Senior Cat Has Ear Infection

ak0402April 15, 2011

Background: My cat is 19 years old, but still doing fine, though he has of course slowed down a lot. Out of the blue, he came down with a bacterial ear infection. He was shaking his head, pawing at his ears, folding down his ears, and there was some brown discharge. There was no odor, so perhaps I took him to the vet in time before it got really bad. The vet diagnosed a bacterial ear infection after analyzing the discharge. There were no mites or parasites, and, at age 19, it is unlikely he has suddenly developed an allergy that would affect his ears. The vet said the infection was idiopathic, meaning there was no known cause. The vet gave me a topical cream to put in his ears, and within 2 days, it was clear my cat felt so much better, though I will continue to give him the medication for the full course of a week.

My concern is that this infection will return once we stop the medication, or perhaps some months down the line it could come back. As I mentioned, there appears to be no specific cause. Does anyone have suggestions on preventative measures? Are there homeopathic things I could do to proactively prevent the infection from returning? Dietary additions? Should I be cleaning his ears occasionally (I don't want to overdo cleaning, cause I think that could be harmful too). Please let me know your suggestions. Thanks.

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spedigrees z4VT

In my experience, infections are sporadic. I wouldn't borrow trouble by worrying that your kitty's ear infection will return after the course of antibiotic treatment is done.

With old cats, a very common cause of infection is tooth decay, and this can lead to infections in the sinus cavities. (At age 19 most vets would agree that anaesthesia to do a dental is too dangerous, and would just treat infections with antibiotics rather than address dental decay.) Sinus infection is something to watch for, ie discharge from eyes or nose and/or shaking his head in discomfort, and an annual blood test can reveal infection if it is present elsewhere in a cat's body.

I'm glad your cat is doing so well despite this minor ear infection, and hope he will have more golden years ahead of him.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 1:42PM
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Thanks Spedigrees. The vet did check my cat's teeth. There is some plaque, but as you mentioned, anaesthesia for a dental cleaning has risk at my cat's age, and the plaque isn't serious enough to take a chance. There is no infection in my cat's mouth, and no eye or nose discharge. He last had his regular biannual (cause he's old) checkup 4 months ago, and there was no infection revealed in the blood tests.

The vet also felt the topical medication would be best, rather than oral antibiotics. The cream seems to be working really well. My cat was eating just so-so when his ears were bothering him, but now that he feels relief, he's eating with his usual gusto and enthusiasm.

I am just concerned that the ear infection, which came out of nowhere, could return. Perhaps I should be feeding him probiotics to fight the "bad" bacteria? Any other advice or feedback would be welcome.

    Bookmark   April 15, 2011 at 2:56PM
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There are gentle ear cleaning/drying products that the vet might supply and let you use once a week.

I was instructed to use the product below on my cat who also had idiopathic ear infections, and it did keep them under control. Again, talk to your vet.

Here is a link that might be useful: Epi Otic

    Bookmark   May 10, 2011 at 8:08AM
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I like tea tree oil based cleaners. Most of the time, if you clean the cat's ears once every 2-4 weeks with a very gentle cleaner like that, you can avoid infection recurrence.

Glad you are taking such good care of your kitty. Most people do LESS for cats of that age when in reality they need MORE care. You have a very lucky cat.

    Bookmark   May 12, 2011 at 11:03PM
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Meghane, thanks for the suggestion about the tea tree oil based cleaners for cat's ears. I would like to use those. I googled them, but came up with so many different brands. Is there a particular brand you like? Also, please feel free to email me via my GW MyPage page if there are brands you'd prefer. Thanks.

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 4:14PM
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Well, now I do not know what to think. I was looking on Amazon at tea tree oil based cleaners for cats, and there was a review saying tea tree oil is very toxic for cats and should never be used to clean their ears. I trust Meghane more than some unknown on amazon, but nevertheless, does Meghane or anyone have any comments? (linked review below)

Here is a link that might be useful: Review of Tea Tree Oil Cleaner on Amazon

    Bookmark   May 30, 2011 at 4:30PM
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I think that very dilute tea tree oil is okay. The few credible reports I could find indicated that owners were applying the oil directly to the cats without dilution. I won't use any essential oils on or near my cats because I don't know what a safe limit could be, or if there could be a cumulative effect. And I'm paranoid about things like that.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2011 at 11:10AM
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