Ear Discharge Average Cost

From 229 quotes ranging from $200 - 500

Average Cost


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What is Ear Discharge?

Irregular ear discharge in cats is commonly referred to as otitis in the veterinary world, as otitis means inflammation of the ear. Tumors, allergens, parasites, and infections can all cause ear discharge otitis, leading to painful, pruritic ears. A feline with infectious ear discharge will scratch her ears profusely, which often progresses to eardrum rupture and permanent damage to the ear in general. Ear discharge in cats is regularly misdiagnosed by cat owners; incorrect treatment will cause the condition to worsen. Ear discharge in cats must be diagnosed and treated by a veterinarian to avoid secondary ear trauma to the feline.

Ear discharge in cats in a thick, waxy substance that prevents particles from entering the inner portions of the ears. In a healthy cat, the ears will have very little ear wax and the discharge will be a light brownish color. The healthy discharge will have no smell and be accompanied by a pink, clean inner ear canal. However, black, dark brown, or irregularly pigmented discharge in a cat’s ears, accompanied by a foul smell, is a red flag to a health problem. Ear mites and yeast infections account for the majority of abnormal ear discharge cases in felines, but the condition can also be caused by bacteria, immune-related conditions, and drug reactions, as well as allergies. 

Symptoms of Ear Discharge in Cats

The primary clinical sign of ear discharge in cats is a thick, irregularly colored wax buildup inside one or both ears. The discharge may or may not promote a foul smell, but almost all felines respond to the excess discharge with scratching. Additional symptoms of ear discharge to watch for in your cat include: 

  • Head shaking 
  • Head tilting 
  • Loss of balance
  • Pawing at the ears
  • Hearing loss
  • Ear sensitivity 
  • Pain 
  • Large amount of earwax buildup

Causes of Ear Discharge in Cats

Ear discharge in cats can be caused by a variety of underlying conditions including parasites, infections, trauma and even immune-mediated diseases that suppress the feline’s immunity. 

  • Immune-mediated disease 
  • Hereditary condition 
  • Drug reaction 
  • Polyps
  • Tumors
  • Wax buildup
  • Allergies to food or inhaled and environmental substances
  • Bacterial ear infection
  • Yeast infection
  • Trapped foreign body 
  • Ear mites 

Diagnosis of Ear Discharge in Cats

Your veterinarian will begin the diagnostic process by reviewing your cat’s medical history, as the feline’s health record will highlight past ear infection cases and previous illness. It is at this time that you should expect to answer questions about your feline’s current symptoms including what they are and how long they have been noted. Ear discharge can be caused by allergens and drug reactions, so it is important to relay any changes in diet or medications to the veterinarian. The animal doctor will then move onto performing a physical exam. Ear discharge in cats can provide valuable information to the vet and through the use of an otoscope, the doctor may have a hypothesis of the underlying cause. 

Ear mite parasites often cause a black ear discharge, whereas yeast infections cause the discharge to expel a foul smell. However, a cytology test will be required to properly identify the ailment and avoid treating the problem incorrectly. A cytological test requires only a swab of discharge from your cat’s ear to be placed under microscopic view. It is this diagnostic test that will differentiate a yeast infection from a mite infection, as ear mites can only be seen under a microscope. 

Additionally, the veterinarian may choose to conduct an allergy test if primary testing turned out to be negative. Allergy testing can be performed on the skin or through the use of your cat’s blood. Ear polyps or tumors present will likely be biopsied to identify the cancerous nature.

Treatment of Ear Discharge in Cats

The treatment of ear discharge in cats depends on the underlying ailment causing the abnormal accumulation of ear debris. In the case of an ear mite, bacterial or yeast infection, treatment will begin with cleaning out the ear. The ear structure of a cat is not like that of a human ear and should be cleaned by a professional. The ear cleaning is then followed by medicated drops of antimicrobial or antifungal nature. Ear mites are often terminated through the cleaning solution used to clean the ear, and therefore, will likely not require medicated drops. Ask your veterinarian about the proper treatment option for your cat and her ear discharge. 

Recovery of Ear Discharge in Cats

The prognosis for ear discharge in cats is excellent if a proper diagnosis is made and treatment received right away. Secondary trauma to the ear, such as ruptured blood vessels or a ruptured ear drum, are often permanent. Ear trauma is known to cause disfiguration of the ear and hearing loss, which will require continuous management.

Ear Discharge Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

Ear Odor
Ear Itching
Black discharge
Ear Crust

Medication Used


My male cat, who's about 3yrs old is having a black crusty discharge in only one eat. It's accompanied by a foul odor. I don't see him itching too much. Could this be mites? Should I treat it as such?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Mites generally have an appearance of coffee grounds in the ear, you should start treatment for this and see how you go; if you have any concerns you should visit your Veterinarian. Flea and tick products like Revolution (selamectin) offers protection against ear mites in cats and should be used in future as part of your prevention program. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://revolution4cats.com/

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American Shorthair
5 Years
Mild condition
0 found helpful
Mild condition

Has Symptoms

Ear Discharge

I have multiple cats all but one have the dark brown earmites debris but the one has a chunky off white foul smelling substance in her ear. Is this also a sign of ear mites? Do I treat them all the same way?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Ear mites generally present with a black coffee ground appearance which may be smelly or not; if there is a white discharge, then another infection may be present which would need to be treated differently with ear cleaning and antibiotic ear drops. You should speak with your Veterinarian to confirm so that the best course of treatment can be taken for that one, for the other cats treat as per ear mites. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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Shorthair Domestic
2 Months
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

Has Symptoms

not playing
Been sleeping more
Smell from ears
Not moving around as much

My girl cat being acting odd lately. She has dark brown doscharge from her eyes. And recently she hasnt been playing or eating lately. Is there on over the counter medicine I can give to her that will help with the inflamation.

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
If there is a smell from the ears, you should be able to get a ear cleaning solution from your nearest pet shop as well as some antimicrobial drops; also for the eye, apply a warm moist towel to help remove any discharge followed by flushing the eye with a sterile saline solution, you can get an ophthalmic ointment for the eye over the counter which should be applied as directed on the product. If you see no improvement, especially given her age you should visit your Veterinarian. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

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13 yrs
Moderate condition
0 found helpful
Moderate condition

My cat has had discharge from his ear for about a year. He has been to the vet 3 or 4 times now. They clean it out and put medicine in but it continues to discharge within 2 to 3 days and has a terrible odor. What else can be done to solve this problem?

Dr. Callum Turner, DVM
1675 Recommendations
Apart from medical therapy and regular cleaning, ear canal resection is another option available which would allow the ear to drain freely and hopefully prevent ear infections. You should speak with your Veterinarian about this procedure to see if Ricky at his age is a suitable candidate for this surgery. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM https://wagwalking.com/cat/treatment/lateral-ear-resection

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Has Symptoms
Ear Wax
My cat does not like to go to the Vet. I was able to take him in about 6 months ago and all his vitals are find. he has this ear wax buildup that causes him to scratch uncontrollably. I clean them with all different stuff and always returns. Its not ear mites, so much be a yeast infection. Please let me know if I can buy something over the counter that will help him since taking him into a vet is nearly impossible. Hes almost 14 years old but I want to give him comfort.