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What are Ear Dermatitis?

Ear dermatitis in cats describes the condition of highly pruritic, 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. Felines 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. Felines that scratch their ears excessively can cause the small blood vessel inside the ear to rupture, resulting in cauliflower ear, which permanently deforms the ear. If the hearing structures become damaged, the feline could lose hearing completely or partially. 

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 manipulated pinnae (outer ear structure). The highly pruritic condition can cause the blood capillaries inside the ear to rupture, causing a secondary condition known as cauliflower ear. The outer ear will then appear very swollen, red and cause the feline to hold her head to the affected side. In other cases which the inner or middle ear is infected, and left untreated, the sensitive structure can be damaged. Fluid buildup and ruptured ear drums can be the end result of an unattended ear condition, causing the feline to be unbalanced. 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 pruritic pinna. In most ear dermatitis conditions, the veterinarian will attend to the feline’s symptoms 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 cauliflower ear, 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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Treatment of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

The treatment of ear dermatitis in cats lies dependent on the underlying condition causing the pruritic pinna. In most ear dermatitis conditions, the veterinarian will attend to the feline’s symptoms 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 cauliflower ear, 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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Recovery of Ear Dermatitis in Cats

The overall prognosis for ear dermatitis in cats is generally excellent if treatment is sought out early. Secondary manipulation causing damage to the outer, middle or inner ear can admit 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.

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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

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Short Hair Cat

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Three Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

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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0 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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Short hair cat

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9 months

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Unknown severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Head Shaking, Scratching, Scabbing, Bleeding

My cat has been on her medication for almost one week. They told me she had an ear infection. I’ve had a cone on her head so she wouldn’t continue to open her scabs. It’s almost Friday the last day of her medication and I took the cone off to clean it and she scratched herself raw again. I don’t know what else to do.

Aug. 5, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. If the problem isn't resolving, the best thing to do would be to have a recheck with your veterinarian. You can let them know that things are not better, and sometimes a response to treatment can be a sort of test, and they may be able to see more what is going on. They will be able to look at her, see what else might need to happen, and get her the right medication so that she feels better. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 5, 2020

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American short hair

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Four Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Bumps On Outer Ear And Bridge Of Nose

Every year almost like clockwork in the middle of July she gets these bumps on her ears and then keeps scratching them. I have had her to two vets with no conclusion. I have heard flea allergy and tried every flea collar..nothing. She is indoor mostly but does go outside on Long Island NY. Goes away in October

Aug. 2, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Without being able to see her, it is hard to say what might be going on, but if this occurs every July through October, that sounds like a possible seasonal allergy, and she may benefit from medications like apoquel during that time frame. That is something that you can discuss more with your veterinarian, and they can let you know if that might be an appropriate medication. I hope that all goes well for her.

Aug. 2, 2020

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Cat/Unsure

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2 Years

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Dermatitis On Ears

On and off dermatitis on ears. Comes and goes. She’s an indoor/outdoor cat. I give her flea/tick medication every month. Her food is grain free. I’m not sure what else it could be other than possible pollen allergies.

July 21, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Thank you for your question. Cats can get parasites, and Mites called Demodex, that can cause problems. It could also be a bacterial or fungal infection. If it is an allergy, there are allergy medications that may help. Since there are so many possibilities for what it might be, it would be best to have her seen by a veterinarian, as they can examine her ears, see what might be going on, and get treatment for her. I hope that all goes well for her.

July 21, 2020

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Olaf

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tabby

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6 Years

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

None

My cat had large, yellow scabs on the inside, tips of each ear. They are each roughly he size of a dime. There is no head shaking, no scratching, no apparent pain or discomfort. Just dry, scabby areas. His food isn’t different and none of our other three cats have this.

Aug. 10, 2018

Olaf's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

There are a few different causes for the lesions your describing which may include ringworm, other infections, parasites among other causes; normally with these conditions we would see signs of pruritus so it is difficult to say what the specific cause is. You should visit your Veterinarian for an examination and possibly a skin scrape to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 10, 2018

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Tipsy

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Domestic shorthair

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1 Year

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Itchy Ears
Shakes Head
Dry Ears
Flakey Peeling
Scratches At Ears

hello, My cats ears are dry and flakey towards the top part of her ears, looks like her skin is peeling on the inside. Is there a way for me to help them not be so dry?

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Midnight

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domestic short hair

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15 Years

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Moderate severity

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Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

See Paragraph

Hello. My cat is 15 ((Inside cat) and I was told years ago he had allergies. Right now he is experiencing hair loss and some kind of rash inside and outside and around base of the head. He also is coughing and I’m assuming he’s retaining fluid. It is affecting his breathing. I’m afraid I’m going to lose him. We have taken him to the vet several times. First I was told he had a double abscess in his ears and had surgery. He was good for few weeks then just started coming back. Took him again and they gave him a shot (I’m thinking prednisone but not sure) and an antibiotic. This dried his ears up but never went away. It’s worse now took him again and using antibiotic cream. Not looking any better. The vet is saying to possibly get a biopsy. He looks horrible. I’m at a loss. Please any suggestions??? I don’t want to lose him. Thank you.

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Hunter

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Oriental

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6 Years

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Serious severity

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0 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Swollen Ears
Itchy Ears
Red Hot Ears
Slight Swelling On Face

My cat has suffered from what we think is an allergic reaction on and off for a few years now. Most of the time only his ears swell up and go red and hot and he itches them for a couple of days before it goes away. A few times he’s had a swelling on the throat. It flairs up every couple of months and we still don’t know why even though we’ve taken him to the vet, they’ve found it difficult to diagnose without expensive tests although this seems like our only option. We’ve changed food multiple times and have bought hypoallergenic food but the reaction still comes back. I’m starting to think it’s related to seasons (although he’s an inside cat) or related to some sort of spray within the house. Any help would be really helpful!

Ear Dermatitis Average Cost

From 422 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

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