Cat Ear Problems
Cat ear problems can change the way a cat behaves. A cat's hearing is one of their best developed senses and they can hear higher pitched sounds beyond the acute range of a dog. When a cat hears a sound they turn their head in the direction of that sound and rotate their ears to locate the angle of the direction. Since hearing is a significant function to your cat, anything that interferes with it can lead to serious Cat Health Problems.
Cats also have an amazing sense of equilibrium. This is due to a characteristic within their inner ear that allows them to adjust their body with great speed and agility. Thus, when dropped from a height in an upside-down-position a cat can readjust itself to land on it's feet. This, however, does not prevent them from getting injured when dropped from a substantial height. If you live above the ground floor, be sure to keep your windows covered with screens. Cats may jump, with little or no regard to heights.
When you give your cat a bath, make sure that no water gets into their ears. This can be prevented by inserting cotton wads inside their canals before bathing. If you need to apply anything, mineral or olive oil should be used when cleaning your cat's ears rather than an irritating solvent like ether or alcohol. Also, do not excessively clean your cat's ears as a routine. This can induce trama to the delicate surface of the ear canal.
I will briefly discuss here various ear problems that occur in the cat. If the ear problem that is present in your cat is not discussed here or if the cat is in a serious state always see a veterinarian before trying to solve the problem at home.
Bites and lacerations - Cats get into fights and can give or receive painful bites and scratches which are susceptible to infection. The ear flap is a frequent sight for this kind of damage. These type of wounds should be thoroughly cleaned and inspected. If the blood is not fresh they can be bathed with hydrogen peroxide solution (1 to 2 parts water) to remove dried blood and foreign particles. Then apply an antibiotic ointment like Bacitracin. If the wound is severe see a veterinarian.
Swollen ear flap - A swelling of the ear is usually due to an abcess or hematoma. Abscesses are more common, and usually occur after a fight or an irittative process like scratching of the ear. Abscesses are found below the ear and hematomas involve the flap. A hematoma is a blood clot under the skin and it can be caused violent shaking or scratching. Look for an underlying itchy ear disorder like ear mites or an infection involving the ear canal.
Ringworm - This is a fungus infection which affects the ear flap as well as other parts of the body. The usual appearance is that of a dry, scaly, hairless patch of skin. Hair is broken off at the skin surface. Ringworm does not cause itching like ear mites, and usually only one ear is involved.
Flea Infestation - Fleas usually feed on the skin of the ear flap. You may see the actual flea or just dried blood, that appear as black, crumbly crusts.
Ear mites - ear mite infections are one of the most common health problems seen in cats. Ear mites are tiny parasites that live on the surface of the skin of the ear canal. They feed by piercing the skin. Suspect ear mites when both of your cat's ears are infected. The most frequent behavior of a cat with ear mites is violent head-shaking and intense itching. Ear mites can most often be identified by removing some earwax and placing it on a dark background. They will appear as white specks no larger than the head of a pin, which move.
Bacterial Infections - These are usually the result of infected scratches or bites. Some of these infections begin in the ear canal that contains an excessive amount of wax or foreign material. The most common sign of an infected ear canal is head-shaking and scratching at an itching ear. A cat might tilt their head down on the affected side and show pain when the ear is touched. Usually an examination reveals redness and swelling of the skin fold of the inner ear.
Fungus Infections - The presence of excess wax and moisture in the ear canal can lead to fungus infection. These are much less common in the cat than in the dog, because their ears are erect and get much more air. Signs and symptoms are not as pronounced as when the infection is caused by bacteria. The ear is less inflamed and less painful. A rancid odor is characteristic of a fungus infection.
Not all cat ear problems are discussed here, but those that are mentioned might help you to diagnose the existing problem.
References: The Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook by Delbert G. Carlson, D.V.M and James M. Giffin, M.D.
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Cat Ear Care Problems
- Cat Ear Cleaning, Problems, and Infections
WebMD discusses how to clean your cats ear, recognize ear problems in your cat, and administer ear drops.