule, you need to take your cat to the vet and have it biopsied.

Inner and middle ear infections, tumors and polyps are extremely serious and have to be handled by the vet exclusively. Most common signs include loss of balance, difficulty walking and walking in circles. If your cat exhibits any of these signs, take him to the vet immediately.

How to Clean Your Cat's Ears?

Most pet owners believe that cats are self-sufficient and are capable of taking care of themselves, thanks to all the meticulous grooming they do. However, that is only partly true. If your cat has ear problems, then he has to rely on you for a safe cleaning. If, for some reason, you aren't able to take your cat to the vet for an ear cleaning session, then you should know how to do it yourself.

Why should you clean the ears?

Cat have a built-in cleaning mechanism where the wax migrates towards external ear canal. However, if your cat has an ear issue, like blood blisters, ear mites or an ear infection, then you need to clean it thoroughly before you apply any topical medication. Make sure that you regularly check your cat's ears for any abnormalities.

How often should you clean the ears?

If your cat has healthy ears, then check them once a month for any odor and debris. If you notice any abnormalities, you need to take him to the vet for a thorough evaluation. However, if your cat has ear inflammation, then you need to clean them once a week after treating the inflammation.

How do you clean your cat's ears?

If you have never cleaned Felix's ears before, then it might take a little practice to get it right. Fortunately, it is a fairly straightforward process and once you get a hang of it, you're all set. Perform the following steps with a gauze and cleaning solution nearby:

  • Pull back the earflap delicately and fill the ear canal with a cleaning solution recommended by the veterinarian.
  • Gently massage the base of the ear for ten seconds, and allow your cat to shake the solution out of his ear.
  • Wrap a gauze around your little finger and clean out any excess liquid from the ear canal. Your finger cannot go far enough inside to cause any real damage.
  • Repeat the same process with the other ear.

Tips to help you clean your cat's ears effectively

Even if you are convinced that your cat needs to have his ears cleaned, there is a good chance that he might not share your position. Here are a few tips to make the cleaning process easy:

  • Have a friend/family member hold your cat while you clean his ears.
  • Don't use a Q-tip as it can damage the eardrum and push the debris deeper into the ear. You can use the Q-tip on the earlap folds.
  • Before you start cleaning, wrap your cat in a towel so that he remains still.
  • Make sure that you close your mouth and eyes before you let your cat shake his head.
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