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Otitis Externa in Cats

By: Dr. Debra Primovic

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Otitis externa, commonly known as an ear infection, is characterized by inflammation of the soft tissue components of the external ear canal. It is a common condition in cats.

Several factors may predispose your cat to ear infections, including:

  • Abnormal ear conformation or anatomy such as nasopharyngeal polyps (more common in young cats)
  • Water or hair in the ears
  • Allergies
  • Trauma
  • Tumors (common in elderly cats)
  • Foreign material in the ears
  • Parasites
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Generalized skin disease

    Infections are caused by fungus, bacteria or parasites. Laboratory tests can help to determine which of these is the cause in your pet. Ear mites (Otodectes) may cause approximately 50% of infections in young cats.

    What to Watch For

    Common signs of ear infections may include:

  • Scratching or rubbing the ears
  • Head shaking
  • An abnormal odor or discharge from the ear
  • Pain when you manipulate the ear

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