We are acutely aware that our ears are very important to us, well, to a cat, their ears are an equally important part of their survival, too. Granted most cats are now indoor cats and their hunting is contained to finding their catnip mouse hiding under the couch, but ear health is still important.
A cat's ears are mobile, they can turn many ways, they can hear ultrasonic sounds (high pitched) that we can not even imagine hearing and hear these sounds in 10 different tones. A cat's hearing is a protection against danger and a warning of approaching prey, which in the wild, was a form of self-preservation.
Cats do not have many ear diseases that cause a loss of hearing; however, they do get ear problems that cause a great deal of discomfort. Most ear problems begin with the same signs of discomfort, shaking of the hear, scratching their ears, rubbing their ears on the floor, walking with their head tilted to the side and having a peculiar odor coming from their ears.
What are some of the problems a cat may face?
Ear mites are one of the most common diseases a cat can get. Ear mites are contagious and can drive cat nuts.
Ear mites love the nice warm recesses of the dark ear canal. They pierce the skin inside the ear to feed and they multiply very rapidly. The itching is intense. The mites have a tendency to look like coffee grounds in a cat's ear or crumbly dirt. If your eyes are sharp, and you have a magnifying glass, you might be able to see tiny white mites, about the size of a pinhead moving about.
Ear mites are highly contagious and can create bacterial infections due to the scratching of the skin by the cat. If you have other animals (cats or dogs) the mites can travel to each of them, so all animals have to be treated. Humans, however, are immune to them.
To truly treat the ear mites, ear drops alone will not do it. The mites like all living things, have a desire to fight for survival and that means they will find another place to go once, the ear drops are put in the ears. The ear mites will leave the ear once the drops are put in and will mosey down to the tail head area and set up camp until the effect of the drops wear off and back again they will go to the ear.
An effective way to treat eat mites is with the prescribed ear drops and a medication that will treat the whole body for parasites. It is important to rid the body of the mites along with other parasites, in order to assure a complete recovery.
Believe it or not, allergies can create ear problems. What is an allergy? It is the immune system's reaction to substances the body considers unacceptable. Allergic cat ear disease is not the most common ailment in cats, as allergic ear disease is in dogs, but it does cause problems.
If you see your cat scratching at the side of its forehead, just in front of the ears, this is a common sign of allergies in cats. Cats can be allergic to environmental conditions such as pollen, grass, weeds and dust mites. Food can also create an allergic reaction, so if you have started to feed your cat a new food and suddenly it starts to scratch, consider it might be allergic to something in the new food.
It is important that the cat be tested for allergic reactions. If at all possible a veterinary dermatologist should be seen, in order to get accurate results from the tests. Specific allergies can be pinpointed, simply by injecting small amounts of suspected substances into the skin. A veterinary dermatologist can interpret the reactions and determine what is the cause.
Unfortunately it is not a simple case of taking a sample of blood, sending it to a lab and getting a report back. The best solution to getting rid of the allergy is to remove the substance from the cat's life. When this is not possible, it is necessary then in mild cases to give the cat, antihistamines and essential fatty acid supplements. Severe cases will require cortisone injections or tablets to help control the itching. This whole procedure will require frequent vet visits and a watchful eye, as there are side effects to consider, which differ with each cat.
Older cats can suffer from polyps and tumors inside the ear canal. Actually older cats seem to have more problems with tumors in the ear than dogs do. The tumors are more than likely to occur in the external ear canal and may be connected to the gland that produces the earwax or any other part of the ear, inside the ear canal.
These tumors are more likely to be malignant than benign and in either case can grow large enough to obstruct the ear canal. They can be surgically removed and then treated, if cancerous, with radiation. The success of the treatment depends on when the problem was detected, the earlier the better.
Cleaning and medicating your cat's ears.
It is a good idea to look inside your cat's ears at least once a week. If they look dirty wipe them out with a cotton ball moistened with some warm water or a solution recommended by your vet. Do not and I repeat do not use a cotton swab to dig around your cat's ear, go no deeper than your first knuckle.
It is also a good idea to smell the ear. If you get a strange smell, may I suggest a quick trip to the vet for a little investigation. A cat's ear should not smell for any reason and a sign of odor is a sign something may be amiss.
If your cat needs some medication put in its ear. Put in the required drops, fold the ear over and gently rub the medication in. It should sound a little squishy. I also recommend standing aside once you let go of the ear, as your cat will want to shake its head and some of the medication may fly on you.
This is one medical treatment that cats do not seem to mind, as most cats like their ears played with and if your cat has an itchy ear, it should enjoy the treatment.
The best suggestion I can give, is to do what I do with my cats, I check their ears almost on a daily basis, mainly because they love to have their ears rubbed and handled for some reason. I think it reminds them of mommy cat cleaning their ears when they were kittens.
I also suggest that if you see your cat suddenly scratching at its head or ears, just for kicks and giggles, take a quick trip to the vet, whatever the problem is, it can be nipped in the bud and save you a bundle. I am a firm believer in that an ounce of prevention (quick trip to the vet) can save a you in the long run, a great deal of cash.
Good hearing is just as important to your cat as it is to you, so take care of your cat's ears
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