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Ear problems in a cat.

Species: Cat
Breed: Tabby
Age: More than 15 ye
I adopted my cat Fudge from a shelter when he was 9. He came with a host of ear/throats/respiratory issues that have plagued him since I have had him, he is now 16 - will be 17 in the fall.

His most chronic issues have been yeast in his ears/ear infections and chronic sneezing and sinus infections. Over the years I have been to several vets, and have spent lots of money on treatments. It seems that he gets a little better with the treatments, and thenjust goes back to where he was.

Two years ago my vet convinced me to try a nasal flush. The day after the surgery he went into respiratory failure and was taken to an emergency vet. He recovered, but after that I decided all the medical treatments were doing him more harm then good.

This past January his right ear started to really bother him. I brought him in and they gave me drops for an ear infection and gave him a cortisone and antibiotic shot. After about 4 weeks he was getting worse so I went back, got different drops and more shots. Couple weeks later no improvement so I go to a new vet who gives him oral antibiotics. Here I am now in May and his ear is rattling and clicking with fluid. My vet suggested sedating him to do a culture so we can take it from there. I am afraid to do this because of what happened last time, and also his age and lack of response to prior treatments. The vet gave me a cream with steroid/antiobiotic mix to try twice a day. The problem is he has very narrow ear canals and is in so much pain that getting the cream in is difficult.

I am really not sure what to do. I feel like after all these years dragging him to the vet for treatments is just harassing him. But if there is something I can do to help him I want to do it. I just dont know what is the best course of action for an old man cat who has been through a lot already. Aside form the ear, he is happy - eats fine, bathroom is fine. He still plays and is active for his age. This has been keeping me up at night and every vet trip has me in tears. I am hoping for a second opinion, I want to make sure I do the best thing for him - or maybe there are other options not considered?

Thank you,

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Oh, poor Fudge. It sounds like he has been through a lot.

This is going to be a hard question for me to answer as there is obviously no easy fix for Fudge's problems.

I'm wondering if Fudge has an issue with mycoplasma felis. Cats with mycoplasma will have chronic respiratory problems and they will often continue to get worse and worse.

But it sounds like his most pressing problem right now is his ear. I do think that a culture is a good idea. Your vet should be able to do a culture without sedation. I think the idea of sedation is to be able to get deep into the ear and examine it to look for the presence of a tumor.

A culture can tell us if there is an infection that is resistant to antibiotics.

The narrow ear canals are likely a result of chronic infection. Often when I see this I will use some steroids for a while to help reduce the swelling. But, if there was no improvement after a steroid injection then this is worrisome.

It's possible that Thor has a tumor in his ear canal and this will be difficult if not impossible to treat if this is the case.

I feel that I may not be able to help too much here as it sounds like your vet is doing all of the same things I would. In a case like this I may consider using an ear medication called Synotic. It is a liquid and so it can get into the ear easier. It is sometimes good at helping to get the swelling down.

Another option that you have is to ask your vet for a referral to a veterinary dermatologist. These vets see all of the unusual problems and so if there is an ear issue that is not getting better they can often find a solution.

I really hope he improves 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.

Customer reply:

Thank you for the reply. Part of the reason she wants to sedate is that he is a big cat and he is horrible at the vet. She has a hard time just looking in his ear and I think the sedation is so she can get in without losing a finger.

My biggest fear is the sedation. We were never really sure with the nasal flush what caused the respiratory issues, and I have been fearful of using anesthesia in case it causes that issue. Do you think that the anesthesia from that surgery could cause the respiratory issues a day later, or was it likely something else? Have you seen other cats have problems from the sedation?

Online vet, Dr. Marie

Dr. Marie replied:

Ah, I see. Sometimes, if I want to do a culture and I have a difficult animal, I will send a culture swab home with the owner. If you are able to get ear medication in then you should be able to get a swab in the ear. It's really easy to do. However, we usually can't get a good culture unless a cat is off of meds for a few days. Most likely the sedation was primarily to be able to get a good look inside the ear.

It's hard for me to say for sure, but I'm guessing that the problems that Fudge had with his sedation before were more related to the fact that he had a nasal flush rather than the anesthesia. When I do have a cat have problems with anesthesia (and this is fortunately rare), it is usually instant and not the following day.

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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.