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What are the differences between ear infection and ear mites in cats?

Published: May 31, 2012

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Ear infections in cats are not as common as they are in dogs, so an owner may not recognize the signs as readily.  Typically, a cat with an ear infection will frequently paw at and draw attention to the affected region, which is a sign the owner should seek the opinion of a veterinarian.

Most ear infections in dogs are caused by bacteria or yeast, and while these harmful organisms can affect cat ears, ear mites in cats are the most common cause of ear infections in cats.  In fact, next to fleas, ear mites are the second most common parasite in cats. Thus, those who have owned a cat for a while may have seen ear mites in the past and known they need ear drops to be treated.

Common clinical signs of both ear mites and ear infections include shaking of the head, pawing at the ear, a black or yellow discharge, and a red inflamed ear that may give off an offensive odor. Officially diagnosing an ear infection will be up to your vet. Depending on the cause of the infection, the veterinarian will recommend treatment options for your sick cat.

Rather than simply buying ear drops for the cat or using the same medication you had when the cat was treated with ear mites before, you should always see a veterinarian when suspecting ear issues with a cat. This is because the cat medication prescribed to treat ear mites and infections are actually quite different. If a bacterial infection has developed with the ear mites, it may require more than one ear drop or another type of medication altogether to be effectively treated.  If ear mites are the problem, you will also need to treat all other household pets in order to successfully treat the problem.

Cat owners should take all ear issues seriously and see a veterinarian as soon as possible if they believe their feline is developing issues in the ear. Cats that have recurrence of ear-related problems may be suffering from a more significant problem such as a deformity in the shape of their ear or a polyp or growth within the ear.

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