Diseases of the cat’s ear. Why it is important to take care of them.
The cat’s ears are a fundamental sensory organ for its survival, associated with the olfactory and visual faculties. The structure of the cat’s ears is very complex and also delicate. Ear care is essential to prevent diseases that can compromise hearing and its sensory faculties.
Hearing of the cat: sensory faculty
The senses of the cat consist of hearing, sight, smell, taste and tactile receptors. A very refined and developed system, prepared for hunting.
The cat’s ear has 32 muscles in each ear. This allows the cat to have directional hearing in each ear, meaning it can move one ear independently of the other.
In addition to having a human-like hearing range at the lower end of the scale, cats can hear sounds at very high frequencies, up to 64 kilocycles, which is 1.6 octaves above the range of a human.
Hearing for the sense of balance
A cat’s hearing is also critical to the same sense of balance. In fact, inside the ear is the vestibular organ, responsible for the cat’s balance. This organ composed of small chambers and canals is filled with liquid and minute floating crystals and is connected to millions of sensitive hairs that detect any movement of the ear fluids, transmitting the movement to the brain.
In this way, a three-dimensional reading of the animal’s body position is transmitted to the brain, immediately providing the animal’s position with respect to the horizon. The vestibular organ allows the cat to activate the so-called “righting reflex” which leads the cat to orient itself even in the air and to always land on its four legs.
The cat’s ear consists of three parts: outer ear, middle ear and inner ear. Ear diseases can therefore affect different points of the ear canal.
It includes the visible and invisible parts, from the tip of the pavilion to the tympanic membrane:
- auricle on the cat’s head: consisting of a cartilage, covered with a thin skin to which a fine hair is attached.
- vertical canal: the inner part of the ear where there is little hair. It has dark brown ear wax which is sometimes mistaken for dry blood.
- Ear canal: a wrinkled funnel, about 1.5 cm long and covered by a thin skin with many furrows. The deepest part of the canal takes on a more tubular shape and turns inwards, forming the horizontal canal that ends at the level of the tympanic membrane, considered the limit of the external ear.
The middle ear comprises the tympanic cavity and three auditory ossicles, called the anvil, stapes, and hammer.
The inner ear is contained in the temporal petrous bone. It contains the organs of hearing and balance, including the semicircular canals (for balance) and the organ of Corti (for hearing).
Ear diseases in cats
There are numerous cat ear diseases that can be mild or severe. Some symptoms should not be underestimated in any way because of the importance of the organ and its function in the animal.
The main symptoms are bad smells, scabs, oily secretions, earwax production and strange behavior of the cat that will tend to shake and tilt its head and scratch its ear.
Cat ear inflammation can occur in both mild and more severe forms.
The symptoms are the production of earwax, oily secretions, bad smells, the presence of scabs.
The owner will be able to proceed with the first treatments which consist in thorough cleaning of the ear.
Use a cotton ball dipped in mild baby oil or disinfectant-based products that can be found at the pharmacy or recommended by your vet.
It is forbidden to use ear sticks (cotton buds) which not only carry dirt deep, but could cause injury to the eardrum.
If no improvements are found, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian as the inflammation could worsen, leading to otitis.
Otitis in cats
Cat otitis is one of the most common diseases. It is the worsening of an inflammation. There are different types of otitis: otitis externa, media and otitis internale.
Among the most common symptoms, the cat begins to shake, to tilt its head to one side, to touch or scratch its ears with its paws and does not want to be touched the painful part. The ear appears swollen and red.
The veterinarian will have to establish the type of otitis to establish a pharmacological treatment which consists in the administration of antibiotics.
Otitis in cats can also be caused by bacteria, but also by some parasites such as mites and some fungi, which lead to mycosis of the cat’s ears. Food allergies could also cause inflammation of the organ.
Acariasis in cats
Acariasis is a very annoying type of infection for cats. It is transmitted by direct contact with infected animals or with an environment where mites that attack the cat’s ear proliferate.
This is an easy-to-treat inflammation. However, if left untreated, it causes irreversible damage to the eardrum or ear canal, leading to hearing loss.
In the case of acariasis, the cat tends to shake its head and scratch itself compulsively, resulting in small lesions.
The ear is swollen and red with black or brown crusts. The mites appear as small white dots. The Otodectes Cynotis mite also causes excessive ear wax formation.
Acariosis is treated with drops to be administered into the ear, to eliminate the mites. In case of severe infection, it can be associated with the treatment of antibiotics.
Isolate the infected cat until complete recovery. The therapy could last up to a month.
In case of sarcoptic mange, hair loss occurs on the concave surface of the pavilion and on the temples. The cat tends to scratch itself as it causes a lot of itching.
Cat ear polyp
Other diseases include cat ear polyps that affect the middle ear, which is the part that is not visible.
The cat feels pain, tends to rub its ear and keep its head tilted.
Diagnosis requires an x-ray, endoscopy or tomography (CT) scan.
The polyp must be removed with surgery.
In addition to inflammation or real pathologies, there may be small injuries to the ear that the cat can cause itself, scratching, scratching or biting itself with other cats or with plants that have thorns.
In some cases, foreign bodies may occur inside the ear such as holes or thorns.
These lesions can also cause otitis or minor infections. The lesions cause bleeding and the formation of small scabs.
In general, the cat may scratch to remove the foreign body and cause the wound to bleed. A visit to the veterinarian is necessary, especially if it concerns foreign bodies such as puncture that could lead to perforation of the eardrum.
In these cases, avoid intervening with drops or cleaning the ear which could worsen the injury by pushing the foreign body into the ear.
Among other diseases, exposure to sunlight can be dangerous for cats, especially white or light-colored cats.
The skin of the ear initially appears red and tends to peel. Subsequently, the appearance of scabs and erosions of the skin occurs. Solar dermatitis is annoying and the cat tends to shake its head and scratch itself causing injuries.
In severe cases, a malignant tumor (squamous cell carcinoma) can develop.
For this reason it is suggested to avoid exposing the cat to the sun’s rays, especially in the hottest hours.
In some cases, ear tip amputation may be required.
Cleaning the cat’s ears
Cleaning your cat’s ears helps prevent infection or inflammation. It serves to dissolve the earwax, preventing parasites and bacteria from stagnating in the ear.
In addition to cleaning, regular checks by the vet contribute to the prevention of ear diseases.