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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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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.

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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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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

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

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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0 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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Mila

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domestic short hair

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1 Year

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Moderate severity

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0 found helpful

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

Moderate severity

Has Symptoms

Head Shaking

Hello, I have had my kitty for about a year now. I rescued her when she was 10 weeks and she had ear mites in both ears which were treated. Ever since then, she has had chronic ear problems with the left ear. I have taken her to the vet 6 separate times and she was diagnosed with a yeast and bacterial infection in the left ear. I have been given 4 different kind of antibiotics and NOTHING HAS WORKED. At this rate I am losing hope and scared of permanent damage. She is now losing hair on the ears and has scratched below her ear so much that she has hair loss and is bleeding. I am taking her to a different vet to get another opinion and I am hoping for a answer soon...

June 28, 2018

Mila's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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0 Recommendations

I'm sorry that Mila is having this problem. If she has had chronic infections, she may need to have her ears cultured to see what is growing in there and what antibiotic it needs, She may also need a deeper ear exam to see if there is a growth or other problem that is contributing to her chronic ear problems.

June 28, 2018

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Ear Dermatitis Average Cost

From 422 quotes ranging from $200 - $500

Average Cost

$250

Vet bills can sneak up on you.

Plan ahead. Get the pawfect insurance plan for your pup.

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