Ear Dermatitis in Cats

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Ear Dermatitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

Veterinary reviewed by: Michele K.

Ear Dermatitis in Cats - Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment, Recovery, Management, Cost

What are Ear Dermatitis?

Ear dermatitis in cats describes the condition of itchy, inflamed structures of the ear. Ear dermatitis is the condition specifically used to describe inflammation of the external portions of the ears known as the pinna. Cats can develop this condition for a variety of reasons including infection, trauma and allergens. Ear dermatitis is noted through clinical signs of scratching, head shaking and manipulation of the ear. Left untreated, ear dermatitis can cause secondary ear trauma including inner ear damage and a condition known as cauliflower ear. Cats that scratch their ears excessively can cause the small blood vessel inside the ear to rupture, resulting in a hematoma or permanent scarring. If the inner hearing structures become damaged, the cat could lose hearing completely or partially. 

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Ear Dermatitis Average Cost

From 422 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Symptoms of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

Ear dermatitis in cats present itself through clinical signs of scratching of the ears, head shaking and drooping of the pinnae (outer ear structure). This typically itchy condition can cause the blood capillaries inside the ear to rupture, causing a secondary condition known as a hematoma. The outer ear will then appear very swollen, red and cause the cat to hold her head to the affected side. In other cases which the inner or middle ear is infected, and left untreated, the sensitive structures can be damaged. Fluid buildup and ruptured ear drums can be the end result of an unattended ear condition, causing the cat to lose balance. To catch ear dermatitis in its early stages, cat owners should take note of the following symptoms: 

  • Scratching of the ears
  • Dry, scaly ears 
  • Bleeding ears 
  • Swelling 
  • Malodorous ears
  • Hair loss 
  • Pain 
  • Head shaking 
  • Blistering of the ears 
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Causes of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

Ear dermatitis in cats can be caused by various irritants including parasites, infection, traumas, allergens and sometimes even disease. Specific culprits for these categories of feline ear dermatitis causes include:

Trauma 

  • Bites or scratches from cat fights
  • Chemical injury 
  • Burns 
  • Lacerations 
  • Haematomas: blood-filled mass caused by a blood vessel rupture underneath the skin of the ear. 
  • Solar Dermatitis: ear inflammation caused by sun exposure. 
  • Trapped foreign bodies
  • Tumors of the ear canal 
  • Polyps 

Infection 

  • Bacteria
  • Fungal 
  • Yeast 

Parasites 

  • Ticks 
  • Fleas 
  • Mange 
  • Otodectic mange or ear mite
  • Sarcoptic mange 
  • Notoedric mange 

Allergens

  • Mosquitoes 
  • Food 
  • Pollen 

Systemic Disease 

  • Cancer 
  • Cushing’s Disease 
  • Hypothyroidism 
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Diagnosis of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

The treatment of ear dermatitis in cats lies dependent on the underlying condition causing the red, itchy ear. In most ear dermatitis conditions, the veterinarian will attend to the cat's signs with pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs. The ear will be cleaned, with medicated drops following, if applicable. In the case of ruptured capillaries causing the secondary condition known as a hematoma, the ear may need to be surgically corrected. The accumulated fluid and/or blood will need to be drained, plus the disfigured pinna will need to be corrected. If your cat’s ear dermatitis has not resulted in secondary conditions, the veterinarian may choose to treat them with one or more of the following: 

  • Anti-parasitic medications 
  • Hormone replacement therapy drugs
  • Antihistamines 
  • Antibiotics 
  • Antifungal medication 

If the veterinarian believes your cat’s ear dermatitis is the result of an adverse reaction to an allergen, he may choose to conduct food trials or change the feline’s current medications. 

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Treatment of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

The treatment of ear dermatitis in cats is dependent on the underlying condition causing the red, itchy ear.  In most ear dermatitis conditions, the veterinarian will attend to the cat’s signs with pain medications and anti-inflammatory drugs. The ear will be cleaned, with medicated drops following, if applicable. In the case of ruptured capillaries causing the secondary condition known as a hematoma, the ear may need to be surgically corrected. The accumulated fluid and/or blood will need to be drained, plus the disfigured pinna will need to be corrected. If your cat’s ear dermatitis has not resulted in secondary conditions, the veterinarian may choose to treat your feline with one or more of the following: 

  • Anti-parasitic medications 
  • Hormone replacement therapy drugs
  • Antihistamines 
  • Antibiotics 
  • Antifungal medication 

If the doctor believes your cat’s ear dermatitis is the result of an adverse reaction to an allergen, he may choose to conduct food trials or change the feline’s current medications. 

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Worried about the cost of Ear Dermatitis treatment?

Pet Insurance covers the cost of many common pet health conditions. Prepare for the unexpected by getting a quote from top pet insurance providers.

Recovery of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

The overall prognosis for ear dermatitis in cats is generally excellent if treatment is sought out early. Secondary  damage to the outer, middle or inner ear can mean a less positive outcome for the cat. Cauliflower ear, caused by continuous and vigorous scratching, often causes permanent disfiguration of the external ear. The delicate hearing structures inside the ear can also become damaged, resulting in partial or complete loss of hearing, which requires lifelong care from the cat owner. Ask your veterinarian about proper recovery and management needs for your cat after ear dermatitis.

Ear dermatitis can be expensive to treat. To avoid high vet care expenses, secure pet health insurance today. The sooner you insure your pet, the more protection you’ll have from unexpected vet costs.

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Ear Dermatitis Average Cost

From 422 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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Ear Dermatitis Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

dog-name-icon

dog-breed-icon

domestic cat, short haired

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Fourteen Years

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6 found helpful

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6 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Scabs On Ears, Tips Are Dark Brown

My cat has weird scabs on her ears, I have been using antibacterial ointment on them for weeks but they don’t get better. She does not want me to touch them- I think they hurt. Her ears lost hair on outside too, and the tips around her ears are a dark brown crusty.

Jan. 13, 2021

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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6 Recommendations

Hello this could be ear tip vasculitis or something else that has damaged the tips of her ears. It would be best for your vet to look at this. They may need to take samples to check for any parasites causing this issues.

Jan. 13, 2021

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Short Hair Cat

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Three Years

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5 found helpful

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5 found helpful

Has Symptoms

Redness

My cat has 3 red scabs in her left ear that I’ve just noticed. She does scratch the area, but I haven’t seen any head shaking. When I tried to clean it she got aggressive and ran away. It’s only in the left ear and I don’t see any active bleeding.

Aug. 29, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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5 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can get parasites and infections in their ears that need medications. It seems that it does hurt her when you touch it and if she is scratching it, it probably bothers her. It would be best to have her seen by your veterinarian at some point in the near future, as they can look at the area, see what medications might be appropriate, and get treatment for her. I hope that all goes well for her and she feels better soon.

Aug. 29, 2020

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Ear Dermatitis Average Cost

From 422 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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