Otitis in cats: symptoms, diagnosis, treatment and prevention


The cat which suffers from an otitis adopts certain attitudes which can put the chip in the ear of its master. It is essential to consult the veterinarian because a badly treated or completely neglected ear infection can have serious consequences for the cat. Let’s find out the possible causes of different feline ear infections, their symptoms, the treatments and let’s see what are the solutions to prevent these inflammations of the ear in a cat.

Different ear infections in cats

A cat may have otitis externa, media, or internal.

Otitis externa

It is more common in fairly young adult cats but also in kittens. Older cats are less prone to it. It manifests itself by a inflammation of the eardrum and external auditory canal. It may be due to:

  • A trauma such as a bite or a scratch, the presence of a foreign body, cleaning of the ear with a cotton swab,
  • An autoimmune disease,
  • An inflammatory polyp,
  • An aggressive tumor,
  • A parasite as is for example the case of otacariosis or gall of the ears which is also called otitis auricularis,
  • Otitis media, considered to be one of the main causes of chronic otitis externa.

Bacteria or even an opportunistic fungus can maintain an already established otitis externa.

Otitis media

In the case of otitis media, this is the Eustachian tube who is affected byinflammation as well as tympanic bubble. The cats most frequently affected by this type of otitis are already suffering from leukosis or are carriers of the cat AIDS virus (feline immunodeficiency). The condition may also be secondary to a polyp, tumor, or disease of the pharynx.

Internal otitis

This is the form of otitis rarest in cats. Some of the possible causes include:

  • Otitis media of bacterial origin,
  • A viral infection,
  • An infection of the meninges …

Otitis in cats: symptoms

Many symptoms are common to these different types of ear infections. The cat scratches the affected ear with its hind paw, wiggles the ear, tilts its head to one side or shakes its head vigorously more or less frequently. He can even rub his ear against a wall, furniture or the floor. He does not support that we touch this area because it is very sensitive. We can also see:

  • A bad smell coming from an ear,
  • Wounds in the pinna from scratching, hair loss, induration, redness,
  • A change in behavior (the cat shows signs of aggression),
  • Loss of appetite
  • A more or less significant hearing loss,
  • Difficulties in swallowing,
  • Dry eye,
  • Snoring,
  • Pain when the cat opens its mouth.

More worrisome symptoms occur with otitis interna, such as:

  • Jerky, rotating or horizontal eye movements,
  • Balance disorders,
  • Positioning abnormalities either at the level of the pupils or at the level of an eyelid.

It is very important to consult the vet as soon as possible as soon as you suspect an ear infection in your cat, because in the absence of treatment, the consequences can be serious.

Feline otitis: the treatments

The veterinarian must perform various examinations in order to diagnose otitis in cats. Depending on the type of otitis suspected, it may be:

  • Collecting earwax for analysis. It is performed under anesthesia if the pain is too severe.
  • An otoscopy allowing to visualize the external auditory canal using a device (the otoscope or video-otoscope): we can thus detect an anomaly, a mass, a foreign body …
  • An imaging test such as an x-ray, a CT scan, an MRI.
  • A blood test.
  • An exploration of hearing.
  • Cytology, consisting in taking either pus, cerumen or cells in order to identify the germ responsible for otitis and then to prescribe the appropriate treatment (antibacterial, antifungal, etc.).
  • A myringotomy or parasynthesis of the eardrum which allows, in addition to cleaning the tympanic bubble, to take samples for analysis.

The treatment of ear infections in cats varies from case to case, depending on the nature of the ear infection which, let us remember, can be external, medium or internal. Thus, the veterinarian can prescribe:

  • An antibiotic,
  • An antifungal,
  • An anti-inflammatory,
  • A pest control.

These can be products to use locally or a medical treatment.

But if the vet has discovered a polyp for example or a tumor, a surgery is necessary. It is also the solution chosen as second-line when the cat’s state of health has not improved despite treatment.

Otitis in cats causes pain, and sometimes even serious complications. It is therefore better to put all the chances on your side to limit the risk of recurrent otitis. A good ear hygiene of the cat is essential. We avoid the cotton swab and we use a lotion adapted on the advice of the veterinarian. Of course, it is imperative to take care to protect your cat against parasites.

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