Ear conditions in cats
Have you noticed your cat or dog scratching its ears?
Of course you have. All animals, including people, occasionally have itchy and scratchy ears. However, if your pet is constantly scratching them or is rubbing its head on the floor or walking with its head tilted to the side, it may have an ear infection.
Signs of an ear infection
When an infection starts, a pet will shake its head occasionally and will scratch its ear. This will often develop to the stage where the pet is obviously distraught. It may moan as it tries to scratch its ear. It will rub its head along the ground and may walk with its head at an angle.
When you examine the ear, you may notice that:
- the ear has a pungent odour
- there is some discharge in the ear, especially in the ear canal. This discharge may be brown in colour, it may be yellow and look like pus or it may contain blood – not something to ignore.
An insect called an ear mite sometimes causes ear infections. These small creepy-crawlies move around inside the ear canal and cause great discomfort. The ears of the dog or cat react to this irritation by pumping out a waxy discharge. This gunk is a perfect soup for bacteria, yeasts and fungi to grow in, further worsening the problem.
When should I see the vet?
Typically, letting your veterinarian professionally examine and clean your pet’s ears is easier and safer than trying yourself. Your vet will look into your pet’s ears with an otoscope to find out what is causing the problem. If mites are present, they will be visible but, in many cases, bacteria or yeasts without ear mites cause the infection. There may also be foreign bodies present, such as grass seeds, which need immediate attention by a veterinarian.
In many cases your pet will need antibiotics or other prescription medications to solve the problem. Ear medications like these are not available over the counter.
It may be necessary for your pet to be anaesthetised for the vet to examine its ears properly. This will also allow thorough cleaning and inspection. A sample of the discharge is often taken and this will be examined under the microscope to find out what bugs are present. A swab may also be sent off to a laboratory for a ‘culture and sensitivity’ test. This is done to detect what bugs are present and what medications are best suited to kill them. As you will know, some bacteria are resistant to certain antibiotics.
Be sure to complete the full course of any antibiotics or ointment that your vet prescribes.
If you feel you pet’s ears are causing it problems, don’t delay. Ear infections left untreated can be a very complicated problem.