Thursday, July 7, 2016

3 ways to help when your cat has an ear infection

Popoki the cat on my desk

Popoki the cat spends a lot of time sitting on my desk, staring into my eyes. She's a shadow kitty, and I encourage her by petting her every few minutes. Last week, when I gave her head a little scratch, my hand came away wet. When I looked a little closer, I realized my hand was wet from puss from little Popoki's ear.

Apparently, cat ear infections are somewhat rare. However, Popoki faced a perfect storm of triggers. I was out of town for a few days, so she felt a little stressed. And, hubby was pulling up nasty carpet in the basement, which exposed Popoki to all sorts of dust and mold spores. That was just enough to let an infection in.

Cat ear infections, if left untreated, can be pretty darn serious. They can move deep into the ear and cause deafness, or they can attack the nerves that control the face and mouth, and that can lead to eating problems or dry eyes.

So an ear infection is nothing to ignore. And there are all sorts of things can people can do to help. These are my top 3 tips.

1. Go to your veterinarian.

This one should be obvious, but just in case. Ear infections are often caused by bacteria that invade the deep, dark and warm spaces inside the ear. And there are tons of different strains of bacteria that can cause a problem. That means you'll need a professional that can culture the ear infection and prescribe an antibiotic that can kill the particular type of bacteria your cat has. This isn't a guesswork thing. When your cat seems to have an ear issue, it's best to get help from a doctor. 

Popoki the cat sleeping

2. If your veterinarian approves, use an ear wash.

During an exam, your veterinarian will look deep down inside your cat's ear to determine if the ear drum is intact and there are no open lesions to be concerned with. If all is well inside the ear, you might be able to help your cat with an ear wash.

Ear washes are typically astringent based, so they dry up the goo that bacteria feed upon. That can make the ear canal less hospitable to these little invaders, and that shift could make the infection a lot less intense. Ear washes can also help your cat to get out the big plugs of mucus an ear infection can cause. 

Your veterinarian can advise you on the right wash to use and how often to use it. Just remember not to use a home remedy (like peroxide or alcohol), especially if you haven't been to the veterinarian first. You could do a great deal of damage that way.

3. Soften your cat's food with water.

An ear infection can sometimes refer pain down into the jaw, and that can make your kitty a little reluctant to eat. You can help by making the food a little wetter, so your cat can just slurp the food down instead of chewing it or crunching it. Popoki also appreciated a warm serving of food. Warmed-up food is a little more palatable, and the scent made her more willing to eat. 

I'm happy to report that Popoki is doing much better now. She has no more ear goo, she's eating well and she's no longer holding her ear at a strange angle nor shaking her head. But I know it could have been much worse. I think we got a little lucky.

To read up on how often to clean a cat's ears (so the risk of these issues is at least a little lower), click here. And are there any tips I missed? Hit me up in the comments. Love to hear from you.

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