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Red sores in front of cat's ear.

Species: Cat
Breed: Domestic LH
Age: 8-11 years
Hi Dr. Haynes

Thank you for offering this service and reviewing my question. My 10-year-old long hair tabby has a slight history of allergies. He is an indoor cat that weighs 14.5 lbs. When he was a kitten, he would rub his temple until the fur wore away. My vet at the time gave something to treat it, although that memory is long lost to me now nearly 10 years later. The problem appears to have resurfaced, hence my contacting you.

I'm writing to you because my cat has rubbed and scratched the area right in front of his ear so often lately that scabs have formed and his fur has worn away. As a side note, he also did this to the other ear, but it healed and is fine now. He doesn't seem to be rubbing / scratching insistently; however, he does it often enough (let's say once every other day) to open up his scabs on the affected ear. He has no other places on his body that are irritated in the least. Everyday, he has a little bit of eye discharge, that I clean. Since the scabs seemed to have worsened, I changed his litter to a "crystal" type in the event the gravel dust was irritating him, and I also switched him to Science Diet sensitive skin formula. He was eating Evo, Royal Canin, and grain-free types.

I took him to the vet last week to ensure he didn't have ear mites or something of that nature. They gave him a clean bill of health but with a steroid shot in the hopes that his allergies and desire to scratch may subside. He also received some sort o antibiotic shot. However, much is the same here, and he is only aggravating the scabs by scratching and reopening them. I feel so terrible for him, although he acts as this doesn't hurt or bother him. He may be a little more stand-offish than usual. He is a very scared and defensive cat when taken to the vet, and I am hesitant to take him back when not much has changed. They are asking that I return, but it is so traumatic for him that I am reconsidering that move. Upon his last vet visit, his scabs began bleeding even in lack of his rubbing them; I assume his blood pressure was very high due to the stress and fear he was experiencing at the vet's office. I wanted to ask you a few things:

1) Is there any medication on the market that may help him? I realize you cannot prescribe, so I am only requesting advice.
2) Are there any triple antibiotics that may accelerate the healing process other than Neosporin cream?
3) At what point does he need an Elizabethan collar? I am so resistant to this, but I want him well. I have ordered a soft cone in the event I must use one. He has never worn any collar of any variety, and I predict he will not like this at all.
4) Have you any other advice, questions, and/or recommendations that may alleviate his situation?

I also emailed a photo - Albeit out of focus, it's the best I could do for the moment. Thank you in advance for your help.


Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Thanks for the photo of Spartacus. Even though it's a little fuzzy it is very helpful.

sore in front of cat's ear

It can often be normal to have no fur in this area in front of the ear. However, it is obviously not normal to have scabs like this.

The most common reason for these symptoms are allergies. Quite often it is very difficult to find the source of the allergies. I think that the switch to the Science Diet Sensitive Skin is a good idea. If this is a food allergy then it can take several weeks on a new diet to see an improvement.

If this were my case then I would be doing the same as your vet did. I would give a steroid injection as this is usually one of the fastest ways to get relief from allergies in cats and if there was a possibility that the spot was infected than an antibiotic is a good idea too. Spartacus probably got a Convenia injection for this purpose.

However in some severe allergy cases, a second steroid shot needs to be given about 2-3 weeks after the first.

There are also some strange conditions that cats can get that cause lesions to form on the head such as ulcerative dermatitis or eosinophilic dermatitis. The treatment is the same - start with a steroid shot and repeat in 2 weeks and possibly another 2 weeks later if not cured.

The only way to accurately get a diagnosis would be to biopsy the area. That's not a bad idea but will cost more money to do so.

I wouldn't recommend a topical medication on this. Neosporin is a very weak medication and is not likely to do much good. Plus, if Spartacus grooms himself and swallows some of the medicine it can cause intestinal upset.

I sometimes will prescribe an Elizabethan collar for the cats that need it in between the first and second steroid injection. It's definitely not a long term solution, but may be helpful for a couple of weeks.

I know it is frustrating to have to keep taking him back, but I really would suggest that this is done. It sounds like your vet is doing all of the right things.

I hope things are better soon!

Dr. Marie.

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Disclaimer: Although Dr. Marie is a qualified veterinarian, the information found on this site is not meant to replace the advice of your own veterinarian. and Dr. Marie do not accept any responsibility for any loss, damage, injury, death, or disease which may arise from reliance on information contained on this site. Do not use information found on this site for diagnosing or treating your pet. Anything you read here is for information only.

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Dr. MarieDr. Marie is a veterinarian who practices in a busy animal hospital in Ottawa, Ontario. She created Ask A Vet Question as a resource for good, accurate veterinary advice online. Dr. Marie treats dogs, cats, hamsters, guinea pigs, and rats. She has been a vet since 1999.

Is an online vet visit just as good as a trip to your veterinarian? No! But, many times, asking an online veterinarian a question can help save you money. While Dr. Marie can't officially diagnose your pet or prescribe medications, she can often advise you on whether a vet visit is necessary. You can also ask Dr. Marie for a second opinion on your pet's condition.